Student housing - comprehensive guide to student housing
Student housing - comprehensive guide to student housing

Student Housing 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Perfect Place to Live

You don’t want mould to be your new housemate.

You might think that your lectures are the most important part of university. Well, they are. But, student housing options and accommodation are pretty high up on the list, too.

Whether you’re in student halls, shared accommodation or off-campus accommodation, you’ll need to know how to navigate your way to finding the perfect place to live. And why is it important? You’ll likely spend most of your time in your accommodation. Sleeping, eating, studying, pre-drinks — it’s the foundation of your time at uni. Free from the shackles of your family!

From roommates to lease terms, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide to ensuring your new home away from home can support you in the way that you deserve.

Comprehensive guide to student housing - plan before you start

How to find student housing

Start searching early

You should start your student accommodation search as early as possible.

If you’re planning on starting your first year at university, you’ll normally choose your on-campus accommodation once you’ve accepted your course offer. Many universities have limited spaces available, so make sure you do it early and talk to the uni if you need help.

If you’re looking for private, off-campus accommodation, you should consider starting your search around November or December for the following academic year. Private landlords and off-campus accommodation can advertise quite a bit earlier in advance of the academic year, and can be extremely competitive. Aim to have your options whittled down, or secured, by January to help guarantee a place to stay.

If you organise accommodation early enough, you’ll minimise the risk of being separated from your favourite housemates and thrown into a spare room with a bunch of strangers you don’t know. It will also mean you can get a place that is close enough to the university campus or other amenities you’re eager to be close to (like shops or the gym). Organising yourself ASAP should remove the disappointment and hassle of living somewhere not suited for your needs, like a house that’s miles away from the campus, train station and your besties.

Understand your housing options

It’s important to understand that you have several options for university accommodation. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, but they’ll be some that are more suited for you and your circumstances. It’s important to note that accommodation, in general, is a competitive market, so having a few options lined up may be beneficial.

These are the most common types of accommodation:

  • University halls of residence
  • Privately-rented accommodation
  • Private sector halls of residence
  • Living at home

University halls of residence

Uni halls are typically owned by the university and tend to be the first option for new students, especially first-year students or overseas students.

Usually, these halls are located on campus and near other staple facilities such as the library or a supermarket. Halls of residence depend on the university but they are normally organised with five or six rooms sharing a communal area (kitchen, living room). Some rooms have ensuites but other halls will have shared bathrooms, either with one other person or shared between the entire flat. Some halls have female/male communal bathrooms.


  • Convenient location on campus close to facilities you may need
  • Great for socialising due to flatmates and communal areas
  • Great option to try out independent living without the hassle of landlords
  • There may be cleaners at some universities that clean communal areas


  • The nicer halls/rooms are competitive so you may not end up with your first choice
  • Typically reserved for first-years or overseas students
  • Rules to follow such as limited noise or keep fire-doors closed at all times
  • Fire alarm tests (or someone left nuggets in the oven too long)

Privately-rented accommodation

A popular option for student housing is privately-rented accommodation. This is more common for students in their second or third year of university, where they usually live with roommates they’ve already lived with in first year (if they’re still friends) or with other friends they’ve made during uni.

You can live alone if you want, or if you’re seeking a student accommodation landlord, they may be able to help put you in a spare room in one of their properties. Or, you can grab your best friends and find a house with enough bedrooms for all of you. Luckily, many landlords that specialise in student housing will have properties equipped for such  — including multiple bathrooms.


  • Can choose where you live (close to town, closer to campus, etc)
  • Can choose your own housemates
  • Able to pick the style of property you want to move into (flat, house, how many bedrooms)
  • Less rules potentially, but landlords will have their own rules you’ll have to obey


  • Might be more expensive than student halls on campus
  • May have to pay for bills separately to rent 
  • The properties may be in worse conditions due to age or number of occupants
  • May not be as close to campus or amenities 
  • More responsibilities regarding cleaning and daily maintenance

Private sector halls of residence

Private sector halls are pretty similar to university halls. You’ll have your own room but share communal areas like the kitchen or laundry room. The halls aren’t owned by the uni, but by commercial companies instead.

Some of these companies work in partnership with the university, but the halls won’t necessarily be on campus. They can be closer to town or areas with more shopping and nightlife. These private halls can also have a variety of rooms and accommodation available, including double-rooms or studio apartments with a kitchen, if you fancy living alone.


  • Along with the rent, many may have utility bills and things like maintenance costs for communal areas included
  • Some may have more amenities available, like on-site gyms 
  • These housing options tend to be more modern and purpose-built than an older on-campus hall


  • Can potentially cost more than other options due to amenities 
  • Living off-campus could mean not being in the centre of social stuff at the university
  • Private halls may cater to several local unis so you may not be with people from your uni

Living at home

Many students may consider living at home while at uni and commute to the campus. This could be due to financial reasons or personal choice. However, this is more likely if your university is within a commutable distance from home, and not half-way across the country.


  • Cheapest option normally, even if you pay your parents/guardians rent or make contributions towards the living costs
  • Homely and comfortable place to stay
  • Family and friend support system will be closer
  • You get to stay with the family dog


  • Commute can be expensive or time-consuming
  • Lack of independence/privacy if living with family
  • More effort to meet other people from your uni who are living on-campus

Consider your budget

It’s super important to consider your budget for student housing. Whether you’ll be paying for it yourself or with the help of parents, or if you are applying for a maintenance loan to help, you don’t want to be left with pennies to eat with.

You have to take into consideration the cost of rent (and bills, if not included in the price), as well as living expenses like food and commuting. You also have to keep in mind you’re likely going to need money for textbooks, too. And don’t forget, you’ll need some money to actually enjoy your time at uni.

Once you have a rough budget, your student housing hunt may become a little easier. A budget will narrow down your housing options, allowing you to focus on properties that fit within your price range — reducing time and effort spent on your search. With a budget, you may be able to negotiate with private landlords to lower the rent to within your price range.

Also keep in mind that most student accommodation options are priced per room, rather than as a house as a whole. This means that even if you struggle to find roommates to fill up a house, you’ll still only be required to pay for your room and not the empty rooms. This can help ease the pressure of finding enough mates to share with.

Location, location, location

Consider location for student housing. London skyline and Greenwich park

Location is a super important factor in deciding your student accommodation. Where you live while at university can be a significant factor in determining your overall student experience.

A convenient location could:

  • Save you time and money — if you’re close to your university campus, you could save money on transportation by walking. It’s also handy if you’re located near amenities like shops, restaurants, doctors etc, which will also save time and money on transport. 
  • Enhance your social life — if you’re close to your friends, the university, or even the town, you may be able to easily attend more social events because you’re not worried about travelling and spending money. 
  • Increase your safety — if you’re in a safe neighbourhood, or close to campus, you could be a lot safer due to the short distance to travel between and less likely to get lost in an unfamiliar area.

To help you find the perfect place, do your research. Check transport links and maps to see how easy it is to commute to places you need. Try and use known sites to find housing or speak to the university to help point you in the right direction.

Visit potential student housing options

An absolute must is that you visit any potential housing options before agreeing or signing a contract! No matter how good it looks in the pictures, you never know what the actual state of the accommodation is, so check it out yourself or get someone you trust to go for you if you’re unable to.

When visiting the property, you’ll potentially get to meet the landlord. You’ll be able to get a good indication of whether you trust them or if they seem to care about the property, its safety and condition. You want someone who appears to be proactive and will ensure your safety is priority within the living conditions. Meeting them will allow you to ask questions and help to establish a relationship, determining whether you feel comfortable renting from them.

What you should look for when visiting student housing options

These are a few important things to look out for when visiting properties and some questions you could ask the landlord/university accommodation manager.

  1. Check for any damages: When visiting the property, keep an eye out for any damages you spot or repairs that are needed, like broken windows and leaking pipes. Ask the landlord or property manager if they plan to repair any issues before you move in. 
  2. Check the cleanliness and maintenance of the property: If the accommodation is a bit grubby or not maintained properly, ask the landlord if they plan on cleaning or hiring cleaners before you move in. 
  3. Ask about utility bills and expenses: Make sure you ask about rent and utilities, you’ll need to know what is included in the price, or what bills to expect to pay. It’s also handy to know if you and the other tenants have to manage the bills and providers yourselves or if the landlord/manager does all the admin bits for you, so you just have to pay. 
  4. Ask about rental terms and rules: Ensure you’re aware of the costs, lease agreements, security deposits and what rules there might be for the tenants. You want to make sure there are no hidden costs that you’ll be expected to pay, or whether the rules are too excessive or unreasonable. Make sure you understand everything before you sign any contracts. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, then make sure you ask. 

Looking for student accommodation should be fun and part of the university experience. Always ask questions if you’re unsure about anything, especially when it comes to rent, bills and signing contracts. And most importantly, stay safe and happy house hunting!

Starting uni in September? Read our article on what student housing is really like to ease you into the transition.