Finding accommodation and the cost of living in London can be the biggest challenges to a student. Therefore it is important to do your research and ask the right questions. There are a number of decisions to make so ensure you are in the know when you come to look for a place to live. Here are some tips for what to look out for:
Does the price include bills?
And if it does, what bills are they? It is tempting to look at the monthly or weekly cost of rent alone. Think of the additional costs of your essential bills such as gas, electricity, broadband, and even TV license. These can all add up and sometimes can add an extra £100-£150 a month (or roughly £30 a week).
What deposits are required?
Don’t just check the amount, also check when this is due and what the conditions are. If you are looking for a private house with friends – how will the deposit be divided and what is required? This can vary from property to property so it is important to ask when you view. Typically this will be 4-6 week’s rent up front. If you are looking through an agent there will often be additional administration costs too.
What happens to my deposit?
Landlords will have to protect your deposit through a deposit protection service. This service will hold your deposit through a third party for the duration of your tenancy and if the landlord wishes to deduct any money from your deposit he will have to make a case to the service to do so. You also have the opportunity to dispute any charges. By law a landlord will have to inform you that they have placed your deposit in a protection service within 30 days of you moving in. If they do not do this you will be entitled to compensation.
Halls of Residence vs Private Housing
As mentioned above it is tempting to look at the cost of rent per week and judge on that cost alone. However there can be additional costs that tip the balance. For example bills, transport costs, and the cost of finding a deposit up front. For new students we recommend finding a place in Halls of Residence in your first year so you have a chance to settle in to London, it can take much of the uncertainty out of finding a place to live. Halls such as “Find Digs” offer good value for money with prices starting from £160 a week, and “Prince Consort Student Village” whilst charging a higher price of £239 a week for 2017/18 has extras such as 24 hour practice rooms and kitchen/ensuite facilities in each room. Halls will often charge a much lower deposit as well as offering short term rent agreements – so do the maths and add up the total cost over the year.
Working out the costs over the year
Based on a few assumptions here is an example table of calculating the costs. Here we are using a model of someone moving into a 3 bedroom property with 2 other people for which the landlord has asked for 6 weeks deposit up front and a 42 week contract. We have also taken the average rent cost per week in 2 local boroughs to BIMM London*. Whilst it is assuming a lot it gives you an idea of how the costs per week can differ when you add extras:
|Cost of living Halls vs Private accommodation||Housing (Fulham)||Housing (Putney)||Halls (Find Digs)||Halls (Prince Consort)|
|Deposit (up front)||1195.98||966||300||300|
|Bills (per week)||£30||£30||0||0|
|Transport cost (week long travelcard to BIMM with 18+ student discount)||£17||£17||£17||£17|
|Total cost for 42 week contract||£11,542||£9,702||£7,734||£10,632|
Students may need to find a guarantor to offer a guarantee of payment in the event that they cannot meet their rent payments. This will need to be a nominated person living in the UK. If a student does not have a UK guarantor they may be required to pay a significant portion of their rent up front or use a guarantor service such as “Housing Hand” (this service is likely to come with additional charges so please check the terms and conditions carefully).
And watch out for…
Do not hand over any money until you have seen a property. The majority of housing adverts are legitimate but it is best to be aware of potential scams. You can often spot them because they ask for money transfers before you view anything. Shelter is a housing advice charity that has some great resources and you can read more about it here
*accurate at the time of writing – for rent costs in any London Borough please visit London.gov.uk/rents