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Accommodation

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Living away from home as a student is likely to be very expensive. Types and quality of student accommodation can vary greatly, so it's important to shop around to see which best matches both your requirements and budget.

Living at home with your family

Living at home is obviously the cheapest option. However, this is only practical if your place of study is within a short travelling distance. Some students prefer to stay on or near to the campus, to be amongst fellow students, and see it as a valuable part of the student experience.

Getting started

When the university or college sends you an offer of a place, information on accommodation is usually included. If not, contact the university’s accommodation department. You can find the email address or telephone number in the prospectus or on the website.

As a young person living away from home for the first time, you may find yourself having to deal with suppliers of gas, electricity and telephone, paying the TV licence and finding an internet provider. You will have to budget for keeping up regular payments for these.

Halls of residence

Universities and some colleges provide halls of residence for their students. The rent can be relatively expensive, but often includes laundry and cleaning facilities as well as electricity, heating, telephone and internet access. There is a warden to deal with any problems. You can also often choose whether or not to take full board. Because responsibility for these extras is taken care of, halls of residence offer an easy road into independent living.

Accommodation in halls is usually in single rooms with ensuite or shared bathroom facilities. The halls themselves usually provide a programme of social events throughout the academic year and so it is easy to make friends.

Places in halls of residence are very much in demand, and preference is generally given to first year students. It is advisable to apply early, as soon as you have accepted your place on the course.

University owned rented accommodation

This is usually a room in a flat or student house, with shared cooking and bathroom facilities. Often such accommodation is available for short term lets (for example if you only want it for six months) and you won’t have the hassle of trying to find a replacement tenant if you decide to leave before the end of the lease.

The following website might help your search: http://www.studentpad.co.uk/

Privately rented accommodation

Because of the high demand for university-owned accommodation, most students from second year onwards live in privately-owned furnished accommodation. This can be with a group of friends, or people you don't know.

The owner of the premises should give you a written tenancy agreement setting out the responsibilities of landlord and tenant with regard to such matters as repairs and ending the tenancy. You should read this carefully.

Nowadays most private landlords expect you to take out a lease for a fixed term. Some may ask you to sign a lease for a whole calendar year, where you get a rent reduction over the summer but have the vacate the premises. This means that you can return to the same accommodation for the next academic year. Others will ask you to sign only for the academic year so that you will be expected to move back home during the summer break and you may have to find alternative accommodation for the next year.

You may have to pay two months' rent as a deposit. The second month’s rent is held as a security deposit to be returned to you at the end of the lease, provided you stay until the end of the lease and have caused no damage to the property.

Provided you and all your flatmates are students, the flat is exempt from council tax. If any of the tenants are non-students then you will have to pay.

Buying

Depending on your family’s financial circumstances you may decide the most economical way in the long run is to buy a flat. You can then advertise for flatmates whose rent will help to cover the running cost of the mortgage.

Where to look

Your first port of call should be the accommodation department of your university or college. They will be able to provide a list of university-owned or university approved flats.

Otherwise you can check out ads in local papers, or university noticeboards. You can put a notice up yourself saying that you're looking for accommodation.

There are several useful websites; for example:

Accommodation for Students
Letting in Scotland
Mystudenthalls
StuRents

If you have found suitable accommodation and are looking for flatmates you could try uk.easyroommate.com/. When advertising for flatmates don’t be afraid to mention any personal qualities you particularly want or don’t want, for example smokers or whether someone is a 'morning' or 'night' person.

Take along a friend when you go to view a flat, both for a second opinion and personal safety.

Bills

When living independently you will be responsible for household bills. Some bills, for example heating, are cheaper if there are a lot of people sharing the flat. An agreement should be set out between flat mates right from the beginning. For example, what happens about the heating bill if some of the tenants are away during the holidays? How is the phone bill to be divided out if some tenants use it more than others? An itemised phone bill can help here.

Sharing a flat with strangers or even with friends can take a lot of getting used to. You might go shopping together and keep all food in common, or each person buys their own. There may be parties, outings and coffee-fuelled discussions lasting long into the night. There may be arguments over bills, or over who used up the last of the washing-up liquid and didn’t replace it. Therefore, having an adaptable nature is certainly a plus!

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