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Student life-before you start

How much does uni accommodation cost?

Discover average costs for student accommodation in the UK, including rent, deposits, bills and taxes.

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CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: The current advice is to apply for university accommodation as usual. Your chosen university will send you updates about booking accommodation. For up-to-date info on the effects of coronavirus on university education, visit our coronavirus information hub.

 

CONTENTS

  1. University accommodation costs

  2. Deposits

  3. Tenancy agreements

  4. Bills

University accommodation costs

Unipol and the NUS look at the average cost of university accommodation around the UK every year. These averages are based on the 2018 survey:

  • The average cost for weekly rent in the UK in purpose-built student accommodation from 20182019 was £147
  • Private sector accommodation averaged £148 a week for an ensuite room and £193 for a studio
  • In London, the average was £178 per week for university accommodation and £233 for the private sector
  • Small variations in weekly rent add up to a significant amount over the course of a year
  • Many students opt to study where it's cheaper, e.g. Wales, and save over £2,000 a year compared with London

However, this is not quite the whole story, particularly if you intend to take a term-time job as average wages in London will often be higher than in other parts of the country. 

The average length of contract in private sector accommodation is likely to be higher (46 weeks, and often 52 weeks) than for university-owned property, and deposits nearer £250 (higher in London) can be expected.

Longer lets are becoming popular and can be a distinct advantage for some students.
You can keep your belongings with you and stay to obtain holiday work in the university or nearby. You might even get a rent discount, especially if you're staying in the property for a further year. Wherever you decide to live, be aware you may be expected to pay a term's rent in advance. You could also opt to find shared accommodation with your friends. 

Deposits

As well as an advanced rental payment, you could also be asked to pay a deposit (often equivalent to one month's rent) to cover breakages and damage.This could be about £200 in university-owned accommodation and as much as £300 in the private sector (much higher in London). Your deposit will be returned, minus any deductions, at the end of the contract.

Disputes over what constitutes fair wear and tear and the return of deposits is a recurring issue, particularly in the private sector. Luckily, the recently introduced mandatory deposit protection schemes ensure deposits are fairly returned with any disputes resolved quickly and cheaply. Your deposit will be covered by an insurance scheme or lodged with an independent body, not the landlord.

However, these schemes only apply if you've signed a type of contract called an 'assured shorthold tenancy', so check the details before signing it. Your landlord or agent is required by law to tell you how your deposit is protected within 30 days of receiving it. If you don't receive that information in writing, make sure you ask for it.

Tenancy agreements

Once you've settled on the shared house, flat or bedsit you like, the next thing is to sort out the paperwork.

You'll almost certainly be asked to sign an agreement such as an assured shorthold tenancy or a licence. This is a binding legal document, so read it carefully before signing. It's much easier to agree terms at this early stage, but almost impossible after you've signed and moved in. This is one of those occasions in your life when it pays (literally) to read the small print.

If you don't understand some of the clauses, don't sign it, but seek clarification from the university accommodation office, the students' union, or a local Citizens Advice or Law Advice Centre. The housing charity, Shelter, also provides information on tenancy agreements and renting in general for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you're sharing with other students, be aware that a joint tenancy implies joint liability so you might end up being responsible for the deeds of others.

If your landlord needs a guarantor – somebody who'll sign the tenancy agreement and pay the rent or other charges if you don’t – they may well be liable for the actions and unpaid rent of others.

After you've signed your tenancy, you should also receive these documents (ask for them if you don’t):

  • A rent book, in the unlikely event that rent is payable on a weekly basis
  • A recent gas safety certificate issued by a recognised Gas Safe engineer
  • A record of current gas/electricity meter readings  if not, take your own readings as soon as you move in
  • Inventory and schedule of condition  if you're given one, check it for accuracy and annotate any changes; if not, make one of your own, have it witnessed and send it to the landlord, keeping a copy yourself and taking photos if necessary to record any initial damage

Bills

It's becoming more common for landlords to include the cost of energy and other items such as water, wifi or contents insurance in the agreement. Make sure you fully understand how the charges will be calculated and if there are any limits on usage.

Never part with money without getting a receipt and keep a copy of all documents. Remember that by law, your landlord can't increase the rent more than once a year unless your agreement contains a rent review clause.

You won't have to pay council tax if all the residents are full-time students. However, you may need to get an exemption certificate from the university to offer as proof. If, on the other hand, one of the residents isn't a full-time student, a reduced council tax will be applicable. If there are two or more, you'll have to pay the full council tax.

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