The Complete Guide to Renting a Student Property in the UK
In spite of Brexit concerns, the UK remains a major academic destination for students. According to the latest research, the UK is the second most popular study destination worldwide, with nearly a half million international students attending university here. Additionally, international enrolment increased by 3.6% compared to the 2017/2018 school year, which means that the demand for student housing is greater than ever.
If you’re an international student getting ready to start Uni here in the UK, you can enjoy the full package: full-fledged academic solutions, mentorship from some of the best teachers in the world, not to mention vibrant campuses, unforgettable nightlife and plenty of student attractions. You have an amazing journey to look forward to, and it all starts with one important first step: signing your first tenancy agreement.
Moving out of your parents’ home and starting a new chapter in a foreign country can be scary, but the great part about looking for student property in the UK is that this niche market is very well-developed and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Here are some tips that can make your search a little less stressful:
Decide if you want to stay in a flat or in a house
The first decision you’ll have to make before starting to look for rentals is whether you want to stay in a flat or in a house. Contrary to popular belief, price isn’t necessarily the issue here, because you can live with one or more roommates and split the rent. Neither is location, since student hubs such as Newcastle, London, and Birmingham have excellent properties located either right next to the campus or close to transport connections. Instead, you’ll need to consider other factors:
• How much space do you want to have at your disposal?
• Are you a socialite? If you want to meet more people, then a room in a student flat will be perfect for you, but if you’re looking for a quiet space to study, a house is more appropriate.
• What amenities do you need? Flats tend to include basic amenities, but if you want a back yard for relaxation, a study room, and a large kitchen, a house will be more appropriate for you.
• How much time and money do you have for property maintenance? In general, flats are lower maintenance and you don’t have to worry about almost anything, whereas in a house you have to mow the lawn and check the roof and gutters from time to time.
Consider a short-term rental first
As excited as you might be to find the perfect property and settle in, sometimes starting with a short-term rental makes better sense. As an international student, you may want to arrive earlier to get used to the place or to follow an English course, but the problem is that it’s nearly impossible to find affordable student properties in the UK outside the regular periods. Staying in a hotel is too expensive, so you might want to consider a short-term rental, which can be available anywhere from one week to a couple of months. This way, you can also get a feel of the life here and discover what kind of requirements you want long-term.
Do some quick research on the area you’ll be staying in
Don’t worry, you won’t have to learn about the intricacies of the real estate market to find the right student accommodation option, but still, some basic knowledge about the town you will be studying in will help you.
Start by looking into the main student hubs in your town and the best locations for students. For example, if you are looking around the Newcastle area you’ll notice that Jesmond, Gosforth, Bensham and Shieldfield are the most popular neighbourhoods for students because they have great transport links and a vibrant nightlife. In London, Camden Town, Finsbury Park, Stratford, and Mile End have great properties for students. Join student forums to meet other people who will attend the same university as you. This is a great chance to find potential roommates or ask about the best places to stay.
Find a reliable letting agent
Looking for a place to rent on your own is stressful enough in your home town, let alone in another country, so you shouldn’t think twice about working with a local real estate agent. They know the market very well and all you have to do is give them your price range, preferred location, and any specific requirements you may have.
The basic requirements of a student property
There is a common misconception that you have to settle for less when renting student accommodation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold on to some quality standards. Even if you’re on a budget, your flat or house should meet the minimum requirements:
• Proximity to campus or good transport links
• A reliable Internet connection
• Space for storing your bike
• Hot water, adequate heating and ventilation
• Fire detection system
Your first property viewing – things to check
It finally happened; the lettings agent called you and they scheduled the viewing of your first property. You’re probably very excited, but also a bit scared, because you are taking a major decision and you don’t want to spend one year in a cold, damp place. Some of the most common problems can be avoided if you follow this checklist:
• Check for signs of mould and dampness in less visible areas, such as the window frames, or inside kitchen cabinets.
• Look for signs of possible leaks
• Carefully inspect the hidden corners of each room to see if there are any signs of pests
• Check if the property has working fire alarms, smoke detectors, and extinguishers
• Make sure the electrical appliances (fridge, AC, washing machine, dishwasher) are in working condition
• Avoid renting a property that has a lot of extras, such as a huge flat screen TV, or a gaming console. While you and your roommates will appreciate them, they increase the price of rent considerably.
• Ask some of the neighbours how secure the area is and if there are any recent incidents you should be worried about.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t like the first property you view. In fact, experts actually recommend you to look at more properties before you sign the tenancy agreement. Last, but not least, if you’ll be sharing the property with more mates, make sure they get the chance to see the place and share their input. Disagreements are harder to solve once you sign the agreement.