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Five tips for finding student accommodation in the UK

If you’re planning to study in the UK, these tips will help you to find the right accommodation for you

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Seeta Bhardwa

Editor, THE Student
July 6 2021
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Finding a place to live as an international student is quite the challenge.

If you plan to study in the UK, you usually will have the choice between university halls of accommodation or privately renting a flat or a house. Once you have decided which of these to go for, there will be other factors to consider when choosing accommodation.

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Here are five tips for finding accommodation in the UK.

1. Decide on what type of accommodation you want

The first thing you must think about in terms of accommodation is what kind of accommodation you want. There are three main types available in the UK: university accommodation, private student halls or a rented house or flat.

University accommodation can be quite varied – ranging from a single room and a shared bathroom to an en suite room in a small student “flat”. Your university will usually send information on the types of rooms it offers so you can select and apply for the option that best suits your requirements. You can also choose between catered and self-catered options.

It’s important to remember that university accommodation will be offered primarily to first-year undergraduate students and postgraduate students, so if you are a second- or third-year undergraduate student, you might not be able to select a university residence.

If you are moving to a big city, there may also be the option to rent privately owned or purpose-built student halls. These will usually be slightly more expensive than university accommodation, but they may be newer and have more up-to-date facilities and room options. Students at any level can usually apply for these.

Alternatively, you can privately rent a flat or a house with an estate agent. The best way to find a place is through a reputable local estate agent. You can contact your university’s students’ union and ask them to recommend some estate agents or to put you in touch with other international students who have rented privately before.

It might be difficult for you to see properties in person before you arrive in the UK to start your studies, so be sure to request plenty of pictures and don’t be afraid to ask if the landlord or estate agent can take you on a video tour of the property. It would be even better if you could ask a friend or family member to view the property for you, but that might not always be possible.


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2. Work out your accommodation budget

When choosing your accommodation, keep in mind how much you will realistically be able to spend on accommodation while you’re studying abroad.

If you are staying in university accommodation, you might be able to choose from a payment plan (such as paying at the beginning of every term) or pay it all one go. With most university accommodation, your bills for services such as internet access and water will be included in the price.

However, if you are renting privately in a house or in halls, you’ll need to find a property that fits within your budget and with bills that you can afford to pay every month. Some flats or houses will include utility bills in the monthly rent, whereas others will require you to pay them on top of your rent. Be sure to check this and make allowances in your budget for each of these different costs before signing the lease.

If you are renting with friends, make sure that you are all clear on who is paying how much before you move in. This will ensure that they are no surprises or disagreements once you’ve all moved in together.

With a flat or a house, you may also need to pay a few months’ rent up front as a deposit, so make sure that you factor that into your moving costs. Look into deposit protection schemes or ask your landlord if they will be protecting your deposit through a scheme to ensure that your deposit will be returned at the end of your lease.

3. Choose your location

The location of where you live is important and should be carefully considered.

Do your research on the town or city you are moving to and select a few areas that you would be happy to live in. You might want to stay right on or as close to campus as possible, or you might prefer to be a bit further away from the action.

Check that the area that you want to stay in is safe and has good transport links around the city, too.

Wherever you decide on, make sure that it suits all your needs.

4. Research utility/service providers and required licences

If you’re staying in university accommodation or private student halls, it’s very likely that you won’t have to consider paying bills or have to think about setting up your own internet connection. This might not always be the case, so always check what will be required of you before you move in.

If you are renting a flat or a house, however, you’ll need to do some research on electricity and internet providers and have a good idea of the company you will sign up with when you arrive. You usually won’t be able to set this up until you arrive in the house, but having an idea of prices, providers and paperwork you’ll need before you leave is always recommended.

If you also plan to own a TV or to watch TV on demand on your laptop, you will need to purchase a TV licence, which can be paid in one go or in monthly instalments.

You’ll also need to take out some kind of contents insurance to make sure all your belongings are insured in your new home.

5. Check what you’ll need to bring with you and what is provided

Most university halls will come fully furnished, but you will need to bring bedding and kitchen equipment (if you are going self-catered) as a minimum. Most international students will usually buy these things once they arrive to save them from travelling overseas with them.

With a flat or a house, you should check whether the property is fully furnished or not. Most international students would probably prefer a fully furnished flat so they don’t have to think about spending money on furniture once they arrive in the UK.

If there is a piece of furniture missing in a property that you have fallen in love with, you can always ask the landlord if they can provide it for you for an extra cost to be included in your rent or deposit. Some may even provide it for free, if you’re lucky.


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