Student accommodation can be a difficult thing for students to deal with. For many people, it is the first time that they’ve been away from their families and friends.
Student accommodation is not as difficult an area for students to think about as you might think. As you become more accustomed to the world of understanding student bills, rent and university essentials, luckily we’ve got you covered with our bumper guide to student accommodation.
What is student accommodation?
Student accommodation is halls of residence for students who are attending university. These are basically furnished flats for students that have bedrooms, shared kitchens and bathrooms and are usually in a building fairly close to your university campus.
Student accommodation will all have different ways that they run things for their campuses since cities can usually have multiple universities in them and accommodation can be tough to come by.
What is the student accommodations office?
The Student Accommodations Office will be a part of any university and will handle any and all accommodation queries that you may have. They will have a lot of different places for you to stay, whether they be flats or houses or they be student halls themselves and the Student Accommodations Office will need to be contacted as soon as you have been accepted to university, as only then will you be able to sort out your housing situation.
You’ll tend to find that most universities will operate the first-come-first-serve operation, and it will be difficult to get in ahead of those that have already sorted out their accommodation, we recommend you visit your institution during university open days to view the range of accommodation that is available.
How and when to apply for student accommodation
When you are accepted for university, your university will often offer you the choice between university halls and accommodation – choosing the right student accommodation is essential and very particular is an individual need. You will be required to go through the Student Accommodations Office.
When do you have to pay for student accommodation?
The terms of payment are dictated by the university you are staying with and what their rules are for students who wish to stay in student accommodation. Some universities require you to pay monthly, others every six months.
You are also able to select your own payment plan that suits you. If it is preferable to pay all of your money up front, then your university will accommodate this too.
What is a student accommodation referee?
A referee is someone who will be providing a guarantee, of sorts, to your student accommodation providers that you are capable of paying your accommodation fees, a guarantor in essence.
So, what is a guarantor for student accommodation? Well, that is someone who will pick up the slack for your student accommodation fees, if you are unable to pay, this guarantees payment.
How do I apply for private housing at university?
If you take a private house, or a student house, you will need to speak to the Accommodations Office. Student house viewings are highly recommended, do not just look at pictures online, go visit them yourself, remember, you’ll be living there for the next year! The Accommodations Offices will often have a lot of different alternatives available for you.
We recommend that you join as many Facebook groups related to your university as possible, this enables you to speak to people attending or will be attending the same institution.
There is also the possibility of connecting with people that are also in need of student accommodation – you can also gain some advice about the local area and about your potential new housing situation, too.
Before any of this, however, you should speak to your Student Accommodations Office and see if they can point you in the right direction.
What do I do if I miss out on a place in halls?
This is a fairly common occurrence. Many students either apply too late, which usually happens on account of having to apply through Clearing. The best thing for you to do is to once again use the Student Accommodations Office, try and organise as many viewings as you can possibly get to and join as many Facebooks as you can.
Missing out on student halls isn’t the end of the world as you’re able to find yourself some new accommodation which may be better suited to you and your situation, you might even find one closer (which will save your travel costs) and meet new people!
How to get out of a student accommodation contract?
The first thing to do is to read the terms of the student accommodation contract that you have signed. There may be a break clause in the contract for you, if not, we recommend speaking to your university and their accommodations team and seeing what the clauses are regarding you potentially being able to get out of a student accommodation contract.
Can I live at home when at university?
You can stay at home if you wish, it will save you a lot of money in the long run, just one of the reasons why living at home during university is a benefit.
However, we don’t recommend living at home if you go to a university a long way away; this is better if you live in the vicinity of the university that you will be studying in, you don’t want to have to commute for three hours every day!
What are private student halls and how are they different from normal student halls?
Well, student halls are owned by the university. With private student halls, the setup is similar to halls managed by universities, but it’s owned by a private company.
This means that the rates can fluctuate in either direction, with private halls you can have WiFi added in and you can also see yourself closer to the nightlife of the city too, which is always nice. Students are not always sure what to expect when living in university halls, there will always be different reviews from different students, the best advice would be to view all the options available and make the best choice that brings you, as an individual, the most benefits.
How to pay for student accommodation
You can pay for student accommodation yourself. Most universities have bursaries and grants and scholarships in place for students that require financial aid, but there are no student accommodation bursaries for student accommodation, which means you will likely have to pay for this by getting a job at university.
This might lead to you asking “why is student accommodation so expensive?”, but don’t worry, plenty of students ask this and it’s not nearly as bad as you think once you’ve gotten used to paying it.
Do private student halls cost more than normal student halls?
Not necessarily. Of course, there will be circumstances that will mean that they will cost more, but more often than most, you’ll see that the cost will be less in some cases and will often even be the same figure as it would be for normal halls!
We recommend that you speak to your university and to the Student Accommodations Office as well, this will get you a good idea of what you’re going to be paying.
What should I look for when applying for student accommodation?
It depends on what your needs are. The best thing to do is, of course, to look for something that has easy access to shops or local markets. You don’t want to have to trek for 20/30 minutes to be able to get yourself some bread and milk.
That being said, you should also see if there is anything that has something you’re looking for, for example, if you’re someone who enjoys going out and enjoys nights out, you should look for something related to that too, just make sure that the essentials are close by. You probably won’t want to live too far away from your university either, having to get public transport or having to walk for forty minutes-a-day won’t do you any favours.
Accommodation for Students is a great resource for finding student accommodation. Unlike other sites they feature houses, flats, halls and have a housemate finding service.
Does the price of student accommodation change depending on where I study?
Unfortunately, yes it will. London student accommodation will put your costs up dramatically compared to living and studying in a rural university, although you can look for cheap student accommodation in London.
That being said you shouldn’t let it put you off, the cost of accommodation will always be difficult to manage as you’re a student and will most likely operate on a limited budget, so keep things in perspective and don’t be downhearted by the price of the accommodation.
Do all halls come with an en-suite?
Many halls have en-suite bathrooms available for their students, but a fair amount of them will have shared bathroom facilities.
The best thing to do is to check with your Student Accommodations Office and see if you can get a room with an ensuite if you want one, but it will most likely be on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Are there communal kitchens in halls?
Yes. Nine times out of ten you will find that halls will have a communal kitchen. It’s not always the most convenient of situations, mainly because a lot of students won’t always clean up after themselves – although this means there will be more pots and pans to share with each other, so there are benefits.
The size can vary too, depending on where you’re staying, you can see that the kitchen may only fit three people or may fit up to six, again this can be a positive, cooking and cleaning with more people can save you time, money and you can make more friends!
Is there a waiting list for accommodation?
Plenty of people apply to a university and then drop out, also many people are generally on a waiting list and then apply elsewhere for other accommodation, which can free up some space for you and what you want.
There are a number of things to consider when looking at a place for the first time, here are some tips to get you started:
Make sure you take a camera to take photos of the house and key areas that you’re interested in knowing more about.
- Take your time when looking around the property, there is no trouble in having a thorough look and seeing how well it is kept.
- Enter every room and check all corners and around windows for any signs of damp.
- Don’t be shy, it always helps to have someone who is reasonably confident with you at the time of the viewing as they’ll be inclined to ask more questions.
So what are the questions to ask when viewing student accommodation?
Is that Damp?
Damp could appear anywhere but it’s the landlord’s job to ensure that the property is looked after and looked after well. It needs to be taken seriously as it can cause major health problems and mould ruins clothes.
Rats and Mice?
Student houses can get extremely messy and may attract rats or mice. When viewing the house, look out for droppings, mouse traps and any other signs of infestation to ensure the landlord isn’t hiding anything.
Where is the property located?
How far away are you willing to live? If your student house is a thirty-minute walk away from university you may be more inclined to ‘snooze’ your way through those early morning lectures. A nice home in a convenient location is what makes a student house perfect.
Does the accommodation look safe?
Security and safety are the most important factors when it comes to picking a house. The windows should be double glazed and there should be double locks and fire doors in the house.
If you will be living with a group of 6 or more students, the landlord will be required to abide by stringent HMO regulations. Whilst they are required to be met by law, they can be hard to enforce. They exist for your safety and comfort, so check up on what they involve on the internet or with your local council.
Check for open electrics
Can you see bare electrics? Does that cupboard underneath the stairs look unsafe? Bring this up! You have every right to ask questions and don’t be afraid to discuss the white goods in the kitchen. You’ll need to make sure that you have all of the kitchen essentials for university, sorted. If you haven’t lived with students before then you’ll be shocked at the outcome of five students sharing one standard fridge and freezer. You’ll never have any room or space for anything, so make sure the appliances are good enough.
Do the furnishings and fittings come with the house?
Find out what is included with the house so you know what you’re accountable for. Landlords will list items that are in poor condition, so make sure you check every piece of furniture before signing any paperwork, especially for broken bed springs.
Ask the current tenants
Talk to the current tenants of the property as they’ll be able to help you with anything you need to know. There could be issues with the loft or maybe there is no lawnmower, these can be a pain further down the line and you could end up paying the price. Also, who knows what you can turn up? Maybe you'll learn some little secrets about the local area, some nice places to visit or even a way to get a cheaper TV for the building!
Remember to ask about the bills, what the summer rent is (as you may be able to get this cheaper if you are not living there), how you will be expected to pay your rent, how much the deposit is as well as any possible agency fees, remember this could have an impact on your student finance.
If it’s between you and a few other student groups then the landlord will choose the group they think will cause the least problems in terms of mess. Present yourself well when talking to the landlord and if you find the place you like, don’t waste time in making a decision as student houses are very popular.