Money: Rent, Contract Length, Bills and Hidden Costs

Rent Levels


Hidden Costs 



Tenant Fees Act 2019 and Consumer Rights Act 2015

Rent Levels

It's difficult to generalise about what you can expect to pay in rent. You’ll need to look carefully at a number of adverts online to get an idea of rent levels in particular areas or streets. If you're on a budget, try doing a property search by rent level. Rents are set by owners who take into account 'market forces'. In theory, the better the quality of the property and the better the location of the house, the higher the rent. But this is complicated by the following factors:

  • There are always some bargains
  • There are always some houses which are overpriced
  • If you are looking in the mainstream private rented sector for students, the time of year and the pressure on the student housing market affect rent levels
  • Owners are willing to accept lower weekly rent levels in the student market, if the letting period is for a complete year
  • Average rents are useful in providing a rough guide to student housing costs, but remember: rent levels should be based on the quality of each individual property. It's also worth bearing in mind that if you're paying rent monthly, this is slightly more than four weeks' rent.

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The tenancy agreement is the contract you read and sign when you have found a property you want to move into. Do not sign a contract if you're not happy with the terms or there are any aspects of the agreement you don't understand. You should always be given at least 24 hours to read the contract through. Where possible always get your contract checked - this service is normally available through your Students' Union Advice Centre. Never sign on the spot. Once signed, the contract is legally binding on all parties - you do not get a chance to change your mind.

Please visit our dedicated pages for all you need to know and Frequently Asked Questions about contracts.

Hidden Costs (Not Covered in the Rent)

We are aware that, even more than for many other students, students with families are anxious about hidden costs, in particular how high their fuel bills are going to be if they are not included in the rent.

In the private sector, rent does not normally cover gas and electricity and never covers telephone bills. For gas and electricity, value-for-money heating and hot water can make a big difference to your bills. There are two other important areas where you need to be clear what the position is for a particular property: water charges and Council Tax.

If you are renting from a university or college, it is likely that energy charges are included in your rent. But you'll need to check, as this is by no means always the case. Water charges are always included in the rent in universities and colleges.


You need to look at what you're getting for your money.

  • A good quality, well-heated house (particularly where the heating is a recently installed system) will be cheaper to run than a lower-priced property in poor condition with electric heating
  • Large rooms are more expensive to heat than smaller rooms
  • Instant hot water is also something to look out for: not only does it give you hot water on-tap whenever you need it (in contrast with a tank system) but it means that you're not paying to heat water you don't use.
  • Some houses that look cheap can turn out to be expensive when you add up the running costs. Others that may look more expensive could end up costing you less.
  • Gas-fired central heating with instant hot water is common in properties in Leeds.  However unstable rises in energy costs in the UK makes it difficult to give an approximate cost of this.
  • In some areas of the country (particularly Scotland where property licensing is more common) floor mounted electric heaters are not permitted.
  • If the house is also well insulated, this will reduce your costs.
  • Other owners may include a washer or dryer in with the rent.

2). Water Charges

Some owners include water charges within the rent; others exclude them. These then become the responsibility of the tenants. The message is: if it's not clear from the agreement, ask.

3). Council Tax

Local authorities collect Council Tax to help fund local services including education, police, fire and refuse collection. The charge is based on the value of the property as determined by the authorities according to a set of value bands. Council Tax is billed on an annual basis, but is payable in instalments for ten months of the year (April to January).

If you are liable for Council Tax without any discount, the typical annual bill for a household is currently somewhere around £800 - £1,300 (ie £80 - £130 for each of the ten months it is payable), depending on how the authorities have valued the property you are living in.

Student families may or may not be liable for Council Tax, depending on the status of family members. Please note that anyone over 18 who is not a student will have to pay Council Tax. The amount is dependent on the property taken. Ask the landlord or letting agent which band the property is in, then check on your local council's council tax webpages for the amount due. If there is only one person over 18 in the household, a 25 per cent reduction is applied. If in doubt, you should seek advice from your local Council Tax office, your Students' Union Welfare Office or your Accommodation Service Office.

If you are liable for Council Tax and you are struggling to pay the bill, contact your students’ union’s advice services. It is important that you don't ignore a Council Tax letter as there may be legal implications.

It is your responsibility to inform the Council if your circumstances change and you are no longer a full-time student or your living arrangements change. There could be legal implications if you fail to notify the council of any changes.

For further information and guidance, go to, as appropriate:

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Deposit Payments

Owners will often expect you to pay a deposit when you sign on the dotted line. To anticipate any questions and anxieties you might have about deposits and their return at the end of your contract, we have put together a set of web pages specifically on deposits.


You may be asked to supply a guarantor as part of your contract signing process. A guarantor is someone who will guarantee that your rent is paid if you do not. There is a legal requirement for a guarantee agreement to be in writing. The agreement sets out the guarantor's legal obligations. In most cases the guarantor needs to be UK based. This can cause problems for international students. If you can't get a guarantor who lives in the UK, you might be asked to pay more rent in advance. If you are unable to do this you may wish to use a rent guarantor service. Unipol does not recommend a particular company and it is good to shop around but a search on Google will bring up a number of options.

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Tenant Fees Act 2019 and Consumer Rights Act 2015

Following the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act in 2019 all upfront fees and charges related to the signing of a tenancy agreement were abolished. However the Act goes much further. Read more about how the Tenant Fees Act can protect you here.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 looked to update the law on unfair terms in consumer contracts; legislation that also extends to tenancy agreements. The Act also contains provisions requiring letting agents to publicise their fees. The legislation encourages transparency, fairness and reasonableness. The new law makes it easier for the average consumer to learn and understand their rights. The strengthening and development of the unfair contract terms provisions is a positive step in dealing with the imbalance in resources and knowledge between tenants and landlords. 

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Further Links and Advice