When to start looking
The sooner, the better! You might just be settling into your new uni accommodation, but many freshers begin looking for their second-year home just months after starting university.
Move-in dates for student housing tend to be around June to August, but these places can be advertised as early as the previous autumn. London is an exception – here, houses are put on the market one or two months before they’re available.
Sharing accommodation can be a lot of fun, and it should reduce your living costs too. It’s important to pick housemates carefully though. Here are some things to consider:
- Lifestyle – if you’re a party animal, a recluse might not make the best roomie (and vice versa!)
- Budget – different spending abilities can make it hard to agree on rent and shared costs
- Reliability – you may want to avoid people who won’t pay bills on time or never clean up
- Friendships – living with people you know can be safer and more fun, but it can also put strain on your relationship
Finding student accommodation
There are many ways to find student accommodation. We’ve explored the pros and cons of common routes below:
Working out costs
Before you start viewing and applying for houses, you need to know what you can afford. Here are some key costs to consider:
Rent: this is usually paid monthly or quarterly. You can try to negotiate rent down before signing for the house. You’ll usually be asked to pay one or two months’ rent upfront.
Holding deposit: this reserves the house while your application is being processed. You should get the money back if you’re refused, but not if you back out of the deal.
Admin fees: these cover the agent’s costs for processing your application, but they’ll be banned in 2019.
Tenancy deposit: you should get this back at the end of your tenancy, minus any unpaid rent or damage costs. It’s usually equivalent to one or two months’ rent.
Utilities: household bills are sometimes included in the rent price. If not, ask the landlord or agent for an estimate.
Council tax: there’s no need to pay this if you and your housemates are full-time students. If you’re a part-time student, you may get a discount.
Viewing student accommodation
It’s always sensible to view a property before signing for it. Here are our top tips for making the most of your visit:
- Tell someone where you’re going and take a companion
- Get a feel for the area and check out the building’s security
- Make sure you have easy access to shops and your university
- Look out for health and safety issues, such as loose wires, cracks, damp, mould or infestations
- Ask for a list of furniture that’s staying, as some of it may belong to the current tenants
- If the current tenants are in when you visit, ask them whether they’d recommend the place
Applying for accomodation
Once you’ve found the right house or flat, contact the agent or landlord to make an offer. Next, you’ll need to fill in an application form. This will often ask for:
Personal information: this might include your name, contact details, date of birth and university course.
Proof of identity: for example, a photocopy of your passport or driving licence. You may be asked to show the original document to the agent or landlord.
A guarantor: this is someone (usually a parent or guardian) who promises to pay your rent if you can’t. It’s a common request for student accommodation. The guarantor will usually need to sign the form too.
References: for example, you may be asked for a reference from a previous landlord, employer or lecturer. This can help the agent or landlord decide if you’re trustworthy.
Finally, you’ll be asked to sign a contract and pay upfront costs. Make sure you:
- Fully understand the agreement before signing it
- Pay by card rather than cash so the transaction is traceable
- Insist on getting a proper receipt
- Never send money to anyone asking to do a ‘financial check’
- Visit the Tenancy Deposit Scheme website to ensure your deposit is protected