Living in a privately rented property enables you to decide exactly where you live and with whom. Most students choose private rented accommodation from their second year of studies onwards, but some freshers also prefer to live independently from the start.
The Pros and Cons of Private Renting
- Full independence: You’re in charge of exactly where and with whom you’re living
- Space: You may find you get more a bigger room and more space than you would in student halls
- The opportunity to live in a smaller, close-knit environment
- You may have to live further away from the University, depending on your budget
- You’ll need to budget carefully to manage your bills (gas, electricity, WiFi, water, etc.) and there is a lot of administration involved
- You’ll have to deal with a landlord or agency to solve problems, there is no-one on site to help you
- Varying standards of accommodation and landlords
Choosing the right flat
Your top considerations should include:
- Safety of the area;
- The convenience of amenities (shops, parks, gyms); and
- Transport links.
Navigating the world of the London rental market can be a tricky business, so we recommend using a reputable agent to avoid nasty surprises. Use listing websites such as RightMove or Zoopla for their handy search customization features or go directly to local agents on the high street.
Joining Facebook groups can also be useful and there are even some for different universities, such as UCL Flatmate Finder.
When you start going to property viewings, make sure the flat is well maintained – issues like damp and mold should be avoided at all costs! Make sure to ask as many questions as you feel necessary – that’s what an agent is for! Rental agreements are pretty serious things to get into, so make sure you don’t rush too much. For example, learn what bills are included in the rent and if not included, who the current suppliers are so you can set yourself up.
The payment of bills is a big difference between student halls and private accommodation. In halls, these are included in your rent and the halls will maintain your electricity, gas, and water. Some halls even have insurance covered in the rent.
When you are finding your own flat, it is up to you to arrange and pay for your bills, taking over from when your tenancy agreement begins. Note that some bills such as broadband usually run on a 12-month contract, so if you are only planning on staying in London during term time, this should be a consideration when browsing internet options.
Don’t forget additional bills such as your TV License, if you are planning on watching anything other than Netflix!
Insurance is always a great idea, and you can buy contents insurance which can cover your belongings outside the home too. Gadgets will usually need to be listed on your insurance file and you will usually need to pay extra on your policy for them.
The Reference Check
Once you have found the flat for you, the agent will run a reference check. This will include your identification and right to rent in the UK.
Some agencies are stricter than others, and if you don’t meet their financial requirements you could be asked to pay a substantial deposit to secure the property. Another option is providing a UK guarantor to secure the flat, who will agree to pay the rent in the event that your circumstances change.
You will usually be required to pay 4-5 weeks’ rent as a security deposit, as well as one month’s rent up front, on signing the tenancy agreement. Ask where your deposit will be secured, as by law they must be placed in a secure tenancy deposit scheme.
Most tenancies will begin with an inventory. Usually, but not always, a third party company will document and photograph the current condition of your flat to compare with the end of your tenancy.
Check your tenancy agreement for specific details regarding this, including who will pay for the check-in and check-out inventory. Normal wear and tear is allowed but if there is any substantial damage by you, this will usually be deducted from your security deposit. At the same time, if there is structural damage, the landlord is usually responsible, so let your landlord or agent know straight away so they can plan a course of action.
The contents of the flat when you move in will usually include larger items of furniture and white goods. Some flats do go on the market unfurnished, however, so think about furniture costs when considering them! You will usually need to bring your own bedding, towels and kitchen utensils and cutlery at the very least.
If you are still considering whether to choose private accommodation over halls, the University of London has designed a useful Private Housing Guide so you can make sure you have all bases covered.