Types of accommodation
Halls of residence - arranged by the university. Often nearer the campus. May be easier to meet people and socialise. Utility bills (such as internet, heating, electricity and water) may be included.
Privately rented house/flat - you pay rent to a landlord. This could offer a more independent lifestyle. Make sure you understand the extra costs you will pay as well as rent.
Homestay - students pay to live with a family or couple. This is often more cost effective than private accommodation because rent could include things like meals, bills (phone, internet, utilities) and washing.
Rent depends on where you are in the UK, and where you are located in a town. Accommodation in the centre of towns can often cost more. If it is in an area further away from university or college, calculate your weekly travel costs to and from there.
Most university halls include services and utilities in the price. In 2012/13, 96% of universities surveyed by the NUS included energy in the rent, 82% included internet and 80% included insurance. Other additions were utilities, gym membership, free car parking and bus passes.
If you are sharing a house, you will need to budget for gas, electricity, water, phone and internet.
If you are living in homestay accommodation, you may not have to pay bills. If, however, you use the house telephone, you may be expected to pay for your calls.
Length of contract
The amount of rent you pay per year depends on how many weeks you can have your accommodation for. On average, UK universities charge rent for halls for 41 weeks a year but some may charge for 42-45 weeks. For private accommodation some landlords may ask you to sign a contract for 52 weeks, but the average is 44 weeks.
When you sign a contract, make sure you know how many weeks you are paying for so you can budget and know when you have to move out.
By law, landlords must place deposits from their tenants into a tenancy deposit scheme to protect the money. Within 14 days of paying your deposit you should receive details of the tenancy deposit scheme and how to apply for the release of your deposit when you move out. Most universities are members of two government-approved Codes of Practice which impose a 4-week deadline for returning deposits.
Homestay accommodation tends to be more flexible about contract length. Depending on the family, you may find contracts ranging from 3 weeks to a year. Often, host families will charge a retainer of about £30 per week if the student goes home during the holidays but wants to store their belongings in their room. Students tend to pay for homestay accommodation on a weekly or monthly basis.
Halls: Room choice
What facilities do you want to share? Do you want to cook your own meals? In halls of residence, there is a range of rooms to choose from and this affects your rent. In self-catering accommodation, you'll be cooking meals for yourself and sharing kitchen facilities with others. Full Board means your halls provide at least 2 meals a day for 5-7 days per week. This is more expensive.
En-suite rooms will be more expensive than single or shared rooms, as you will have your own washing and toilet facilities. Studio flats are the most expensive as a student has their own bathroom, kitchen and bedroom, so most students choose single or en-suite rooms. In Flats, a group of 4-8 students share a living room and all facilities, but have their own bedrooms.
Finding private accommodation
- If you are getting a privately rented house or flat, don't feel you have to accept the first thing you see. Ask questions so you understand all the costs.
- Look on noticeboards at university or college.
- Use the internet to get an idea of prices and available housing in your area.
- Ask at your students' union or Accommodation Office at university or college.
- Go to the area where you want to live and look in estate agencies and local shops.
- Speak to people who are already in the UK to learn from their experience.
- If you need to look for accommodation when you arrive, you will need a phone to arrange viewings. Using public phones can be expensive and people can't call you back, so a mobile phone may be better.
If you are going to rent private accommodation through a letting agent, ask about any extra administration charges as these can be expensive. Check these before you sign any contracts.
Homestays are a good opportunity to integrate with a UK family.
- Often homestay students will eat with their host family and spend leisure time with them.
- Full board vs self catering. Depending on the type of contract, all bills, food and washing could be included in the rent. It is worth asking for the cost of each type of contract to see which is the best value.
Speak with your student adviser or accommodation team to obtain a list of recommended homestays.
Finding homestay acommodation
You could find it by:
- Speaking to your university or college accommodation service
- Contacting an agency in your country of origin.
- Looking for adverts on your college or university noticeboards or in the local newspaper.
Paying for homestay accommodation
Initially, students may be asked to pay the first month’s rent upfront. After that, the host family will agree with the student whether they want to be paid weekly or monthly.
They can pay their rent directly to the host family, or indirectly, via the college accommodation office. (Some colleges may charge an administration fee for this service.)
Methods of payment vary; some use cash, cheque or bank transfer.
The accommodation ranges from:
- Full board, offering two meals a day during the week and three meals per day at weekends, a room, plus washing.
- Half board, offering some meals but not all, a room and washing.
Advantages of homestay accommodation
- The chance to learn more about UK culture
- The support of living in a family unit
- Depending on your contract, homestay accommodation may include all your meals. This can be more cost effective and save you time.