A Student’s Guide to Finding Accommodation in London
Most students agree that studying in London is a fantastic experience. Some of the world’s highest-regarded academic establishments are here, such as Kings College, UCL, LSE and Westminster, to name just a few.
Your accommodation is a major part of this experience. Find the right place, that works within your budget, and it will directly benefit your studies (and your social life).
With that in mind, here’s a comprehensive guide to selecting the right student accommodation in London – and ensuring you get the most from your time in the capital.
London Student accommodation – Before you start searching
Before you start scouring the market for suitable accommodation, there are some important things to consider:
- What’s your budget?
Make sure you identify how much you can realistically afford to pay each month, and make sure you factor in all the costs involved.
- Which area?
Some areas are ultra-desirable, but be warned, they’re likely to come with an accompanying price-tag. If you’re thinking of living in a student house, a better option might be exploring other streets nearby, which may offer you more space for your money.
- Who will you be living with?
Chances are that you’ll be sharing your accommodation with other people. It’s a wise idea to choose your housemates carefully – and you may want to assemble a group before you start searching for a place to call home. Be as honest with yourself as possible. For example, some friends are great to spend an evening down the pub with, but may not be ideal as a long-term housemate.
- Who will take responsibility for what?
Living in student accommodation comes with some responsibilities. Before you move in, work out how the bills will be paid, as this will avoid arguments with housemates further down the line.
Ask the important questions…
You should ask the following:
- How many bedrooms do you need?
- How close is your university or college?
- Are there transport links close by?
- Do you need a private bathroom?
- What kitchen facilities do you need?
- What things are on your ‘desirable to have’ list? (e.g. outdoor space, a gym, underground parking etc.)
What sort of student accommodation?
Halls of residence
Halls of residence are usually reserved for first year students, and are a great way to ease into the experience of living independently. They’re often situated on or near the university campus, and provide the perfect opportunity to socialise with fellow students.
Typically, you’ll rent a room in a hall of residence. Some are compact, while others offer a double bed, an en suite, and sometimes shared leisure facilities too. Be aware, these rooms are more expensive than other types of accommodation.
Reserving a room
It’s advisable to visit the halls before you commit, to see if the accommodation is suitable for you. Most universities work with private sector organisations (like UNITE), who manage the halls of residence on their behalf. Don’t presume that there are automatically enough rooms for every student – you have to reserve your room well in advance of your course starting.
Booking is done on a first-come, first-serve basis, and a deposit of £200 to £500 is sometimes required to secure your place.
Costs vary considerably, depending on which educational establishment you’re attending. Your maintenance loan should cover minimum living expenses. Expect to pay around £60 to £120 a week for a room in a hall of residence, though this can sometimes be more.
Your rent is likely to cover all bills, plus wi-fi and security. Some places may even offer parking permits and contents insurance, though this may incur an additional fee.
House shares are perfect for students progressing to their second year. By now, you’ll have found a group of friends that you can comfortably live with, and you’ll feel more confident with taking on more responsibility in terms of your accommodation.
Most student houses are situated in areas that are already dominated with university houses. This is sometimes referred to as ‘studentification’.
Rooms in student accommodation
Unless you can afford to rent an entire property on your own, you’ll probably rent your own room, and enjoy shared access to the communal living areas, plus the kitchen and bathroom. Rooms vary enormously, depending on the type of house you decide to live in. Bear in mind, some may be unfurnished; though it’s more common for them to include some furniture.
To secure your student home, you’ll sign a Tenancy Agreement. This commits you to paying the agreed sum of rent each week or month. Usually, all students living in the same house will sign one Tenancy Agreement, which means, if there any issues at the end of the tenancy, you’ll need to divide up the remainder of the deposit amongst yourselves.
Disputes are uncommon in student houses, but they do happen. That’s why it’s a good idea to take photos of the property when you move in, and complete a comprehensive inventory too.
Securing your student home
Sometimes, you can find shared housing via your university’s online student portal. Alternatively, you can ask the Accommodation Office, as they’re likely to have a list of available properties. Local letting agents and student accommodation websites are good options too.
Bear in mind, if you and your friends don’t fill the property (for example, if there are only three or you, and there are five bedrooms), your landlord may choose to rent to additional students, to ensure the vacant space is filled. To secure the home, you’ll have to pay a deposit up front, which is usually a month’s rent.
You can expect to pay less for a house share than a room in a hall of residence. However, utilities bills might not be included in your rent, so you’ll have to factor those into your monthly budget. Consider travel expenses too, as most student houses are situated a bit further away from the college or university campus.
The amount of rent you’ll pay is dependent on the area you choose to live in. On average, anticipate paying around £550 per month. The good news is that, as a full-time student, you’ll be exempt from paying council tax. To make sure you don’t get charged, obtain the relevant forms from the Accommodation Office, fill them out, then send them to your local authority.
When it comes to private housing, there are a few options available. These include: renting a room in a private hall of residence, renting in a private house, or having your own private accommodation.
Private halls of residence
These are halls that are managed by private companies. These often offer the same benefits as a university hall of residence, but there are a few key differences. For example, contracts usually last 52 weeks, and you may find yourself living alongside students from other academic establishments. Expect to pay around £140 a week for a room in a place like this.
Room in a private house
This is sometimes a cheaper option, but the downside is that you’ll be living with your landlord, not your friends! However, there are some benefits. For example, some landlords may include meals for an additional cost.
This is an expensive choice of accommodation, but the perk of having privacy may make it worth the extra cost. You’ll not only have a bedroom to call your own, but also a kitchen, living area, bathroom and perhaps outdoor space too.
Signing up for student accommodation – the questions to ask
Here’s a checklist of what to ask before you commit:
- What are the broadband speeds?
- How much are the bills (if they’re not included)?
- What is the minimum term of the contract?
- What furniture, fixtures and fittings are included?
- How much deposit will you pay?
- When can you move in?
- How much are the agency fees (if applicable)?
- Is the agency part of a recognised body? For example, RIB are members of ARLA, Safe Agent and PropertyMark.
Your budgeting checklist
You’ll need to work out your monthly outgoings, to ensure you can afford to pay the rent. Factor in the following costs:
- Food (either catered in halls of residence, or purchased then cooked at home)
- Gas and electricity
- Internet and phone connection
- Mobile phone contract
- Laundry services (if applicable)
- Travel expenses
- Contents insurance
- Social activities
- Books and equipment for college or university
Remember, you may be entitled to a maintenance loan or grant. Don’t include an interest-free student overdraft into your budgeting, as you’ll have to start paying this back after you graduate. If you need assistance with budgeting, check out savethestudent.org, which has online tools to help you.
Keeping an eye on money
It’s worthwhile setting aside half an hour each week to review your spending, and check that you’re not paying out more than you can afford. If possible, place some funds into a savings account – this always comes in handy in the event of emergencies.
There are plenty of financial perks available to students, so do make the most of them. Your TOTUM student card offers plenty of discounts – to apply for one, visit https://www.totum.com/.
Once you’ve got a shortlist of accommodation options, it makes sense to view them in person. One in ten student groups sign a contract for the first house they view, but that doesn’t mean you have to – you may want to see a few, so you can compare what’s on offer.
Try not to be dazzled by fancy appliances or mod-cons. You don’t want to rent a student home, only to find that there are major issues with the property that’ll cause you headaches further down the line.
When viewing student accommodation, pay attention to the following:
- Location. Check out what’s in the vicinity. For example, a bus stop or a local convenience store are likely to both be useful to you in the future. If it’s a walkable distance to your university, find out how long it’ll
take to get there. If it’s not, make sure you check how much it’ll cost in train or bus fares to get to your lectures.
- Surrounding houses. Does it look like a good neighbourhood? Are the surrounding properties in relatively good order? It’s never a good idea to rely on gut instinct alone, but neither should you ignore it. If a
place doesn’t feel quite right, that usually means there’s something wrong with it.
- Security. You’ll be leaving valuables in this property, so you want to be assured that it’s safe to do so. Check the access points, and make sure there are locks on the doors and windows. Ideally, the road will be
well lit at night too.
- Safety. Your safety is a top priority. Make sure fire alarms have been installed, and that fire extinguishers and fire blankets are functional and accessible.
- Pests. Pests are a real problem, especially if there’s a significant infestation in the house. Look for evidence of mice, rats, slugs, banana flies and pigeons – all of these can cause serious problems.
- Water pressure and leaking. Ask to see the showers and taps in action, to check the water pressure is adequate. Look around the bases of sink units too, just in case there are any problems with leaking.
- Energy efficiency. If the property is old, it might not be that energy efficient. This is bad for the environment, and means you’ll pay more for your heating too. Ask about the energy efficiency, and find out if the
property is well insulated too.
- Damp. Damp houses are not only unpleasant to live in, they can be bad for your health as well, especially if mould is present. Check for mould around windows and in the bathroom, and press your hand to the
walls. Usually, you can tell if a wall is damp, as it feels slightly clammy and cold to touch.
- Furniture. It’s worth noting that any house advertised as student accommodation needs to supply a desk and chair in each bedroom. Make sure you find out what else is included in the tenancy agreement.
Working with letting agents
Landlords often hire letting agents to handle their properties on their behalf. These letting agents can be useful for tenants as well as landlords. For example, if you let them know you’re looking for accommodation, they’ll be happy to forward you details of appropriate properties – often before they’ve even come to market.
A good letting agent will never pressurise you into signing a contract. They won’t hassle you all the time by sending you property details – so if you’d actively like them to do this, make your interest known. Remember, it’s their job to answer your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask.
A tenancy agreement outlines the responsibilities your landlord has in relation to the tenant. It details your responsibilities too. Always read your contract carefully, and if you’re not sure about anything, ask your letting agent, or the Accommodation Office / Student’s Union.
Types of contract
There are several types of contract, but the ones you’re most likely to encounter are:
- Fixed term. That means you can live in the property for a specified period, and that you agree to pay rent for the entire duration of your time there.
- Joint tenancy. This means that you and your housemates share liability for damages, bills, and rent arrears.
It’s your responsibility to:
- Pay the rent on time
- Pay the bills on time
- Maintain the property to an acceptable standard
- Tell your landlord if any problems arise
- Comply with all other terms of the contract
Your landlord’s responsibilities
Your landlord must:
- Let you live in peace – if they need to enter the premises, they must give you 24 hours’ notice in writing
- Maintain the structure and exterior of the property
- Ensure the house is safe and habitable
- Keep all appliances, heating and electrics in good working order
Having a guarantor is an increasingly popular option. Your guarantor is usually a parent or guardian, and they will offer to ‘guarantee’ that you can pay the rent, and agree to cover the costs if you fail to do so. The advantage of having a guarantor is that it makes you a more appealing tenant to prospective landlords. You may be able to secure a better quality of student house too.
What do you need in order to secure your student accommodation?
If you’re ready to sign the contract, you’ll need to supply the following:
- ID (usually in the form of a passport)
- Visa (if applicable)
- A letter from your university, confirming your place there
- The necessary funds to secure the property
Find out more about accommodation
If you’re ready to start searching for student accommodation in London, get in touch with the RIB team today. We specialise in helping students find the ideal properties and shared homes, in great areas close to educational establishments.
To find out more, get in contact with us here or contact our Residential Lettings team today on the contact details below.
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