STOP! And don't panic. Before you dash off to sign up for that scummy flat 6 months in advance, take some time to think about your options. There's no need to rush - Dunedin has more than enough flats for you all, and the best bargains come to those who wait. Why live in a shit hole when you could live in a mansion in the valley for the same price!

Browse The University's Accommodation Office is the best place to go. They give out lists of vacancies in existing flats and whole flats for rent (available online too: otago.ac.nz/flats), or give Trade Me a go! You don't have to pay a letting fee, so if an agency asks for one, look elsewhere. Agencies may try to convince you that flats are in limited supply. We promise this is not true.

Going Flat Hunting Contact the flat's landlord. They will talk to the tenants and organise a time for you to look at it. Current tenants might growl at you if you turn up unannounced asking to look through their flat. Set a budget and don't pay more than you can afford!

Quality Control Go to housingstars.co.nz housingstars.co.nz and see if your prospective flats have STAR ratings. If they don't, that could be a bad sign! Have a think about these quality indicators, and use your eyes and nose. If it smells damp and you can see mould, you definitely won't love it in winter.

Know Your Rights Make sure you know your rights and responsibilities before you sign that lease. If you can't afford it, don't take it.

  • How soundproof is the flat?
  • How close are the neighbours?
  • Is there another flat upstairs? Can you hear elephants overhead?
  • Is there anything noisy nearby, like a pub, bottle bank or busy intersection?
  • How close is the lounge to the bedrooms? Will there be noise problems?

  • Does it look like it might blow over in the wind?
  • Does it look like it will stand up to an earthquake?
  • Do all the windows and doors close and seal properly? Double glazed windows are amazing.
  • Are there holes in the walls, roof, floor, doors etc?
  • If the place hasn't been looked after structurally, the landlord is probably a neglectful loser who will take advantage of you.

  • How will you keep warm and how much will it cost you?
  • Heatpumps are great if there's insulation.
  • Fireplaces are good if you can get cheap wood.
  • High ceilings = harder to heat.
  • Sun?
  • Curtains?
  • Weird smells can indicate dampness.
  • Look up. Peeling paint and mould indicate a damp dive.

  • How big a room do you need to fit your stuff in?
  • Do the rooms have enough power points for you to plug in all your gadgets?
  • If there's a closet sized room, who'll get it? Will everyone pay the same price per room?
  • Is there plenty of fridge and cupboard space for everyone's food?
  • Is the lounge the right size and shape for everyone to sit and watch TV comfortably?
  • Do you need off street parking? Parking around campus is limited!

  • Is the washing machine an antique?
  • How will you dry your clothes? Dryer = expensive
  • If there's mould or slime in the bathroom, run away now.
  • Is the toilet in the bathroom? This can be a problem in the mornings when everyone's getting ready.
  • How big is the hot water cylinder? Will you all get decent showers? Request a hot water cylinder wrap!