What you need to know before you start looking for a private rented accommodation as a student.
Tip #1: Think carefully when choosing your flatmates
Most rental leases last for a full year & it’s better if you all get along during that period ☺ Make sure you share common interests and agree to share the housework. Are there any habits which could be annoying over time, for example if one of you smokes but the others don't? Agree on some basic "house rules" upfront.
Tip #2: Choose a neighbourhood that fits your budget and is an easy commute
Check the area has good transport links. Remember rents in areas close to University campuses are often higher but living further away means spending more on transport, which could end up being more expensive. Also make sure the area is safe and not too noisy.
Most students have established areas which they prefer, usually around the campus. If you're not aware of them already, speak to your friends, ask your University's Students' Union, Accommodation Services or check on Facebook Freshers groups where you can find tons of useful information.
Tip #3: Prepare for the reference check
Once you have made an offer, you will need to present a guarantor and go through a reference check. To avoid any delays and keep the process as smooth as possible, it's best if you can confirm you have someone who can act as a guarantor before you reach this stage. Note some universities can help & have their own guarantor scheme, especially for international students - this is the case for King's College, Imperial College and UCL. If you don't have a UK-based guarantor, it is standard practice to ask for 6 month’s rent in advance - then, depending on the landlord, you can be asked to pay the remaining of the rent on a monthly basis or the remaining 6 months after a period of 4 to 6 months post moving in.
Also, prepare the reference check documentation you will be required to provide in advance. These wil typically include the following:
- Copy of ID documents (in particular, for international students, a copy of your passport and UK visa - see more information on "Right to Rent" document check here)
- Reference proving you are enrolled at University
- Reference from a previous landlord or character reference (as applicable)
- Last 3 months' bank statement
Tip #4: Be mindful of "fake" property listings
Especially when searching through online listings, remember to be mindful of “fake” listings. Rule of thumb: if the property or the rent look too good to be true, it usually is. Never sign up or pay for anything before you have viewed the property yourself or have had someone you trust view it on your behalf.
Tip #5: Carefully review the tenancy agreement & get a receipt for your deposit
Make sure you fully understand and are aligned with the key terms outlined in the tenancy agreement. These will include the agreed rent, notice period, break clause, general rules for using the property, etc. In particular, make sure that any bills included in the rent are clearly listed - gas, electricity, heating, hot water, etc - and that you fully understand what bills you are responsible for.
Make sure you are provided with a receipt for your deposit and the holding fee (if you are asked to pay for one to take the property off the market – this is a common procedure). The deposit amount is usually six weeks worth of rent, regardless if you rent as a group or individual. Your landlord must provide you with the details of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDP) where they have placed your deposit within 30 days.
For more details, please see our detailed blog article Tenants’ Rights, Responsibilities & Tenancy Agreement.
And don’t forget...
There are various public sources available for information on tenants’ rights that you may want to review before you start your negotiations or discuss a tenancy agreement with the agent / landlord: see blog post here.
If ever in doubt on the tenancy agreement, make sure to consult a specialist. Our professional Sherpas are also very well-versed in these matters and can support you throughout the negotiation and tenancy agreement discussion process. Please visit our blog for more information or visit our Facebook page.
You may also want to check out our UrbanCo app, where you can run a targeted rental property search, based on your lifestyle requirements, create your shortlist, property ratings and share these with your tribe.