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Student life-before you start

Student housing: private sector

Advice for choosing student accommodation, whether it’s private housing or halls of residence in the UK.

group of university students outside rented shared house talking


  1. Private student housing in the UK

  2. Other student accommodation

  3. University accommodation service

Private student housing in the UK 

Whether you actively choose private sector accommodation or you've chosen it for lack of options, always take someone with you to viewings and don't rush to sign for the first house you see. 

Try to spend some time in the area, perhaps by staying at a bed and breakfast or a youth hostel for a few days, preferably when students are in residence. Locations can look – and be – very different in the vacations and after dusk.

What to look out for

How safe is the district? See our article on crime rates in university cities and towns. Check out public transport and the journey time to and from the university. What's the traffic flow (or chaos) like at weekday peak times, compared with a quiet Sunday morning? 

In London, 50% of students live more than 30 minutes away and 17% more than an hour.

Ask yourself:

  • Will you incur extra travel expenses? 
  • Is your travel time to uni manageable? How is traffic in the area? 
  • Will the local transport system allow you to return to your accommodation late at night?

Other student accommodation 

There are lots of accommodation agencies and individual landlords in university towns and cities in response to the continuing growth in student numbers.

Private associations such as Unite Students rents and manages apartment blocks housing more than 40,000 students in over 24 university towns and cities.They offer students secure and flexible accommodation of their own with a wide range of payment options.

You can rent for the whole year – or for the duration of your course if you like. Remember that it's illegal for them to levy a joining fee, but they may charge a booking or reservation fee on an agreed property, and perhaps a fee for references or for drawing up the tenancy agreement.

This style of living can be more expensive but is purpose-built and of high quality. You might expect your room to be ensuite as standard, with high-speed internet access, satellite TV and a phone line, and for your shared kitchen to be kitted out.

University accommodation service

Your university’s accommodation service will have an approved list, and some work closely with local councils to develop best practice for student housing in their areas through student accommodation accreditation schemes.

These schemes usually require the landlord to have mandatory gas and electrical safety certificates and guarantee basic standards of security and fire safety. You should give priority to a landlord who's joined one of these schemes.

There's a specialist National Code for private sector halls of residence, and you should try to rent from a provider who's a member.

More than 130,000 bed spaces are covered by this scheme, and there's a list of halls that are part of it on the website.

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