Once you have sorted out who you will live with, you will need to find a place to rent. There are a raft of main sources for this.
- Student halls of residence (via accommodation offices).
- Student accommodation officers – they have lists of private landlords they vet.
- Campus notice boards – fellow students use them to find house mates.
- Private sector landlords who advertise via letting agents. These in turn advertise on sites like PrimeLocation and FindaProperty.
- Private landlords who advertise independently on listings websites and in local newspapers.
Many students prefer to live in a hall of residence in the first year, before renting with other students from the second year. In this way, you have a stepping stone from living with parents to living on your own.
If you chose this option, it's pretty straightforward – contact the accommodation officer and take it from there.
Accommodation offices also help students find private sector accommodation and usually have a system of vetting to ensure that less reputable landlords are weeded out.
The plus side of this is that the landlord will be geared up to rent to students, and will have been checked by the university. Some universities have a Code of Standards which lists professional good practices for landlords to abide by – such as response times for repairs. So keep an eye out for that.
The notice boards in the common rooms and corridors can be an excellent source of information. Not only will landlords and landladies with connections to the university or college advertise there, but so too will fellow students looking for someone to share, or take over an existing property. But if a private landlord is advertising here ask yourself why they're not working through the uni accommodation office. Shouldn't they be willing to adhere to minimum standards?
Private rented sector – letting agents and landlords
Private landlords will advertise their properties through local letting agents. Visiting agents is an excellent way not just to look for possible homes, but also to learn more about which areas will be the best for you.
Most agents also advertise online on sites like PrimeLocation and FindaProperty – so start here to get an idea about average rents and which letting agents are most active in the areas that interest you.
If you register with these sites you will receive email updates matching your requirements, but it's worth going to meet the agents as well. Competition for properties can be fierce so try and impress upon them that you are a responsible and organised tenant. The following are usually needed, so if you have them in advance so much the better.
You are likely to be asked for character references before the landlord will sign a contract. A professional friend of your parents' may be suitable – a doctor, accountant or lawyer, for example. An alternative might be a former teacher. Other possible referees include a previous landlord and employer, if you have these.
The landlord may also require a guarantor. The guarantor pledges to pay the rent if the tenant fails to pay in full and on time. The guarantor will also have to meet the costs of any damage to the property and possessions if these are not covered by the deposit. It is common to ask a parent to act as guarantor.
Agents will typically charge a fee for finding a property. This may be a week's rent. But it is illegal for them to make a charge for registering someone looking for a property, or for supplying information on properties available to rent.
Letting agents often charge a holding deposit – a fee for the removal of the property from the market while references are checked.
Note: this does not guarantee the property will be let to you. If the landlord changes his/her mind, all they need to do is return the holding deposit. Only a signed tenancy agreement ensures the place is yours, so the quicker you get to that point the better for you.
A good agent?
Reputable agents will only deal with good landlords and will ensure there is a proper tenancy agreement in place.
Keep an eye out for agents associated with these bodies:
1. The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
2. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
3. The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
Websites are one of the most efficient ways of finding properties – the largest property portals advertise properties for letting agents and have a huge range to choose from (over 650,000).
PrimeLocation contains comprehensive listings of properties suitable for students sharing. It also has links to a wide range of letting agents with suitable properties available for rental.
Make sure you register for email updates – this will ensure that you will be alerted when properties matching your requirements appear on the site.
Scrolling through the site is a good way to get a feel for what's available, what local prices are like, how often properties come to the market, and how quickly they get rented.
FindaProperty is another good source and also contains local area pages with average local rents. The 'Word on the Street' section provides useful tips about which areas are best to live in – and where there may be problems. That, with the local area guides, can provide really helpful tips on the best places to live.
Local newspapers' classified ads are another good source of information – the classifieds are the small ads, usually situated after the main news section. Typically the relevant ads will be grouped together under the heading of 'flats', 'for rent', or similar.
Many cities have local newspapers that specialise in small ads, including for homes to rent. One of the most popular of these is Loot.
These ads may provide a number of possible homes to rent. But you may have less protection with landlords found through newspaper advertisements and other informal ways when it comes to recovering deposits and dealing with claims that property has been damaged.
Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advise from a qualified professional.