A Step-by-Step Guide to Renting as a Student
Renting a home as a student can be daunting; especially if it’s your first time finding and renting a property.
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It can be hard knowing where to start. To help you navigate the process smoothly, we’ve put together a guide to student renting; where to look, how to seal the deal and anything else you need to look out for.
Work out your budget
Before you start looking, it’s a good idea to work out how much you want to spend per month on housing. Take into account what you’ll need for essentials – food, toiletries etc – and whether you want to set anything aside for other things: travel, drinks with friends, haircuts… When looking at property prices, it’s important to remember that there might be other hidden costs involved, such as deposits, bills and agent’s fees; these should be factored into your budget.
Decide on living arrangements
You’ll also need to decide if you want to share a house, and if so, who with. Sharing often brings down the cost, but you should choose your housemates wisely and make sure you have the same priorities.
Research the right areas for you
One of the factors you should consider when finding your student home is location; if you have early tutorials or a lot of hours, you might want to be near the university, and if there are certain areas where students tend to live it’s nice to be close to other friends. These areas tend to have good access to shops and bars.
If you lived in halls or student accommodation in first year, you may already have a good knowledge of your area and where you’d most like to live. If not, you might want to ask around and find out where the student areas are.
Look for the property
We’d recommend taking your time when it comes to choosing your home; make sure you shop around and find the best place you can. Some landlords or agents may try to hurry you along, preying on your renting inexperience, but don’t let them push you into anything you’re not sure about; if you get on the panic-signing train, you’ll likely end up with an unsatisfactory house. To avoid disappointment, it’s always wise to view the property in person before signing an agreement or paying any fees.
It’s worth checking out the market online, using sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla; make sure to look at a handful of options to give you an idea of what you should be spending. You can also check to see if your students’ union runs a best practice scheme; landlords listed in this will have signed up to a code of conduct, so are less likely to rip you off. Some students’ unions even operate their own not-for-profit lettings agent, which will only use vetted landlords.
Understand all the costs you need to pay
As I mentioned above, there may be hidden costs that you need to factor in when budgeting for your student home. More often than not, you’ll have to pay bills for gas and electricity, water, wi-fi and a TV licence should you want one.
You should always check before signing the contract if bills are included in the monthly rent, or if you’ll have to organise and pay them yourself. If you share a home, you’ll need to sort them out between your housemates; it can be a good idea to set up a dedicated account just for bills to avoid one person having to pay.
You’ll also have to pay a security deposit, which will be given back to you at the end of your tenancy provided you return the property in good condition. Your estate agent or landlord is legally required to put your deposit in a protected scheme and must show you evidence of this. If you use a letting agent, they may charge admin fees and a larger deposit.
It’s optional, but you may want to protect your belongings by investing in content insurance for your room and ensuring that your valuables – phone, laptop, camera etc – are covered.
Sort documents for reference checks
Before signing the tenancy agreement, your landlord will need to run a few checks on you. You’ll need to provide a variety of documents for this.
Your landlord is required to check your immigration status, so if you’re an EU national you can provide your passport or residence document. If you’re from outside the EU, your passport or document must confirm your permission to be in the UK. It’s against the law for your landlord to discriminate against you on the grounds of race, ethnicity or nationality; you can’t be rejected as a tenant for not having a UK passport.
Landlords and agents often want to double check that you can pay the rent, so ask for proof of income. If you’re a student, it’s more likely they ask you to nominate a guarantor: someone who can pay the rent or cover damage to the property if you don’t pay. Of course, you’ll need the guarantor’s permission, and your landlord may want to run a credit check.
If you’ve rented before, they may ask for a reference from your current or previous landlord, to check that you’re reliable and trustworthy.
Sign the contract
Now it’s time to seal the deal and sign your tenancy contract. Before putting pen to paper, we recommend that you get your contract checked thoroughly; some universities offer this as a service for students and can back you up in case of tenancy disputes.
It’s important to be aware that your contract is legally binding; it’ll lay out what you can and can’t do with the property, and what the landlord has to do, eg. fix broken appliances. Read it carefully; you can request to make changes if necessary, but you must always get these in writing in case there are problems further down the line.
Get the keys
Just one final step before you can move into your new home: the keys. Your landlord or agent will advise you on how to collect your keys; they will either meet you at the property on move-in day or leave them at the letting agency office for you to collect. In each case, you’ll need to bring some ID to prove your identity.
Once you’ve followed our steps, you should be ready to move into your student home. If you’re familiar with your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, your tenancy should be hassle free, and you’ll be able to hold your landlord to account if the necessary standards aren’t met.