Everything I’ve learnt from renting in my early 20’s

At the age of 18 I packed my bags and moved out of my hometown to study at university. I embraced my new freedom and when it came the end of my 3 year course, I did everything I could to avoid moving back home (much to the dismay of my bank account).

Renting in your early 20s is expensive, but it does give you plenty of life lessons. I rinsed my overdraft and I’m still paying for it. Do I regret it? Never! I don’t have a nice little saving fund, but I do know how to handle living independently. Weirdly enough, I’d swap home comforts for my dramatic little Manchester life any day. Whilst I curse out my neighbors, have regular battles with the letting agency and on occasion, the odd flooded kitchen; I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

Thinking of making the great escape from your hometown? Here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way to help you make an informed choice.

Living with strangers isn’t scary
Obviously you need to be very careful when using sites such as Spareroom to find a flatmate. Not everyone is who they seem to be online and you’ll never get it 100% perfect. However, I’ve been living with strangers for years now and I’m not dead yet!

When flat hunting, I set myself boundaries. I knew statistically I was safer living with other girls and that was what I was used to anyway. I also made sure I told my boyfriend when I was going to flat viewings, so that he could check in with me afterwards to make sure I didn’t just turn up to some random weirdo’s house!

You should also consider the financial side of things. Don’t be afraid of asking a potential flatmate what their job is. You have to be selfish on this occasion and if they don’t have a solid job, you could end up paying their share of the bills.

…But roomates are never how they seem in the first week
There’s a honeymoon period when you first move in with someone new. You tip toe around, you’re extra tidy and you’re extra considerate. However, after about 3 weeks you start to relax. You can quickly begin to pick up on things about your flatmate that annoy you and they’ll do the same with you. It’s all part of the process of learning to live in sync with someone new. It does pass… unless your flatmate is a total loon and completely different to how they first described themselves.

Landlords & letting agents will squeeze every penny they can from you
Admin fees – £90. Contract fees – £150. Deposit – £450. Rent upfront – £650. Key cutting – £6. A landlord’s ability to rob every penny you own – priceless.

Being nice goes a long way
You’re going to have grief with your letting agent and landlord at some point, but don’t go in guns blazing. Use your anger sparingly and learn how to charm your maintenance team.

For example, when the maintenance team come over I usually have a natter with them and let them slag off my letting agency. Bonds formed over a common hatred are often the best kid. In this situation you become so friendly with them that they’ll do extra odd jobs for you whilst they’re round, or claim something that is a minor issue is actually against health and safety. (Thanks Darren)

Another good example of this is the recent fiasco with my property manager. I’m always delightful on the phone – I’ve perfected the call-your-girlfriend-type phone manner. So when my flatmate missed a payment on the rent, she was still absolutely lovely to me and didn’t start to harass me for the missing payment on behalf of my flatmate.

Being in control of the bills keeps your spending on the straight and narrow
Paying your flatmate’s share of the bills is a renters worst nightmare, but if you can trust your flatmate you shouldn’t be afraid of taking the burden. Knowing the bills come from your account makes you a little more cautious about spending, which is a GOOD thing. I would suggest making sure they set up a standing order with you, just so that they don’t accidentally miss any payments.

Fighting with your neighbors is never a good idea
Quite recently, I stepped out onto my balcony at 4am to tell the neighbours politely to shut the fuck up. As I opened the door, I saw a boy urinating off the balcony and his friend filming him doing so. *Record scratch* Yep that’s me, I’m sure you’re wondering how I got into this situation.

I’m just kidding, but seriously, this was awkward as fuck. I took a breath and said ‘Listen lads, it’s a little loud can you turn it down?’ Did they film me? Yes, but at least I didn’t make a scene.

Don’t forget, you have to live next to these people for what could be quite a while, so don’t kick off straight away. Remember when I said being nice goes a long way? Well, it applies here too!

If you get burgled you will never see your stolen goods ever again
Somehow I managed to be burgled twice, in two properties, in the space of 6 months. Well, I did live in Salford!

Thankfully we had insurance, but that doesn’t mean much. Crimes take a while to process and insurance firms take even longer to replace your goods. Even when you get the replacement goods, you’re left with a weird feeling. Someone entered your home, they kicked the doors off the hinges, trashed your flat, rummaged through your knicker draw and took all your valuables.

Farewell Lumix camera, you were good to me.

(P.S if you’re a family member reading this – I didn’t tell mum about this cause I didn’t want to worry her, so don’t snitch on me you nosey prick)

A good friend isn’t always a good flatmate

I can feel the ghost of all my previous flatmates reading this, thinking it’s about them. Living with friends can be particularly tricky. You imagine cute duvet days, nights spent snacking and a kitchen fridge adorned with all your gorgeous selfies together.

Unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Let’s say, hypothetically, you realise your friend is extremely untidy and cannot look after herself. She doesn’t do the washing up, leaves trash around the living room and has her weird boyfriend over all the time. How do you confront a friend about this without ruining the friendship?

Spoiler alert: You don’t.

Shouting in an argument makes you look like a massive dick
I will never forget the first argument I had with a flatmate. The night before I had a shorthand exam, she decided to have a party in her room.

Naturally I asked her to turn it down, she did. Twenty minutes later the music turned back up. I told her she was taking the piss. She acted like nothing was wrong, which just annoyed me more because she was always so nice when she wasn’t around her friends.

I kicked off and told them all to leave. Not before her friend kicked off with me. I should also mention I had two other flatmates who were annoyed, but not to the level I took it to. I caused a scene and it was me who looked like a dick.

You do NOT need to live with your boyfriend asap (repeat x10)
I have been with my boyfriend for 9 years and I do not regret choosing to not live with him. Having independence in your 20s is vital. You grow, you learn, you work, you fail and your boyfriend is always just a phone call away.

There’s incredible pressure for young couples to shack up together after uni, but I urge you to resist unless it makes perfect financial sense – and even then, you should be careful. Relish your freedom and learn to live apart. I guarantee your relationship will be stronger in the long run.

They can’t kick you out of your flat, but they will
I’m currently living with a lawyer and when our letting agency randomly threatened us with a Section 21 (2 months notice) she stepped into action.

The thing is your landlord/letting agency will do what they want regardless of your rights. For example, if they want to put the rent up by £200, they will. Even if you think it’s criminal, they don’t care.

Think carefully about signing a contract and research your letting agent’s history. Google reviews can be the first sign of a red flag and will give you a great insight into how the agency handle maintenance and payments.

You won’t use cookery books
Someone is going to hate me for saying this, but isn’t it weird that recipe books exist when there are countless food blogs online?

More space = more mess, just spread out a bit more

Even the most tidy people will fall foul of this. In your early 20s you collect so many random trinkets. Whether it’s holiday souvenirs, band merch, magazines or half the home section of Primark – more space simply means more room to fill with crap.

Living in the city isn’t everything
Do you want to pay £600 a month to live in a shitty flat, with a small bedroom and scruffy neighbors OR do you want to pay £300 for a shared house outside of the city.

Don’t get me wrong, I live in Manchester city center and I’ve had a good run. It’s an experience that I think everyone should try and have, but ultimately city living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I wouldn’t trade the past 4 years, but there’s definitely a time limit for city living. One day you kind of just want more for your money, but you have to first experience the highs and lows of inner city living to truly appreciate a place on the outskirts.

Tell your mates about this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. January 25, 2017 / 1:39 pm

    Great advice and I love all of the gifs!!
    I’m so sorry to hear that you got burgled twice! Luckily that never happened to me but I did have my share of bad landlords and broken heating!

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 25, 2017 / 2:17 pm

      I’m starting to suspect no one ever lives in rented accommodation with a heater that works!

  2. Lynne Harper
    January 25, 2017 / 3:06 pm

    Im a bit old for rented accommodation but some of your ideas are fab in case we ever move Cities. Its also made me think for when my own children who are teens move away from Uni for im definitely going to jot some down. Sorry you got burgled 🙁 x

  3. January 25, 2017 / 3:21 pm

    I haven’t rented since Uni but I can remember some of the bad experiences I had, as well as some of the good ones! x

  4. Dannii
    January 25, 2017 / 3:43 pm

    I have lived with a lot of strangers, but they are never strangers for long. House sharing definitely teaches you a lot.

  5. January 25, 2017 / 6:11 pm

    I love your humor in this as well as all of the good advice. It’s not easy living with others or renting in your early 20’s but I think you are just right that you will learn so much from the experience.

  6. January 25, 2017 / 6:13 pm

    I have only ever rented very briefly and found many of the same points as you! Now saving for my first house xxx

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 25, 2017 / 10:28 pm

      OOO Laura that’s exciting! Yeah I definitely can’t save whilst renting, but I’m hoping to move to a cheaper property this year. You’ll have to give me some saving tips!

  7. January 25, 2017 / 6:51 pm

    Our 20’s are definitely the best ground to learn. The lessons you learned are all important and I’m sure you can use them to help out those in their early 20’s now 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  8. January 25, 2017 / 7:33 pm

    Amen I live in London and am constantly in my overdraft because I am paying off university debt plus rent, bills, food ect so like you said living in a city is super expensive!

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 25, 2017 / 10:27 pm

      Ana I hear you! London is even more expensive than Manchester, I don’t know how you manage it. I’m so glad I’m not the only person sinking into my overdraft, haha.

  9. January 25, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    I’ve been renting for 8 years now and have certainly learnt alot along the way, agents can be a pain in the bum

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 25, 2017 / 10:25 pm

      Preeeeach! I don’t think I know anyone who’s had a positive experience with their landlord.

  10. Hannah Latoya
    January 25, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    There are some great tips here, especially for people who have never rented before x

  11. January 25, 2017 / 11:34 pm

    Some really great tips and ones i can truly relate to. It gives me many fond memories of uni even the bad parts! x

  12. January 26, 2017 / 6:30 am

    Such a great post, honestly soooo many things are the same with me. Living with friends was the biggest error for me, it basically was the start of the end of a friendship. You live, you learn.

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 26, 2017 / 9:10 am

      Oh my gosh Annie I hear you!
      Isn’t it so odd how you can get on with someone so well, but you’re totally incompatible as flatmates?

  13. January 26, 2017 / 9:29 am

    You’ve learnt a lot and to be honest as I lived at home during university I never got this side of things, and I only rented for a year before I was lucky enough to buy but I totally agree with the bit about good friends don’t make good room mates. Mine was my best friend and she was a nightmare to live with x

  14. January 26, 2017 / 10:25 am

    I use to rent in London and it was crazy expensive! We got a farm house in the country for a similar price. Now I just visit the hustle and bustle.

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 26, 2017 / 11:38 am

      London renting is CRAZY expensive!
      I bet you cherish your house after living in the city.
      I don’t tihnk I’ll be able to own my home any time soon, but I imagine I’ll live far away from the centre one day!

  15. January 26, 2017 / 11:03 am

    Great post, we rented once and it was a very expensive experience, do agree about the neighbours it really makes life easier to try to get along and be polite, and agree with the cookbooks I have tons and love them but always look online these days as there is so much choices x

  16. January 26, 2017 / 6:44 pm

    Fantastic advice! I always lived on my own when I was single. I had rented my own flat since I was 18, and I couldn’t image house sharing. This is great advice for those new people to house sharing that have no clue what it will bring.

  17. January 26, 2017 / 11:08 pm

    I’ve never rented (unless you count a year in halls at uni) but this made me laugh and I can see so many of these points from things my friends who rent have experienced

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 27, 2017 / 11:13 am

      Uni totally counts! I miss halls so much in a weird way. Mainly cause I was surrounded by so many mates! The flat itself was an absolute shit hole.

  18. Rachel
    January 27, 2017 / 1:43 am

    Loving all the gifs in this post! I totally agree with this post, such great advice especially living with strangers isn’t scary! I was so terrified at first but it soon all fit into place! xo

  19. January 27, 2017 / 12:46 pm

    I’ve had my share of this in my whole 20s. You made me laugh with this post 🙂

  20. Laura H
    January 27, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    “A good friend isn’t always a good flatmate” – this one is so so important! I lived with friend in my second year of uni and at first I thought it was going to be a disaster! We’re better friends than ever now but it was not easy and it was a strange experience.

  21. January 27, 2017 / 8:16 pm

    Such fabulous advice but it also made me chuckle out loud at some of your tip titles!

  22. January 27, 2017 / 9:05 pm

    Loving all those gifs they were perfectly placed. My goodness they stole your camera that must have been a nightmare especially wit the photos that would have been on them sorry to hear that.

  23. Kristina Maggiora
    January 28, 2017 / 10:14 pm

    I’m 23 and haven’t moved out yet but really need to soon!
    Those are some really insightful tips 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Can’t imagine what being burgled was like though :((

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 30, 2017 / 12:16 pm

      Eeep I hope it doesn’t put you off Kristina! Just make sure you’re insured when you do.

  24. January 30, 2017 / 12:12 am

    I found myself agreeing with most of these as I have just moved him from uni after 5 years. Great advice! Especially the bills part, though I cheated and always went into all-inclusive house shares x

    • Jess - Actual Philocalist
      January 30, 2017 / 12:15 pm

      The only thing I’d say about all inclusive rent opportunities is that I’ve found landlords take the piss a bit.
      I know how much it costs to heat a two bedroom flat and sometimes some of the all-inclusive opps inflate the price massively!
      I know you’ve moved home now, but if you ever go into renting again I’d definitely shop around for a better deal. Some landlords are so shady!