Published on March 1, 2013 | by Jonny Perrin


University accommodation: Halls or house-share?

Camberwell Campus

The idyllic Camberwell halls of residence in Peckham Road [UAL]

Studies, advancement and independence. Three reasons why people go to university.

Perhaps all three, maybe just one of them, but there aren’t many more viable reasons to begin higher education.

And the latter reason can come as a bit of a shock to newbies, whether it be to halls, shared-housing or self-reliance.

The former two are probably the most popular forms of university accommodation (because rich and student don’t naturally go together anymore) and both give you two rather different experiences.

So based on my own, and others around me’s experiences, I give you the primary pro’s and con’s of halls and house-sharing.

Halls of residence

Pro: The social aspect

Are you lacking friends? Do you want to make some new buddies without having to venture too far from the safety of your bed? Well then you’re lucky that halls of residence exist.

Here dwell a variety of students all chucked into a building, given some (in my experience) flexible rules and left to find their feet whether it be on their own or via various social events.

“My second year in halls involved sharing a flat with a few people I wasn’t particularly friendly with.”

Popular especially with first year students, this is where university begins for a lot of us. You could be meeting people you’ll know for the rest of your life here (or the rest of your university life at least).

Halls of residence are buildings full of students, and sometimes run by students (the hall wardens). People who move into halls are usually looking to meet new people, so most already have something in common.

Pro: The simplicity

Living in halls is simple enough. You pay rent three times a year, once each term. Usually it is due just after student finance hands out its termly rations. And that’s probably it, unless you decide to do a spot of rule breaking/unnecessary fire-extinguisher rampaging.

The only fees that halls are likely to charge other than rent are internet bills, but that doesn’t apply to everywhere. Gas, electric, water and everything else though is covered in the rent, so once the rent is paid you only have to look after living costs.

Costume Studio campus in North Acton [UAL]

Con: Dealing with what you are given

Once you’ve moved into halls, that’s it. You can’t really do much about what you’re given without a lot of hassle.

This is a similar problem for those in bad houseshares, but at least with that you’re likely to have more of an idea of what you’re getting into. In halls you’re moving in with strangers.

You may get on with them. You may not. My second year in halls involved sharing a flat with a few people I wasn’t particularly friendly with, and that was made clear quite quickly.

This quickly cancelled out my the primary reason I moved into halls for a second year (the social aspect), and with work on my plate I couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it.

There are plenty of stories out there of students who don’t get on with their assigned flatmates, their halls regulators and/or the general atmosphere of university halls of residence.

And unless you want to be paying for that room you don’t want for the whole year, you’re better off finding yourself a new tenant to replace you, which can be pretty difficult.

Con: A lack of power

Living in halls is not like living in a normal place. Different rules apply financially and socially, and neither teach you that much. In halls you do what you can get away with, and it’s mostly student run.

If you’re not happy with how much your rent is. Tough. If you don’t like how the kitchen is messy everyday, then that’s your problem.

The cleaners will do only so much, and unless you like causing a confrontation, you will likely have to tolerate your fellow halls resident’s bad habits, be they unhygienic or noise that regularly continues into the early hours.


Pro: Familiarity

Living in a house-share is a lot more familiar to a lot of people rather living in than halls. There is a landlord, who will lay out the rules. He/she is the parent.

Then there are your fellow tenants who are equal to your siblings. You probably know them if you’re moving in with them, and probably at least get along with them.

If you’re not happy with how much your rent is. Tough. If you don’t like how the kitchen is messy everyday, then that’s your problem.

So hopefully there is a starting foundation of respect among your peers. Building on that is key to maintaining a happy house, and it may go wrong, but if that happens you have to take an element of the blame.

YOU chose to move in with these people. YOU had a basic idea of what they were like.

I’d only met the people I live with once when I moved in, but I at least knew a bit about them before I moved in. Even from that one meeting I had a basic idea of the people I was moving in with, and there were no huge surprises.

Pro: Preparation for reality

Living in a house-share will teach you lessons that you will probably need later in life. For example, how to put money aside for unexpected bills and how to cope with letters from the local Council. And in today’s world it also helps to get a bit of experience on how to deal with a landlord.

Con: Trust is a must

In halls it’s everybody looking out for themselves. You pay your rent and you’re most likely set (unless you’re residence decides to throw a property damaging party. Good times). In house-sharing you all rely on each other.

One person hasn’t paid the gas bill? Well somebody has to… Want a TV license? Will your housemates contribute? Or will they not, but still use the television? Somebody left the door unlocked? Well that could be your stuff that somebody’s stealing. And guess what? It will all be on YOU too.

All tenants, after signing a tenancy contract, are all legally liable for the care of the house as the contract sets out. If one tenant isn’t responsible it could cause a collective price, whether the other tenants are responsible or not.

Con: The costs

When in halls you get what you pay for. Three terms of tenancy that amounts to about nine months-worth of living. Hopefully this means your student loan/parental funding/lottery earnings can carry you through this time period.

Also, because the rent payments are usually due at the same time as you’re student loan is, then there doesn’t have to be much worry about having a roof over your head.

Somebody left the door unlocked? Well that could be your stuff that somebody’s stealing.

Housing is different. Most housing rentals are paid monthly. And believe me, months can pass quickly when you’re paying this way. But the main problem is, you may find yourself paying for a house you’re not living in.

Tenancies often last 12 months. nine month contracts do exist, but they don’t usually stay on the market long (and if they do there may be a reason for that).

I ended up paying almost £1,000 in rent before I even moved into my house. Not fun. Especially as I wasn’t prepared for this.

This is especially likely to affect students who decide to keep the same accommodation over a year. If you want to keep the house you will have to pay for it over the summer, whether you’re living there or not. So be prepared.

Overall both choices have their appeals, and both have their flaws. And if you don’t like either choice then there are other options. Parents? A studio flat? Or perhaps behind that tree on the common with that family of urban foxes.

Really, it’s your choice.


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