Types of student accommodation
Halls of Residence
Primarily for first years - The most common type of student accommodation for first years, halls of residence are owned by each individual university. Though usually reserved for first years (due to lack of availability), some universities offer space to second and third years as well as postgrads.
Great for meeting people - Halls provide the perfect environment for first year students to get to know a large number of people in a short space of time. They’re also a secure and cost effective method of accommodation for students. Other benefits of halls can include having a cleaner, not having to worry about bills and having your bed linen cleaned regularly.
Something for everyone - Facilities in halls of residence range greatly, most universities provide both self-catered and catered halls of residence, also there will usually be a choice between having an en-suite or sharing a communal bathroom. Internet access is now standard in most university halls of residence, though not all.
Best option for second year and beyond - Once you’ve worked out who your friends are in first year, chances are you and your new chums will move into a rented house or flat for the remainder of your time at university. Houses for students range in quality and price, but if you shop around and make sure you start looking as soon as possible you’re certain to find something you like.
Live amongst other students - In terms of location, students often feel happier and safer living amongst others students, meaning most university towns now have specific areas with particularly dense populations of students - a process known as studentification.
Private sector halls of residence
Take the hassle out of uni accommodation - Private halls are a relatively recent form of student accommodation. As the number of students going to university has increased, developers have spotted an opportunity to make some money through private sector halls of residence. You get all the benefits of uni owned halls of residence (such as lack of bills and good facilities) yet they are open to anyone.
Can often be more expensive - They are usually similar in look to a university owned halls of residence - often new blocks of flats - though as they are privately owned they are generally more expensive.
Shop around - There are many developers out there, will accommodation in most university cities - look online to find the best one for you. UNITE are one of the larger developers.
Parent-owned student houses
Can be really useful - Since the dip in the housing market, many parents have decided to cash in by buying properties in university towns and renting them out to their children (and children’s friends). This method has many obvious benefits - the landlord isn’t a scary old man who could turn up at any time, rent is often slightly cheaper, and if anything goes wrong with the house getting in touch with the landlord/lady involves ringing mum and dad - or telling your housemate to.
Be careful, it can cause tension - But it isn’t all good news. Arguments can arise if the child of the owners is always nagging his/her housemates about taking care of the house or if the child gets charged less rent than everyone else the other tenants may start to resent them.
Give it some thought - It can be a great way of taking the hassle out of looking for a house to rent, but make sure you’ve thought it through beforehand and have a clear idea of how things will work.
Room in a private house
Can help you feel more at home - It may not be the most glamorous way to go in terms of student accommodation - but renting a bedroom in someone else’s house can be a great way of saving some money. Because you’re in another person’s house there’s a good chance that it will be well maintained - often your landlord/lady will include meals for an additional fee.
Maintain your privacy - As much as being in someone else’s house has its benefits, it’s important that you keep a space of your own. If you choose this route, make sure that it’s written in your contract that you have exclusive access to your room and that the landlord can’t enter without permission.
Private flat on your own
Only if you like your own company - It’s an option - but not a great one. Not having anyone to talk to combined with the increased expense of living on your own means you’re probably better off looking at more traditions types of student accommodation.
Bills in student accommodation
Rent depends on where you are in the country - The only real downside of moving out on your own and into student accommodation - you have to start paying for stuff. Rent is the biggest expense - what you pay for student accommodation depends largely on where you’re studying. The general rule is that rent in the north tends to be cheaper, while London is the most expensive place to be a student - but of course there are always exceptions.
Remember to get a TV licence - Whether you’re in halls or a house, if you have a TV you must pay for your TV licence. The licence is currently £145.50 per year - in halls you will need one each, but in a shared house you only need one between all of you.
Exempt from council tax - As students you are exempt from paying council tax - though try and avoid living with non-students or part-time students as they are not exempt, and asking one person to pay the entire council tax bill is a little excessive.
Check out our top tips on utility bills - Other student accommodation expenses will include buying contents insurance and paying utility bills such as gas and electricity - for detailed information on utility bills click here.
Where to look for student accommodation
Student accommodation office
Get impartial help from your uni - Your university should have a dedicated student accommodation office. They will have a list of local landlords and letting agents that are trusted by the university, and may even be able to help you in your search for student accommodation if you get stuck.
It’s all in the timing - A letting agent is essentially a middle man between you and your landlord. A landlord pays a letting agent to find suitable tenants for his/her property. At some point - usually around January/February - letting agents will start advertising their houses for the next academic year. Like most things in life it’s a case of first come first serve, so it’s best to be organised - the sooner you know who you will be living with and what you can afford, the better. Most letting agents will have a comprehensive list of their properties online.
Going direct to private landlords
Cut out the middle man: To use a letting agents a landlord must pay administrative fees - as some are reluctant to do so, not all available houses can be found via an agent. Going direct to a landlord is a great way of saving money, IF you can find them. The best way of locating private lets is to look in the back of local papers and online. One example online is BournemouthStudentFlats.co.uk, an independent landlord renting student flats and houses in Bournemouth. (see below for others).
Finding your student accommodation online
Everything in one place - There are also websites that help to collate all of the above resources into one easy to use location. Students can sign up to find houses, while landlords and letting agents can also sign up to list their available properties. Some of the more popular ones include MyStudentHalls.com, accommodationforstudents.com, student-houses.com and homesforstudents.co.uk.
Find new housemates - Some of these sites - accommodationforstudents.com for example - not only let you search for properties, but also for housemates. Whether you have a room or need a room, you can connect with potential housemates to ask questions and potentially arrange viewings without having to go outside.
What makes for good student accommodation?
Obviously everyone’s needs and expectations are different, but here are some things that anyone looking for student accommodation should consider.
The more secure a property, the cheaper your contents insurance will be. Check with a few insurance companies what their minimum security requirements are before you start looking for a house.
Many universities are situated in heavily populated cities where noise pollution is common. Even if you look around a house during a quiet time of day, try and think about anything that could potentially cause noise such as main roads, pubs or train tracks.
A landlord or letting agent will show you around a property in its best possible condition to try and get you to rent it, but that doesn’t mean that is the condition it will be left in before you move in. Ask the landlord what furniture (if any) is included with the house - furnishing a house can be very expensive, so much so that it may mean it’s not worth your while moving into an unfurnished property.
Don’t feel too embarrassed to have a go on the hot taps or to test the flush on the toilet, these are things you can’t live without so make sure everything’s up to scratch before you commit to anything.
If there are a few of you, make sure that there are enough toilets/showers/hobs to satisfy all of your needs. There’s nothing worse than having to queue for a shower when you’ve got 10 minutes until your 9am lecture starts.
Convenient? - How close is it to uni? To town? To the shops?
Transport - Are you near a bus stop or train station? Would it be easy to get home at any time of day?
Difference in price - A house that has all of the above nearby (usually an inner city house/flat) will obviously be a lot more expensive than a house that is more out of the way. Think about what is important to you - some more rural universities will have accommodation options that are in more off the beaten track locations but that will offer a LOT more for your money.
Student Accommodation: Deposits, damage, your rights
As with anyone who rents a property you will have to pay a refundable deposit which, assuming the room/house is in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as at the beginning, you will get back.
Amount depends on accommodation type - In halls of residence the security deposit tends to be relatively small compared to private houses - you’ll rarely have to pay much more than £300. Private landlords will usually ask for 6-8 weeks worth of rent as a deposit as they see young people as high risk tenants (more likely to cause damage to the property) so will often ask for a larger deposit.
Protect your deposit - Your landlord must protect your deposit using a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme - these guarantee that tenants will get their deposits back at the end of the tenancy providing they have met the terms of the tenancy agreement and have not damaged the property. Getting it back - If you don’t get your deposit back at all, or if you don’t feel you have received enough of it back, you should write to your landlord raising your concerns. If you fail to resolve the matter you should speak to your student housing office or your local Citizens Advice Bureau for legal advice.