For most university students accommodation will have been booked months ago, but some will not have had this luxury. As they secure a last minute place through clearing, many will have to scramble to sort out a whole new university plan within a matter of weeks.
As thousands of university placements are offered to students following the release of A-Level results on the 16th of August, it is expected that over 40,000 students will go through the process.
Choosing the right course is on every student’s mind as they go through clearing, often leaving accommodation as a bit of an afterthought. Organising student finance, deciding what to take to university, starting a reading list - it’s all pencilled in on the list of to-dos. But, the number one thing students must make a top priority is finding accommodation.
University halls have all been taken by those “first choicers”, second and third year students booked their houses months ago - surely there isn’t any hope for clearing newcomers? With a rise of over 65,000 unconditional offers at universities this year, clearing students must be strategic when it comes to housing. National online student accommodation service, StudentTenant.com, give their advice on how to secure that all important place to live.
Are you searching for clearing accommodation? Start your student property search here!
1. Choose what type of accommodation you want to live in
Surely there can only be university accommodation and private housing? It’s surprising how many different types of accommodation there are out there, and it’s really important to choose the right one.
Usually the top choice for those going into their first year, but often not an option for those applying later through clearing. Either on-campus or somewhere else in the city, it’s owned and managed by the university, and you’ll usually only be placed with other first years. Great if you want that extra support, not so great if you have no choice over who you’re living with or how much it costs.
Private shared housing:
These are houses dotted across the city, generally in areas close to campus. Typically 4 bedrooms or more, they are residential houses where groups of students have their own rooms and share the facilities. They are a great option for those who may have a tighter budget as they are usually more cost-effective than halls. They are also a great option for those who want more independence, and to have more choice over where they live and who with.
As the name suggests, these are hall type buildings, privately owned and managed by professional student management companies. A very similar setup to university-owned accommodation, but often with more facilities like private en-suite bathrooms, cinema rooms, on-site security and gyms. You might pay slightly more to live in a private-hall, but with all of the extra facilities, they can definitely offer value for money. If you were destined to live in university halls but missed out - this could be a great alternative.
These are rooms in either a family home, or a property with a live-in landlord. Great if you want to retain the family lifestyle, and perhaps if you feel you may need a bit more support. Sometimes added extras might be available like meals and transport, depending on the landlord.
2. Start searching immediately, and choose your sources wisely
Time should not be wasted before starting the accommodation search. A large number of student houses and halls of residences are already taken, and with the sudden influx of clearing students looking for somewhere to live, remaining rooms will get booked up very quickly.
Choose the source to find your housing wisely. Trawling through a list of the local high street agents may seem like a good place to start - they’re local so must have the most up to date knowledge right…? Wrong! High street letting agents are often spread across sales, general lettings, commercial lettings and student lettings. It’s therefore unlikely a student will be made a priority, in what is a testing time for those going through clearing.
Choose a student-specific platform that will meet your needs properly. There are many online all-encompassing websites out there with not just property listings, but a wealth of industry knowledge and additional services to help you on your way.
3. Location, location, location
It's inevitable that the properties in the best locations are likely to have been snapped up early. But, that doesn't mean you have to take something miles away. Many properties will still have the odd room, and also some cities may have an oversupply of housing. Always utilise online tools to check how long it will take to get to campus.
Some cities have hotspots of student accommodation some distance from the campus. Be sure to check any public transport routes, as well as working out how much it will cost. Also, make sure you are not coerced by an agent or landlord into booking somewhere they claim to be a ‘popular student area’. Many heavily student populated locales change over the years, so seek any advice you can from your university if you’re heading off-campus.
4. View the property where possible & look for accreditation
The University of Kent recommend StudentTenant.com for off-campus housing, and a spokesperson from the university believes that on-campus accommodation is always the safest bet. However, at this time of year it’s not likely to be a possibility in some areas, so he advises where it’s not possible to, “try to find student accommodation that is under some kind of Housing Accreditation Scheme. Where possible visit and do a viewing before renting, to make sure it is in a location accessible to your campus.”
Unfortunately while a useful recommendation, there is no mandatory national accreditation scheme, but there are many local and national schemes that some landlords adhere to. However, there are also very good and professional landlords who don’t.
Perhaps more important are the mandatory HMO licensing rules, which have recently been tightened. Make sure your landlord has an HMO licence where required, has installed and checked smoke and CO alarms, and follows all of the relevant rules. By law they also need to give you a copy of the Government pamphlet on, “How to Rent”, a useful guide, that can be found alongside lots of other useful clearing information here.
Remember to have fun!
While renting a property for the first time is a serious endeavour, it can be daunting and you will be entering into a legal contract - don’t forget to enjoy this rite of passage! Take advice from friends and family who have been through the lettings process before, and get as much information as possible before making a commitment. Remember, the majority of students end up living with those who become their lifelong friends.