The real problem for many students is being able to save enough for the two-month’ advance rent they have to pay while moving in
A growing number of private university students in Dhaka are opting to live in hostels or shared apartments, especially those moving to the capital from other parts of the country. Due to Dhaka’s abysmal traffic situation, it is always a good idea to live near campus, and there are quite a few student neighbourhoods popping up in different parts of the city.
Bashundhara Residential Area (R/A), which houses IUB, NSU and AIUB, is one such area that is now brimming with student apartments. Dhanmondi and its neighbouring localities are also populated by students of Ulab, United International University, Daffodil University, World University, and other smaller institutions.
Hostels: Cheap but not always cheerful
The low rent in hostels, ranging from Tk4,000 to Tk8,000 per month, make them the cheapest available option for students, but the miserly food portions and regimented routine, with gates being locked up by 8-9pm in most places, make them unsuitable for many. This is especially difficult if you work part-time during your degree, as was the case with Mushfiq Khan, who graduated last year.
“As a student, I worked as a barista at a coffee shop for two years. Some of my shifts ended at 10pm, but my hostel expected me to be home by 9pm. I would often end up staying at a friend’s house overnight,” he told this reporter.
However, if you’re searching within a strict budget and want to explore this option, Facebook is a good place to start, and many hostels maintain pages to attract students. Uttara and Lalmatia are popular locations for hostels but after the first year, most students tend to try and rent an apartment as a group.
Sharing rooms to cut down costs
Living alone in Dhaka is not really an option, as even a tiny apartment can cost you at least Tk10,000 per month. Almost all students end up sharing apartments, but finding affordable housing can be a huge challenge, and not just for a lack of availability.
Moazzema Begum, a landlady in Dakshinkhan, refuses to rent to bachelors because “they will play loud music, smoke, do drugs and mix with bad women.” Most house owners are even more uncomfortable with the idea of renting to single women, and students often have to follow strict house rules to convince reluctant landlords to take them on as tenants.
However, there are a growing number of landlords near private universities who are looking to tap into this market. While Bashundhara and Dhanmondi are the most popular options, they can be pricey, and it is always good practice to look out for areas that are more crowded and not the first choice for families. For example, you will definitely get cheaper rooms in Kuril than Bashundhara, as well as in Rayer Bazar and Zigatola over Dhanmondi. Mirpur is also a popular location for students.
You can often see To-Let signs at the front gates of buildings in university areas, but the more common practice is to outsource the task of finding a tenant to a “leaseholder” or “manager.” This is basically one student who is the landowner’s first point of contact and takes on the whole apartment, and then uses social media and other networks to find more tenants to share the flat with.
Finding the right leaseholder
Tanvir Hossain Akanto, a former NSU student and a leaseholder of a student apartment, explained: “I currently rent a master bedroom for Tk13,000, with an attached washroom and balcony. However, a new university student coming from outside of Dhaka should not expect this standard. They will probably have to share rooms, and use a common washroom. Even for that, the rent will be over Tk6,000. They will also have to keep money aside for food and commute, as club activities or jobs will require them to move around.”
Tanvir rents the rest of the apartment out to some close friends and is in charge of collecting the rent within the first week of every month.
“The real problem for many students is being able to save enough for the two-month’ advance rent they have to pay while moving in. I paid Tk60,000 in advance for my current apartment and collected two months’ rent from anyone who wanted to be a tenant in one of the rooms. This can be difficult for a lot of new students, and they need to come to the city prepared for this.”
Another leaseholder, Rony Islam, warned how some are using this position to dupe young students: “I have heard that some leaseholders refuse to pay any rent themselves and overcharge other tenants without informing the landlord. So when you are renting from a leaseholder or manager you have to be careful and look out for these scams.”
Use social media, but carefully
For new students moving into Dhaka, Tanvir recommends moving in with a relative or acquaintance first and exploring the options firsthand before renting.
“It is always a good idea to find a fellow student you can house hunt with, or get advice from a senior from the same institution. Facebook is a good place to find tenants, and there are a lot of student groups where information is available. Just type ‘To-Let’ in the search bar alongside your choice of area and you are bound to find these groups. But never give an advance, especially over the phone, before you are certain you want the place.”