How to rent a student flat (and live in it too)
Calling all first-year university students – now that you’ve settled in to your new surroundings, all the talk around campus will be about finding a place to live for your second year (yes, students need to be that organised!)
The truth is that the best private student accommodation tends to get snapped up for next year before Christmas, so it’s important to be on the ball.
Most universities only have enough space to cater for first-year students in Halls of Residence to help them get on their feet. By the second year, you’ll probably be required to find a suitable flat or house in the private sector.
If you and your pals are preparing to find a place to call home for your next year at university, this article will equip you with hints and tips to guide you on your way.
Choosing a letting agent
For most university students, this will be the first time you will have ever needed a letting agent to help find accommodation to rent. It can feel like being thrown in at the deep end.
It’s vitally important that you choose a lettings agent that is well-versed in dealing with students and sourcing accommodation that’s suitable for your needs. There are some letting agents that are approved or accredited by your university. It’s worth contacting your university or student union for guidance on this.
Of course, the simpler way to find your perfect student home would be to download the SPCE app and find available properties with rated and reviewed landlords. Within the app you can also arrange viewings to help you get things moving.
Set a budget (inclusive of bills)
Once you find a property that you all like the look of, it’s important to find out how much the rent is per person and whether it is inclusive of utilities bills. If it is not inclusive of bills, you’ll be required to sort your own gas, electricity and water supply, as well as council tax and telephone/broadband.
Ideally, you should set a budget that you are all comfortable with before viewing properties, so that you know each accommodation you view is financially achievable.
What to look for in an acceptable student property
- Investigate for signs of damp during any viewing. Dark mould will usually be apparent in the corners of rooms on walls and ceilings. There may also be an unpleasant damp smell too.
- Make sure the roof is watertight and secure.
- Look for any signs that mice and any other pests are present within the property e.g. chewed furniture.
- Safe electrics – no loose wires – request an electrical safety inspection if necessary.
- Ensure all internal and external locks are secure.
- If moving into a furnished property, ensure all kitchen utensils and equipment are clean and usable.
We’ve put together an even more detailed list of questions to ask of prospective landlords during student accommodation viewings.
Make sure any deposits are suitably protected
Once you’ve found a property that you believe is suitable and you’re each prepared to put down a deposit, make sure it is protected in a tenancy deposit protection scheme. It stays there in the event of a dispute when you move out at the end of your tenancy. Your letting agent should be able to assist with this.
Alternatively, if you choose to rent private student accommodation through the SPCE app, you won’t have to pay a penny as a deposit. With pre-validated guarantors at a cost of just £19.99, you and your parent(s) or guardian(s) can have peace of mind from the word go.
Contracts – what type of tenancy agreement and what should be included?
Most student accommodation landlords will offer fixed-term tenancies which will last between nine and 12 months. Nine months is best-suited to students given that most university courses run from September to June. A 12-month contract could lead you having to pay rent on an empty room once you’ve moved back home for the summer.
If you choose to rent with one or more friends, you will either be bound together under a joint tenancy agreement or under individual tenancy contracts.
A joint tenancy agreement means that you are collectively responsible for the entire property. This might be fine if you’re with close friends, but if one cannot afford to pay their rent, the rest of you will be liable to cover it. Separate tenancy contracts for each tenant mean that you will only be responsible for your share of the rent and the upkeep of your room.
Wondering what a tenancy agreement should look like? Here are some areas that should be covered:
- All tenants to be included in the tenancy
- The dates of the start and the end of the tenancy
- The property’s full address
- How much rent you are paying (collectively and individually)
- How the rent should be paid i.e. monthly or weekly
- What bills are covered within the rent
- The size of deposit and how it is protected during the tenancy
- Termination rules for the duration of the tenancy
What to set up for moving in day
Living with your university pals under the same roof is almost guaranteed to create some amazing memories, but it’s vital that you don’t get caught up in the excitement of moving day and forget to set up your essential services and accounts to help your new home run smoothly from day one.
We’ve put together a definitive list of services that you need to sort out on or before moving day.