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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Halls of residence and other university accommodation

Many universities and colleges offer halls of residence, and sometimes self-catering flats, to students who want to ‘live in’. If you decide on this option it’s best to apply as soon as possible.

Why go for university-run accommodation?

Lots of students go for university or college accommodation, particularly in the first year. A few of the benefits are:

  • you won’t have to go house-hunting in a town that you don’t necessarily know that well
  • with loads of other students around, it's easier to make new friends
  • it can be good value compared with private accommodation, with bills often included in room rates

Finding out what's on offer

Accommodation can vary immensely between different universities and colleges, and within individual places of study.

It might mean halls of residence that sleep hundreds of students and have their own bars and cafes, or small, self-catering flats.

To find out what’s on offer at your place of study, find their details on the UCAS website, or get hold of a prospectus.

If you do go for university accommodation, make sure you complete and return any forms as early as possible, as demand is often high.

Contracts and your rights

Your rights depend on who owns and manages your accommodation - this will either be your university or college, or a private company.

In either case, you will be sent a contract or agreement explaining your rights and responsibilities before you move in.

Take time to read this thoroughly before you sign it - and if there is anything that seems unclear or unfair, get advice.

If your university runs the accommodation

If the university or college is your landlord, your status will most likely be as ‘an occupier with basic protection’.

This means that the college or university has to give you the minimum notice required and get a court order if it wants to evict you.

If the accommodation is run privately

If your landlord is a private company or individual, you will probably be an ‘assured shorthold tenant’.

To find out more about your rights, whoever runs your accommodation, see the article ‘Private rent and tenancies’.

Codes of practice for university and college accommodation

There are currently three government-approved codes of practice for the management of student accommodation by universities, colleges and large commercial providers.

The codes of practice require your accommodation to have certain standards of management, and an adequate complaints procedure.

If your university or college runs the accommodation

If you are staying in accommodation managed and controlled by your university or college, check to see if it has signed up to one of the codes linked to below.

If your accommodation is privately run 

If your accommodation is not managed by your place of study, it may be covered by the Accreditation Network Code of Standards for student accommodation not managed or controlled by educational establishments.

In addition, if your accommodation is not self-contained it may be subject to licensing as shared accommodation.

If you are unhappy with your hall of residence

If you’re not happy with your university accommodation, your first step should be to talk to your university’s accommodation office.

If your university or college has signed up to one of the codes of practice, speak to whoever is responsible for enforcing that code. You could also talk to your students’ union welfare officer.

If you are still not happy with the outcome, you can use your university’s internal complaints procedure or the complaints procedure outlined in the code of practice.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)

If you have been through the internal complaints procedure of your university and you are not satisfied with the end result, contact the OIA (England and Wales only).

Contact your local authority

Contact your local authority if you think your health and safety is at serious risk, and that the managers of the accommodation (or those responsible for enforcing the code of practice) are not acting appropriately after you’ve informed them of the problem.

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