STUDENT DIGS: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Simon Jones, North East Operations Director for UNITE, a provider of student accommodation: Q: I’ve never looked for somewhere to live before, what’s the first thing I should do? A: A good place to start your search for student accommodation is at your university’s Accommodation Office which will have details of most of the options that are available. There are also a number of online sites which specialise in student accommodation. There are a wide range of options, from university halls and traditional student housing to purposebuilt, managed accommodation.
Take time to think about what you want out of your living experience. If it’s the opportunity to meet lots of new people then you could consider halls, or privately managed accommodation, where you will be living in a building with other students. Some accommodation providers have studio flats which enable you to have your own space, but with the option to make use of communal areas. Q: Will I have to sign a contract? A: Yes, all reputable landlords will want to you to sign a tenancy agreement. This ensures that both you and your landlord agree on important terms such as rent and length of tenancy.
Make sure that you read the agreement thoroughly and understand the terms. If you have any concerns, you could ask your parents or university Accommodation Office to check through before you sign on the dotted line. Q: Will I have to pay rent during the holiday periods? A: Most tenancy agreements are for a fixed number of weeks so you will usually have to pay for your room even when you are not using it. Tenancy lengths and start dates can vary, so before signing a tenancy agreement you should get clarification from your accommodation provider on what the start date is for the tenancy and how many weeks it’s for. The majority of UNITE’s properties offer a 43week tenancy to cover term time with the option of extending your stay over the summer for a reduced rate. Q: How do I ensure that I get my deposit back? A: Ask to see the property before you move in. Make sure that the landlord is aware of any existing damage. You should also be given an inventory, check this thoroughly. Deposits paid for rental properties are protected under a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. The scheme is designed to stop landlords from wrongly withholding all or part of your deposit and help resolve any disputes. Q: What should I budget for when I move into student accommodation? A: Make sure you include the cost of all bills when working out how much you can afford to pay in rent. You will need to consider energy bills, water rates, internet, the cost of a landline, contents insurance and a TV licence. Some private providers include bills in your rent. Q: Will I have to pay council tax? A: The vast majority of students are entitled to exemption on council tax, but it depends on your individual circumstances. For example, if you live with non-students, the household will have to pay council tax but you’ll be eligible for a discount.
For more information you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or visit their website. Your university should also be able to provide you advice.
You will need to register with your local authority and if you are entitled to a discount they may ask you to provide proof of your student status. Again, your university should be able to help by providing the necessary documentation Q: How do I find people to live with? A: Living in shared accommodation can be a great experience and an opportunity to make friends for life. Some accommodation providers offer a list of preferences when students make a booking and they will do their best to match them – this might be living in an all male or all-female flat or living with vegetarians. If you are planning to live with friends, think carefully about the qualities that you value in a housemate. It helps to pick people with similar interests, or someone from your course, that way you always have some common ground. Q: I’m just doing a short course and don’t need accommodation for the whole year, what options do I have? A: Check with your university’s Accommodation Office to find which providers offer short-term accommodation. They may also be able to put you in contact with other students who are looking for a similar length of stay.
UNITE provides accommodation that is purpose built for students. Tel: 0800 783 4213.