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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Student housing: finding somewhere to live

Make the most of your time at university or college by knowing about your housing options – and what your rights and obligations are, whether you’re in halls of residence or private accommodation.

The essentials

Where you live at university or college is likely to have a major impact on your time there: the friends you make, the places you get to know, and your costs.

It can also be the first time you deal with private landlords, or have to tackle issues such as deposits, bill-sharing and housing management and safety.

Knowing where to look can help you find the place that’s right for you – and knowing your rights can stop you being ripped off.

Getting to know the area

Although some students live at home, for many going to university or college is a chance to get to know somewhere different.

If you don’t know much about where you’re moving to, try to check it out before you arrive at an open day. You could also ask your student housing officer for information about the local area and travelling time to the campus.

You could also look at the local section of the BBC website, or your university or college’s prospectus.

Halls and university accommodation

Lots of first year students opt for halls. It’s a good way to meet other students and it’s convenient for day-to-day needs.

A number of universities and colleges now manage their accommodation in line with government-approved codes of practice.

Private accommodation

Particularly in the second year, many students move into private accommodation, often with groups of friends.

If you’re thinking of sharing, bear in mind that most student houses have between three and six bedrooms – with more people, it might be worth splitting the group to find somewhere suitable.

Other options include a bedsit or flat of your own, or living as a lodger in your landlord’s house.

There’s a huge variety of private accommodation on offer - the places mentioned below give you some idea of where to start looking. Also, see the ‘Private renting' section of Directgov.

Housing offices

Most universities and colleges have student housing offices to talk you through your options and help you find somewhere to live. Many offices put together lists of landlords and available properties.

Your local authority can provide information on landlord accreditation schemes operating in the area. These are voluntary schemes which usually involve the accredited landlord agreeing to maintain and manage a property to a set of standards. If a landlord is accredited, find out:

  • who they are accredited by
  • what the scheme involves
  • how complaints are handled

Letting agencies

Letting agencies can help locate a suitable property for you to rent.

Remember that letting agencies can’t charge you for just conducting a search. However, they can charge a fee if you decide to accept any accommodation they find for you.

If you decide to register with a letting agent, make sure they are accredited with the National Approved Letting Scheme or that they belong to a trade body such as the Association of Resdential Letting Agents or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Private accommodation: knowing your rights

Once you move into private accommodation, you’ll be asked to sign a tenancy agreement, and will probably have to provide a deposit.

See 'Renting private student accommodation' to find out more.

Help funding your accommodation

All eligible full-time students can get help with rent and other living costs through a Maintenance Loan, and many will also qualify for a non-repayable Maintenance Grant.

Thinking safe

If you are moving into new accommodation, whether a hall of residence or a private house, make sure the property is safe and free from hazards.

This includes ensuring that gas or electrical appliances are safe to use, that furniture meets fire safety standards, and that the property is free from major hazards.

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