Finding somewhere to live for your second or third year of university can be a very exciting, yet daunting prospect. Fortunately, we’re here to help you find off-campus student accommodation with some classic do’s and don’ts.
Do your research
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times from everyone under the sun - your parents, your friends... even your next door neighbour. And now you'll have to add us to this list. It's really, really important to research the housing market in your university city.
You should research the location of every off-campus student house you're interested in. Is it in a student area? Is it within your budget? How far is the property from your university? That's just a few things you should think about when searching for a student property.
Ideally you will have a clear idea of the type of property you want to live in. If you haven’t yet – don’t worry! Just keep these three questions in mind, and you’ll be able to filter down your property search:
1. Where would you like to live?
2. What is your budget?
3. How many people are in your group/do you want to live with?
Once you’ve answered those three questions, you should have a clearer idea of what to look out for. You know the area you want to live in, how much you’re willing to spend, and the size of the property. Now you need to start your search and book in property viewings!
Don’t forget: Depending on where you are studying, rent prices could be very different across the city. You should spend some time researching the best student areas to live in.
Use a professional service to find student accommodation
There are plenty of ways you can search for student accommodation in your university city; online student letting agents, local letting agents, property portals, and even gumtree. Even though there are lots of options out there, you should always check that they are signed up to a Government-backed Property Redress scheme such as the Property Ombudsman (TPO).
Schemes such as the TPO have been set up to resolve disputes between property businesses and consumers. They provide a free, fair and independent service to protect consumers from unfair practice. So if you’ve got a problem and it’s not getting resolved internally, you can approach the TPO for help and guidance.
Once you’ve submitted evidence, they’ll reach a decision on complaints and decide on what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.
If you’d like to read more about how a property redress scheme works, you can check it out here.
Make sure you have a deposit ready
Whether you’re searching alone or as part of a group, you need to make sure that you are able to pay a security deposit when booking a property. A deposit can range anywhere between the equivalent of four and six weeks rent and it will need to be paid prior to moving in. You should expect to pay the deposit not long after you have secured the property.
It’s a legal requirement for your deposit to be placed into a government-approved scheme. Therefore, you must check that your landlord or letting agent has lodged them into a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.
Sign the Tenancy Agreement without checking it
As a tenant, your tenancy agreement is something that you should pay special attention to. It will define everything from what you can and can’t do, what your landlord expects from you, the length of your tenancy agreement and what is included within your rental agreement. It’s a pretty big deal.
If you aren’t up to speed with legal terms, then you should always get someone to check it for you. Alternatively, you can contact your university accommodation office or Student Union, who will be able to check over the tenancy agreement on your behalf and give advice.
What to look for in a tenancy agreement
• Check the start date and end date of your contract
• Check the rental amount and who is liable to pay it
• Check your obligations as a tenant and make sure you agree with the terms
• Make sure that your contract allows for ‘general wear and tear’
• Check who is named on the contract:
• Booking a property as part of a group: If you are signing a ‘Joint and Several Agreement,’ all tenant names should be on the contract as well as the landlords
• Booking a property on your own: If you are signing an ‘Individual Agreement,’ your name should be on the contract as well as the landlords
• If you have a guarantor they may also be named on the agreement
If something looks a bit strange, doesn’t match up, or doesn’t make sense, you should bring it up with the landlord or letting agent as soon as possible.
Once you have thoroughly checked through your tenancy agreement, you should be in a much better position to understand what you’re signing up to. Most importantly, don’t rush into signing it if you’re still not comfortable with any of the terms.
Forget to create a budget
Renting can seem much simpler in university halls or private student halls. You pay a single monthly fee and it covers the cost of accommodation, heating, internet… the list goes on. However, renting off-campus student accommodation is a little different. You'll need to factor in the rental cost, utility bills and other services to work out your monthly budget.
The core utility bills you should expect to pay are:
• TV licence
New tenants will usually need to get in touch with utility providers to organise the bills. Sometimes you will be put onto a rolling contract with the current utility providers, but this isn't always the cheapest option. If you would like to save money, you should consider opting for an all-inclusive bills package where all of your bills can be packaged into one single payment each month.
Assume your parent’s insurance will cover you
If you would like insurance for your valuables, it would be wise to check if your belongings are insured under your parents’ insurance policy.
Some insurance providers offer cover whilst you're away at university, but not all, so it's certainly worth checking. If they do, your parents will need to contact their insurance company to extend their policy. You should also check what is covered under your parents' home insurance policy.
It’s worth considering what the home insurance covers - eg. if you took your laptop to a lecture. It could well be that your parents policy will only cover your items whilst they are in your room. It’s a good idea to check this with their insurance provider to make sure you’re protected for every scenario.
Want more help finding student accommodation? Check out our top four essential house hunting tips.