1 Finding the right property
Remember most students are offered accommodation in halls of residence in the first year of studies. So the guidance below relates to accommodation for the second and subsequent years of study.
There are some key messages for you to consider.
First of all you might need to start organising your rented accommodation for the next academic year before Christmas in the prevailing academic year. Although universities and colleges might advise – often strongly – that you should only start looking for accommodation in the spring term the reality is that many students do not leave it this late. The risk is that if you delay the best lets will already have been snapped up before you even start looking.
Next you should have a clear idea of the maximum rent you can afford to pay – this will clearly influence the choice of property.
You also must have a clear view about how many of you’re going into the shared let – and who these future housemates are. The most common sizes of property for share rentals are for 4, 5 or 6 people. Properties for smaller or greater numbers of tenants are available – but they’re in shorter supply and this might be reflected in the rents charged (they could be relatively expensive). Most universities have good accommodation support services and lists of available accommodation. Check out all these services before you start your search.
The next thing is to decide where you would prefer to be based. Most university towns have fairly clearly defined student areas – and it’s within these that most students prefer to be based. Try to be based as close as possible to your college or university to cut your travel costs.
The next stage is to check out the accommodation on offer.
Have a checklist ready when you’re doing viewings and have at least one of your future housemates with you to cross-check your findings.
One other thing to check is whether the landlord has been accredited by the university’s accommodation services. This is important as it will mean that the university has done its own checks. It also means that if you have issues with your accommodation during your tenancy the university is in a position to put pressure on the landlord to resolve them.
One last point: if you find yourself in the uncommon position of not having a place in a hall of residence in the first year you’ll have to go through the steps above as soon as possible before you arrive at university or college. You should make maximum use of the university’s accommodation services in this situation, particularly as you’re likely to be moving to an unfamiliar city or town.
If you’re not a student but working in a job, most of the guidance above still applies. The timing of your move into a rental and your choice of location will all depend on your job. You might have less control over who you share with and you might find yourself sharing with people you have not met before. In this case it’s wise to meet up with your potential housemates to work out whether you’ll get along together.
Activity 1 Finding your accommodation – a checklist
What key things should you be checking when viewing potential rental properties?
Put together a checklist and see how many key points you can identify.
- Is the accommodation safe? Does it have fire and CO2 alarms? Have the gas fittings (including the boiler) been serviced and checked? Have checks for Legionella bacteria been completed?
- Is the accommodation secure? Are the door locks good? Is there a burglar alarm? Do the windows have locks?
- Does your own bedroom have its own internal lock? This could be important if you want to get insurance cover for your possessions.
- Has the accommodation got adequate heating? Have you checked the energy performance certificate?
- Are there signs of excessive damp or infestation (mice, for example)? If there are, then the property might not provide a healthy environment for you to live and study in.
- Are there adequate cooking and other kitchen appliances? You’ll need a fridge – ideally a big one.
- Is wifi available – or will you need to set this up?
- Generally is the accommodation at least reasonably well furnished, clean and well decorated?
- Has it got enough bedrooms?