Before you start looking for a property you need to think about:
Every year the same housing myths and rumours circulate such as:
You can begin to look for accommodation in the private sector from June onwards. We will allow you access to two services that we provide:
This is where you rent a room in a house/flat and share the kitchen, lounge (if there is one), bathroom and toilet with other students.
Typically studio flats are one room with a kitchen and separate bathroom. These are usually more expensive.
Many private providers have built blocks of studio flats specifically for students. Of course, the advantage of these developments is that you will have a measure of independence but will also be surrounded by other students. In order to ensure that you do not feel isolated you should ask the provider what attempts they make to foster a sense of community within the building.
If you don't like the idea of renting a studio flats in a block with other students, then you can find more cost effective options rented directly from private landlords. These will usually be cheaper and larger than the studio flats in purpose-built blocks. However, consider that utility bills will be exclusive.
A bedsit is a room which contains some form of self-contained amenity, normally a small kitchen or separate washing facility. Bathrooms and toilets are usually shared with other residents that also live in the same building.
This is where you live in a house with the owner. This can be the cheapest option as bills are included in the rent. The provision of meals and who you share with varies. House rules and regimes can also vary considerably, so talk to the resident owner/occupier about what they would expect of you before you view or commit to anything.
There is no such thing as a typical resident landlord. Some are young professionals or recent graduates others are middle-aged couples and some are retired. Some have young families, whilst others have children who have grown up and left home. Although most students' first preference would probably be to share with other students, it is worth considering the advantages of this arrangement as well as the disadvantages.
Also think about:
Would I be better off renting as part of a group or alone?
In general the more people you share with, the cheaper it is. Therefore, someone living in a two-bedroom flat will pay more for their room than someone living in an equivalent four-bedroom house. In any case, most owners offer their properties to students who are in groups. You should, however, be aware of the implications of signing a joint contract before you commit yourself (see information on joint tenancies).
Furthermore, before your group goes house hunting you should have a frank discussion about expectations eg rules about guests, cleaning, washing-up, sharing food, payment of bills, when the heating should be on, etc.
Spending time discussing these matters now will prevent serious problems and disagreements developing later on. For example, if guests of your housemates are staying overnight and for long periods how will you feel having to share your home with them? If your flatmate comes home drunk and eats your food how will you approach the situation?
If you're in a large group and there are no houses big enough on offer, it's worth thinking about splitting into two groups and looking for two houses close to each other.
Larger groups often find it more difficult to manage themselves. Frequently larger groups have to sacrifice the communal area/lounge for the extra room. Issues can also arise when bills need paying or when sorting out personality clashes. Another reason why smaller groups are often a better idea is that when you have large groups renting (ie five or more) the state of cleanliness in the house will be more difficult to maintain.
Are there any particular pitfalls to living in a shared house?
It's important when hunting for a shared house to be clear about your own "wants" and "don't wants" and others' preferences. If you're not clear from the outset, difficulties can emerge during the tenancy.
There is a theory that mixed gender houses work better than single-sex households.
There are many people whose company you'd enjoy in the students' union bar. However, living with them is an entirely different proposition. Successfully sharing a house with someone requires a completely different set of skills from enjoying a good night out with them or even living in the same halls of residence.
If you decide that you do not, after all, want to live with the people you agreed to share with, say so before signing a contract. It will spare you real problems in the long run.
Should I live with friends or other students?
If you agree to share with other students who you do not know, you will be taking a limited risk – but often these house shares are as successful as those between friends. The level of formality in agreeing sharing arrangements between people who do not know each other can make a smooth sharing arrangement over the year. Whereas disagreements between friends can remain dormant and unresolved, then explode when there is some crisis during the tenancy.
What about sharing with my partner?
Some students decide to live with a partner in which case a large bedsit, studio or a small house would be the best choice. Studio flats are the most expensive form of accommodation; however, if two people are paying the rent they can actually be cheaper, or no more expensive, than renting a room in a shared house.
In signing any fixed-term agreement it is important to take a realistic view about the nature of your relationship with your partner and the legal commitment you will be making in sharing a flat – will your relationship last longer than your contract?
In addition, if your partner is not a student, they will be liable for council tax. A house/flat is only exempt from paying council tax if all occupants are full time enrolled students.