By Gabi Falanga & Jonathan Jones
When it comes to moving into digs, Rhodes students need to be on their toes. Juggling estate agents, landlords, bitchy digs-mates, commission and shopping can be quite tricky, never mind those first time mishaps which always seem to creep up on you at some point. However, moving into digs can be one of the most fun and rewarding times of your life. There is no shortage of Rhodents who have interesting digs tales of some kind.
To make finding a digs less daunting, Activate has compiled a checklist of what you should be asking and taking into consideration when looking for a digs.
When thinking about moving into digs, you need to decide on whether or not you want to go through a landlord or an estate agent. Landlords would be the obvious choice for some students who want to avoid paying the dreaded commission. If you have a landlord who is committed and will provide you with what you’ve paid for, then take advantage of it. On the other hand, it is not a bad idea to pay that little extra to make sure everything runs smoothly. The main role of the estate agent is to act as a buffer between the landlord and the tenants. They are responsible for managing and maintaining the property as well as dealing with any emergencies experienced by the tenants. “The purpose of the estate agent is to ensure that landlords are getting their rent, that the house is maintained and that the students are happy,” says Pam Golding’s Claire De La Harpe. In the majority of cases, the relationship between students and the estate agent is a good one, but sometimes things go horribly wrong.
Most of the negative experiences relating to estate agents either occur because there is a lack of communication between students and the agent, or because students have failed to read their leases carefully. Some estate agents are slow at responding to student’s problems and this causes frustration on the part of the student, who then decides to wage war on the estate agent. Students who have been in this situation as well as estate agents themselves, warn potential Oppidans that they should always examine their lease carefully so that they know what their rights are.
In situations like this, students can seek advice at the Rhodes Legal Aid Clinic when they have problems or queries with the leases, estate agents, or landlords. The Oppidan Hall Warden, Gordon Barker, is also able to give advice on lease agreements.
Thankfully, there are many good stories about estate agents. PhD student, Philip Foulkes, has lived in digs since 2006. He has dealt with estate agents as well as directly with landlords. In his first digs, there was such a lack of communication on the part of the estate agent that Foulkes did not pay rent for the first six months. This was because the estate agent had not taken note of the fact that he had actually moved in. The estate agent that Foulkes is using this year has been the exact opposite. When the geyser broke, earlier in the year, flooding Foulke’s bedroom, the estate agent made sure someone was sent to assist him that same day.
Alex Farmer, a second year drama student, moved into digs at the beginning of this year and was excited to arrive at his new place of residence. Upon arrival he found the backyard door broken and a few months worth of rubbish dumped in the courtyard. The digs smelt like death when he walked in and then found old food in the oven and the fridge (which was left turned off throughout the holiday). Farmer promptly phoned the estate agent who sorted it all out in a couple of days.
Lincoln Van der Westhuizen, who is currently in digs, says, “It is all about where you are at in your life. In digs, your social spectrum is not as broad as when you are living in residence. The best appreciated aspects of digs must be greater freedom, cooking your own food and being surrounded by less people. However, when entering digs, activities such as shopping, cooking, walking or driving to campus and having to worry about how you’re getting home after a big night out and finance worries become part of your life.”
One of the biggest, yet most unexpected problems students come across when living in digs is tension amongst digsmates. “People don’t think through the whole digs thing carefully enough. You need to find compatible people to live with. Project your self into the situation and ask, ‘Can I live with this person?’” says De La Harpe.
Third year student, Lauren Kent, says, “Digs is one of the best experiences I’ve had. I was lucky with the people I’ve moved in with. So many people have issues with their digs mates because the one person is using all the milk or the other never cleans or puts the dishes away. If it really is a little issue then you must let it slide, be relaxed and don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t try and make your digs run like your family home does. You’re living with people who all come from different homes and so have different ways of doing things. Also, don’t be in each others faces all the time. Give everyone their space but be open to gate crashing their rooms (or having yours gate crashed) every now and then and have fun.”
The most important thing when you are moving into digs is to be flexible and ready for whatever is about to come your way. Judge whether you think moving from residence to digs is a good idea and if so, go for it. Emily Jones, a third year BA student says, “Treat digs as a learning experience and don’t let mishaps get in the way of an awesome experience.”
Some tips on what to ask and look out for when looking for a digs:
Give your name, details and requirements to an estate agent before the July vacation.
Know your price range/affordability.
Have a group ready-picked. Pick your group CAREFULLY.
Examine the rent: What is included and excluded? For example, water and electricity, garden services, security, food etc.
Look out for location and distance from campus.
Is the digs furnished or unfurnished?
Is there offstreet parking?
Make sure you’re happy with the security. Look out for burglar bars, security gates and alarm systems.
Do you want a garden?
Check the lease time period.
Is there Internet access?
If you want pets, find out whether or not they are allowed on the property.
Discuss the digs with your parents.
Speak to previous tenants about their experiences.
Ask other people about the estate agents or landlords you are dealing with.