It seems that not many years ago there were only two choices for student accommodation, a dodgy landlord’s flat shared with friends or, at least for the first year, living in some pretty basic accommodation provided by the Universities!
That’s all changed now, it seems there is an endless choice of accommodation to cater for every need. With the sky being the limit as far as rent costs, it pays to look closely at what you really need and want from your accommodation and not just be lured by the gloss!
It’s all fine and well having a gym in your building but if you are not going to use it (be honest!) then think about how much of your rent is paying for that unused facility. It could be costing you a Starbucks latte each morning, or an extra VK at Skite each week, without you even realising.
The benefit of this abundant supply is more choice and increased competition in the market, which hopefully means a lower price. On the flip side, the government has become more involved in the regulation of the rental market, with the HMO rules becoming increasingly strict, enforcing greater requirements on landlords, further increasing their costs. This has also eliminated, for the most part, the ‘small’ landlord renting his house or flat to students due to the cost of compliance with the HMO rules. Remember that any flats with 3 bedrooms or more must be HMO certified, which ensures that the landlord has to meet certain standards both in terms of living space, but also more importantly in regard to Fire safety.
So, what are your choices?
Private landlord’s flats – this is the most independent type of student living, you have the choice of flats anywhere in the city and can choose your flatmates. You will all be responsible for the flat and the payment of your bills and utilities, along with cleaning and upkeep. This is a great option in cities where there is a good rental market.
Large Private Landlords – much like private landlords but with more properties, usually located close to the universities, and more closely managed. Additional services may be provided, and often flats will be rented as ‘Student Accommodation’, although are more like private flats. Often the landlords will include utilities, Wi-Fi, and cleaning so it becomes a full service with a simple contract and all-inclusive rent, but with the backing of a larger organization and the staff/support that affords.
Large Cluster flats – the more typical student accommodation with shared bathrooms, and some now built with en-suite bathrooms. The properties are fairly large, with between 6 – 12 bedrooms in each ‘flat’ with shared kitchen/living room.
Studio flats – a more recent development in student housing, a self-contained mini flat. It has a small kitchen, bathroom and bed/living area. The buildings with these rooms have communal facilities within the building, such as large common rooms/student lounges, gymnasium, or media rooms and usually also have an office/reception in the entry that is manned and provides some additional support.
Living at home – a great choice for local students, who can commute to university each day, depending on how close they live. It’s always better to get your parents to pay your bills and do your cooking and washing… but they will probably not be as tolerant of parties till 4 am, and some of the shenanigans that you will get up to whilst at Uni!
The best option for you really depends on your preferences in terms of location, lifestyle, your friends and your budget.
It’s always good to make comparisons, look at reviews, visit the property if you can to see what you will really get and to gauge if the staff are helpful and friendly.
Student accommodation is a big business in the UK, with investors looking for significant returns on their investments! You will be paying for that and will be pushed to commit and be made lots of promises in order to sign a contract. Make sure you shop around and compare the properties before deciding! Just because it says something is provided, may not mean its provided in all locations for example.
And if you need more guidance, here are some important questions to ask your prospective landlord:
1) How much/how long is my commitment to stay
2) What extra charges should I expect to make if I live here – what is not included?
3) You have car parking – how many spaces do you have available to your students at this location? Is it really available?
4) Are the flats going to be ready for me to move into when my contract starts (lots of new buildings that don’t get finished in time)?
5) Who do I call when I have a maintenance issue or problem? Is it a central number/call centre? Or do I get the mobile numbers for key staff in the city I am staying in?
6) Have you had any security issues recently?
7) Do you have HMO certificates available to see, for the property (some small landlords may try to rent without the legally required certificates that ensure your safety and standards)
8) If we love staying here, can we just stay on year after year without moving out?
9) You have a gym – how many people have access to use it? Is it in this building?
10) You have a Student Lounge, where is it? How many people have use of it?
11) Do you own the buildings you rent to us? Or are you just managing them for someone else?
12) Do you have 24hr call out/ maintenance? Do they really come out? What is your guaranteed response times if we call with a problem?
13) If I don’t like my flatmates, can you help me move somewhere else?
14) How recently were the flats built of last refurbished? How often do you replace furniture and mattresses?
Plan your visit or viewing to a prospective landlord and be armed with your questions. Make sure you ask all of them and be thorough. If you get non-committal answers don’t be afraid to ask them to put their answers in print by emailing you them – that way you have that to fall back on if they don’t hold up to their promises?
Good luck on your adventure into the Student world! Have fun.