UKCISA guidance for new international students seeking accommodation - Nottingham

Introduction

There are a number of important things you need to do when you’re sorting out accommodation in the UK:

  • Be clear what the options are
  • Be clear what you want, what you need, what you can afford and what you would be prepared to compromise on
  • Secure your accommodation as early as possible and get the deal confirmed. If you opt for institutional (or institutionally-allocated) accommodation, you should get this done before you arrive in the UK. If you are going into another type of accommodation, make arrangements for temporary accommodation before you arrive (often available through your institution), and sort out longer-term housing in the days following arrival.

This guidance is split into a number of different sections:

Accommodation options which may be available to you

This will depend on your institution and your host town or city – and on your needs. Two special cases are addressed in separate sections below – accommodation for students with families and for disabled students.

Institutionally-allocated accommodation may be owned and managed by the institutions themselves; or it may be owned/managed by private, commercial providers working in partnership with institutions. Students need not be concerned about this – what is important for students is that institutionally-allocated accommodation is generally of a reliable standard and students can feel secure in booking it before they arrive in the UK.

Alongside institutionally-allocated provision, there is student accommodation run by commercial operators or landlords not working in partnership with institutions. In this sector colleges and universities play no part in the relationship between the landlord and the student.

Accommodation available to you is likely to include some or all of the following types:

  • Halls of residence
  • Shared accommodation in off-street houses or flats
  • Studios/bedsits
  • Lodgings or family homestay
  • Hostels

Halls of residence

Halls of residence are typically purpose-built developments, occupied by a large number of students.

In some halls some meals are provided and these are included in the rent (these are called catered halls). Catered halls can be a good option to help budget your money but the food may very different from the food you’re used to at home. Most halls are not catered.

Halls are normally divided into flats (apartments) but halls can also consist of a large building with many rooms off a continuous corridor with communal space provided for all residents, normally on the ground floor.

Where halls are divided into flats, small numbers (eg five or six students) share a kitchen/social space, in which they can prepare and eat their own meals from food which they buy themselves.

Each student normally has a study bedroom for their own use. Some institutions and commercial providers also provide some shared (normally twin) rooms in the sector. Shared rooms are more of a feature of towns/cities where accommodation is expensive (eg London and Edinburgh) and shared rooms offer a considerable cost saving.

Some rooms may have ensuite facilities, ie a shower and toilet directly attached to a study bedroom for the occupant’s personal use. Students allocated to rooms without ensuite facilities have the use of a shared bathroom, incorporating toilets, wash basins and a bath/shower.

Halls of residence and flats within them are usually mixed, ie men and women sharing together, but there is often a limited amount of single-sex accommodation available.

Most halls provide internet connectivity.

Usually, each student has their own individual contract with the institution/landlord.

Utility costs (energy and water) are normally included in the rent and the contract will state this.

Shared accommodation in off-street houses or flats (apartments)

In this type of accommodation a number of students share a house (or flat) in the community. Again students will have their own study bedroom and a shared kitchen and bathroom. Ensuite rooms may be available, but this is unusual. Sometimes, the student residents have a joint contract with the landlord and are jointly responsible for the rent and for keeping the property clean and tidy. Landlords will normally offer individual lets (where you are only responsible for your room and your share of the communal areas) so if you would prefer this you should ask the landlord. In this type of accommodation the rent is unlikely to include internet costs and utility charges and you will pay these directly to the provider.

Studios/bedsits

A bedsit is a room which includes all facilities for living and sleeping, and sometimes for cooking, but some aspect of services, either a bathroom or kitchen, will be shared. A studio flat will include everything: sleeping accommodation, kitchen and bathroom facilities.

This type of accommodation is usually for one person (but some larger bedsits and studio flats may be suitable for a couple).

If this type of accommodation is within purpose-built student accommodation, the rent is likely to include utilities and internet. If not, these costs will be extra to the rent.

Studio flats are normally the most expensive type of accommodation available to students and you should think seriously about the cost before renting. Although sharing a flat or facilities can raise issues, it is also a good way of meeting people. Living on your own in a self-contained flat can make meeting people more difficult.

Lodgings or family homestay

When a student is in lodgings they live in part of a property also lived in by the owner, who may have a family. The student is expected to share the facilities along with the owner (and their family) and to fit in with the lifestyle of the owner and any house rules which they set. Some or all meals may be provided. Family homestay is a particularly important part of the London accommodation market. It is also a popular option for students under the age of 18. Many homestay providers are experienced in housing international students and in the challenges they face in living in a new country. Homestay schemes are normally run through the education institution and if you are interested in this type of accommodation you should check with your institution first.

Hostels

These are normally owned by charitable organisations. Some hostels provide accommodation for single students and for student couples. Hostels usually provide some meals or have cooking facilities and allow students to prepare their own food. Staying in a hostel can give you the opportunity to become familiar with the area where you are studying and this is an advantage if you want to find private accommodation later. Hostels are a particular feature of the accommodation market in London.

Accreditation schemes

An important thing to look out for is whether a property/landlord/institution is part of a reputable accreditation scheme. In joining an accreditation scheme a landlord commits themselves to offering accommodation and related management services which meet specific professional standards. Typically, these standards relate to the way the contract is written, how properties are marketed, how properties are managed, how quickly any repairs are done, health and safety, how deposits are handled and how any disputes are sorted out. Under accreditation schemes members’ properties are checked from time to time to ensure they meet these standards. If they don’t, they risk being removed from the scheme. If you move into accommodation which is part of an accreditation scheme, you can feel assured that your accommodation will be of an acceptable standard and that you will receive a fair and professional service. An important element of all of these schemes is a robust complaints procedure that students can use if any problems arise.

Look out in particular for the following UK-wide schemes:

  • the National Codes – these schemes are designed for larger-scale student developments, one for properties managed and controlled by education institutions; and another for properties in the commercial sector) 
  • the AfS/Unipol Code - Student Property Accreditation Scheme – this scheme is designed for smaller-scale accommodation (eg shared student houses) in the commercial sector 

What to bring and what services are provided

In most accommodation you will have to clean your own room and wash your own clothes. In a few institutionally-provided halls a cleaning service may be provided.

Accommodation is normally fully furnished but you are expected to provide your own bedding and towels and often smaller domestic items (desk light, iron, kettle, toaster). It is best to wait until you see the accommodation to check what is present and to see whether another student has brought items that you can borrow.

What to look out for when trying to make a decision about your accommodation

Equip yourself with as much information as you can and as early as possible. Find out what is available. Check institutional websites thoroughly. Read carefully all correspondence sent to you by your institution about accommodation.

If you are considering going into accommodation which is not allocated by your institution, have a good look at what’s on offer on commercial websites, particularly any sites mentioned in material made available by your institution.

Many institutions work in partnership with other organisations to provide help for students looking for accommodation in the private sector. If you are unsure about anything or if you want to know more, don’t be afraid to get in touch with your institution’s accommodation office, either by phone, email or letter.

Some questions to ask yourself

  • Is there a guarantee of accommodation for new international students for their first year and for any subsequent years of study and is there a deadline for submitting my application?
  • Can I afford the accommodation?
  • What is included in the price – meals, gas and electricity bills, water rates – and if I am paying my own utility costs, how much should I budget for?
  • Does the price include possessions insurance?
  • Is there internet connectivity in the accommodation and if so is there an extra cost?
  • Are bed linen, towels and kitchen utensils provided and if not, does the institution offer packs I can buy?
  • What is Council Tax and do I have to pay it?
  • If I have a car, are there parking facilities and if so, is an extra cost attached?
  • Am I required to pay a deposit? If so, how much is it and what is it for?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • What is a guarantor and will I need one?
  • Is there any communal living space and if so, is it adequate?
  • Do I want or really need ensuite provision and can I afford it?
  • What is the mix of students in the accommodation likely to be?
  • If I sign a joint contract, will my liability be different?
  • Does the accommodation offer good social opportunities?
  • What are the management and security arrangements for the accommodation?
  • What are the arrangements for the provision of food?
  • What are the accommodation arrangements for vacation periods?
  • Does the length of the contract fit my period of study?
  • Where is the accommodation located?
  • What are the transport links and what are the costs?

Availability

 Is there a guarantee of accommodation for new international students for their first year and for any subsequent years of study and is there a deadline for submitting my application?

Many institutions offer a guarantee of accommodation for the first year of study, and a few extend this guarantee to the full period of your studies. However, you need to be clear that you qualify for any guarantee made. Some institutions only guarantee accommodation for international students paying the full international student fee rate.

Many institutions set a deadline for applications and it is important that you return your paperwork by this date. If you think this will be difficult for you, contact them in advance to explain why your application will be late.

Rent and other accommodation costs

Can I afford the accommodation?

Look out for hidden costs and things which are not included. Try to work out how much money you will have and what you will need to spend on things to get you through student life, including food, rent, study materials, bills (everyday and utilities), clothes, a social life and transport. Try and get an idea of what proportion of the total money that you have, you can (or want to) use for rent.

What is included in the price – meals, gas and electricity bills, water rates and if I am paying my own utility costs, how much should I budget for?

For institutionally-allocated accommodation, gas, water and electricity costs are likely to be included, but check this. If you are weighing up which type of accommodation is cheapest, it is helpful to have a rough idea of gas and electricity costs. Your institution may be able to provide guidance on this.

Does the price include possessions insurance?

Whatever type of accommodation you choose, you are recommended to take out possessions insurance to protect your belongings from theft, fire, loss or accidental damage while you are staying in the UK. Some institutions include possessions insurance as part of the deal, but check this covers all your possessions. Sometimes it is necessary to register laptops and tablets under a policy and anything to do with bicycles normally involves registering the bike.

If there is no insurance included in the rent, check whether the institution offers an insurance deal separately or recommends one. If you are in the private sector, you will probably need to make your own insurance arrangements. Websites such as www.moneysavingexpert.com offer a good overview of insurance policies for students. Furthermore, companies such as Endsleigh Insurance can provide policies to cover clothes, books, IT devices, TV, hi-fi equipment and valuables.

Is there internet connectivity in the accommodation and if so, is there an extra cost?

These days students expect this to be provided in institutionally-allocated accommodation and in private halls. It almost always is – but check. If you have access to social networking sites, it may be possible to find out from existing or previous residents if the service is a good one. Some providers, for an additional fee, allow you to increase your allowance for data download and/or speed but wait to see what you need, because normally the standard service is adequate.

Are bed linen, towels and kitchen utensils provided and if not, does the institution offer packs I can buy?

You should be able to check this in advance in available material or by contacting the provider. If you are going into accommodation in the private sector, you will need to make your own arrangements for these items.

What is Council Tax and do I have to pay it?

Council Tax is a system of local taxation, which is collected by local authorities. It is a tax on the properties in which people live. The local authority uses the money collected to provide local services, including for schools, rubbish collection, social services. Full-time students who live only with other full-time students or in halls of residence do not have to pay Council Tax. If you are living in private accommodation, remember that if just one person in your household is not a full-time student, it will make the rest of the residents liable for payment of the tax. For further information on Council Tax, see UKCISA's information sheet Council Tax and International Students or ask for advice at your institution.

If I have a car, are there parking facilities and if so, is an extra cost attached?

Driving a car in the UK is costly and most students get by with a combination of walking and using public transport (buses, trains) and taxis. If you do intend having the use of a car, be aware that parking facilities are generally in short supply and expensive. In addition if you intend to run a car you will need to ensure that your licence is valid for use in the UK; that you have appropriate insurance; and that the car is taxed and has a valid MOT. See UKCISA's information sheet Driving in the UK: a guide for international students for more information.

Am I required to pay a deposit? If so, how much is it and what is it for?

A deposit is a sum of money you pay to your institution/landlord at the start of the contract. The institution/landlord will return the money soon after you move out, but they are entitled to keep some of the money if they incur expenses for which you are responsible, for instance:

  • damage to the property, eg broken windows
  • damage to fixtures and fittings such as furniture or carpets
  • the cost of cleaning the property if you have left it in a condition which means the landlord cannot re-let it without cleaning it
  • re-decoration costs, eg if you have painted a room without the landlord’s permission
  • the cost of replacing keys which you fail to return to the landlord
  • any rent which you haven’t paid
  • the cost of removing from the property any rubbish you leave behind.

Depending on what it says in your contract, your institution/landlord can make additional charges, for instance:

  • an extra charge for dealing with late rental payments you might have made
  • the cost of replacing any missing items, eg curtains, furniture
  • The institution/landlord cannot charge you for fair ‘wear and tear’ throughout the tenancy. ‘Wear and tear’ means the normal deterioration of fixtures, fittings and items provided through normal use of them.

It is standard practice for institutions/landlords to charge a deposit. It is also fair: institutions/landlords need some financial protection in case they incur costs as a result of the actions of students leaving their accommodation.

Never pay a deposit without getting proof of payment for any money you have handed over, especially if you pay in cash.

The deposit is normally equal to one month’s rent but can be more, especially in London.

By law, private landlords and suppliers must now protect your deposit money by signing up to a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Education institutions and those in shared rooms are exempt from this requirement.

The Tenancy Deposit Schemes are designed to make sure money is not unfairly deducted or kept from you at the end of your tenancy. They provide a dispute resolution service, so that if you believe your landlord has acted unfairly in keeping some or all of your deposit when you move out, you can use the service to argue that you should get your money back.

There are three schemes that are registered with the government for these purposes:

  • Deposit Protection Service
  • My Deposits
  • The Dispute Service

Your landlord has to tell you which of the three existing schemes they have signed up to. If you have not received this information, you can check directly with the schemes to see if your deposit is protected.

To help ensure you get your full deposit back when you move out:

  • check when you move into a property for damage, uncleanliness and missing items and report any problems to the landlord in writing, keeping copies of all correspondence and, if appropriate, taking and keeping labelled and dated photos
  • keep a detailed list of contents
  • ensure the property is thoroughly cleaned before you move out
  • ensure you remove all your possessions
  • respect the property and treat it well
  • make sure you understand what the contract makes you responsible for
  • ensure you do not have any rent owing at the end of your contract
  • dispose of rubbish properly to minimise the risk of pest infestations, which are costly to get rid of
  • report any damage to the landlord as soon as it happens – repair/replacement may be cheaper than leaving it to the landlord to put right after you have left

If you feel your deposit has been wrongfully withheld, you should seek advice from your students’ union, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Shelter or another housing advice agency or local law centre. You can also download Unipol’s deposit recovery pack for further information.

What are the payment terms?

Check whether there are any limitations on the method of payment. Be aware of what the institution’s or landlord’s requirements are in relation to upfront payments, payment periods and instalments. Make sure you understand what the consequences of defaulting on rent payments are. Some institutions require a substantial rental payment upfront and the payment of the rest of the year’s rent in instalments, due at fixed points in the letting year. These arrangements vary and you’ll need to be clear what they are. In the commercial sector it is usual for students to have to pay an instalment at the start of the contract (which can be up to half the annual rent) together with a deposit.

What is a guarantor and will I need one?

Many landlords now require students (and particularly international students) to provide a guarantor as a condition of the accommodation contract. The guarantor – a third-party individual or organisation – guarantees to pay the landlord any rent which the student fails to pay and the cost of any damage for which the student is responsible and fails to pay. Landlords generally insist that a guarantor is UK-based.

Colleges and universities rarely ask for a guarantor to be provided. Landlords for privately rented shared houses will often not insist on you naming a guarantor, especially as, for many international students, it is very difficult to identify someone who is UK-based to undertake this legal commitment. It is the landlords of large-scale purpose-built accommodation developments in the private sector who are likely to require you to provide a guarantor. If you cannot provide one, they will probably require you to pay most, if not all of, the rent for the full contract before you move in. This is a considerable financial challenge for many students. A small number of institutions, particularly in London, may be able to stand as guarantor for you. If you find yourself in difficulties over this, check with your institution whether they are prepared to act in this capacity.

If you do need a guarantor and you are able to find one, it is important that your guarantor’s financial liability is limited to just your personal rent/damages. Unipol has prepared a model guarantee for this purpose.

The accommodation and the contract

Is there any communal living space and if so is it adequate?

Having a communal living space within a flat, on a floor, in a block or in a shared house is good to have for relaxing and for socialising. Not having a space like this can be very limiting. If you can, check what this is like in available material provided, or contact the provider.

Do I want or really need ensuite provision and can I afford it?

Many international students opt for this because the level of privacy it offers is important to them or because it supports ritual washing as part of religious observances. However, be aware of the extra cost over a standard room. Would you rather have a standard room (often larger), sharing toilet facilities, and have extra cash to spend on other things which are important to you?

What is the mix of students in the accommodation likely to be?

Whether you are in institutionally-allocated accommodation or in the private sector you may be sharing accommodation facilities with students from the same country, international students from other countries and/or UK-based students. These may be undergraduates and postgraduates, male and female. To help manage your own expectations you might want to check this pre-arrival, if the information is available. If you have particular requirements it is important to raise this with the provider beforehand.

If I sign a joint contract will my liability be different?

If you have signed the same contract as your friends and you all agree to take the property at the same time, you will be jointly and severally liable with each of your housemates for any rent arrears and/or damage to the property. So, if one tenant moves out, the landlord/agent can pursue the remaining tenants (as well as the tenant who has left) for any monies due.

Does the accommodation offer good social opportunities?

Living in halls of residence gives you access to large numbers of other students, possibly from many different cultures. Living in shared self-catering flats allocated by your institution is also likely to give you good social opportunities. Your institution may organise social events for students in these types of accommodation.

If you live in a shared house or in a studio/bedsit in the private sector you are unlikely to have social opportunities on this scale. Nonetheless, if you opt to live in a shared house, you will have some choice about who you live with. Living in a bedsit/studio can be lonely. Many university towns have residential areas which are a focus for student living and these can have a strong student identity and sense of community.

What are the management and security arrangements for the accommodation?

Many international students new to the UK have particular concerns about personal safety and security. Institutionally-allocated developments often have some sort of security service – staffed offices and security personnel on patrol for some of the night/day or perhaps a full 24-hour service. Developments may also have controlled access and CCTV.

What are the arrangements for food and cooking?

Unless you are going into single accommodation you will be sharing food preparation and cooking facilities. The number of students you share these facilities with varies widely – it may be four or five; it may be twenty. It should be easy to find this out, as it is likely to be in material made available to you by your institution or by a prospective landlord. If it isn’t clear, contact them. If you have specific requirements for preparing food and you are concerned about how the facilities will support you in meeting these requirements you should contact your institution or prospective landlord.

What are the accommodation arrangements for vacation periods?

If you live in a shared house in the private sector you are likely to sign a contract for a fixed and uninterrupted period so that you can live in the accommodation from the start of the contract until it ends. This may also be true of accommodation allocated by your institution. However, some institutions have special arrangements for vacation periods, particularly Christmas. Because many staff take leave from work at Christmas, the level of service to students may be reduced. To help manage this some institutions require students staying in institutional accommodation over the Christmas period to relocate into one or a small number of the halls. You might want to check whether this is the case for your institution. Similarly for the Easter vacation, students may be required to relocate to enable the institution to stage residential conferences. Whether this is likely to affect you as a resident should be made clear in material the institution makes available to you. If you are concerned about it, contact the accommodation office.

Does the length of the contract fit my period of study?

The standard academic year runs from September/October to May/June for undergraduates and September/October to September for postgraduates. The letting year for accommodation typically runs from August or September to the end of June. It is sometimes possible to negotiate an extension to include residence for the summer months – July, August and the first 10 days or so of September. Make sure that your accommodation requirements fit your study requirements. You may be on a course which operates to a non-standard calendar (for example a Semester 2 start); you may have a requirement for a postgraduate writing-up period at the end of your studies; or you may want to attend a graduation ceremony beyond the end of your course and your accommodation contract. Think about these issues and check with your institution or landlord if you have concerns.

Location

Where is the accommodation located?

It may be on campus; it may be near your place of study; or it may be some distance away. If it’s not on campus, check that the locality offers you what you need and what you want: for instance shops, friends living nearby, places for meeting friends and socialising, good transport links, parking provision (if needed), a safe environment.

What are the transport links and what are the costs?

This is particularly important if your accommodation is not on campus or if you can’t reasonably walk (or cycle) to your place of study or to other places that you need or want to get to frequently. In some towns living further out, away from college, shops etc, can save money, as accommodation may be cheaper. If you are thinking of living further out, try and check that possible extra travel costs do not outweigh your savings on rent.

A summary of the differences between institutional halls of residence and living in a shared house in the private sector

Where institutionally-allocated accommodation is available, it is the preferred option for most recently arrived international students. Their reasons often include:

  • positive perceptions of the college/university and confidence in their reliability and trustworthiness and in the quality and value for money of accommodation which they allocate
  • being at the heart of the institution
  • feeling safer and more secure
  • feeling better connected and having more social opportunities
  • having easier access to institutional facilities and services
  • the convenience and confidence that being able to book accommodation pre-arrival gives

These factors may or may not be true about your institution’s accommodation, but there is a strong sense amongst many new international students that these things are important for them. However, think about what is right for you and make your decision on this basis. Often living in the private sector can be rewarding and give you a real sense of what it is like to live in the UK.

How to set about meeting visa requirements

As an international student you have to meet the necessary visa requirements (if applicable) for entry into the UK and onto an education course. You will need to apply for your visa in good time. The international office at your institution will be well placed to advise you on what is required and are likely to include this information on their website.

How to apply for accommodation allocated by your institution

In most cases you must apply for accommodation allocated by your institution before you come to the UK. If you are offered a place on a course, you will usually be asked if you would like your institution either:

  • to provide accommodation; or
  • to help you arrange alternative private accommodation.

Make sure that you follow the college’s application procedures and, in particular, that you meet deadlines for booking accommodation. When you are making enquiries with your institution about available accommodation you should read carefully any information they send you and make the time to find and read thoroughly all information they provide on the college website and useful sites for which they give links. In particular make sure, on the basis of the questions asked in this guidance, that you are clear about what you want and the detail of what options are available.

How to secure accommodation NOT allocated by your institution

Booking accommodation

It is generally not advisable to enter into a contract for longer-term accommodation before you arrive in the UK. There are, however, some exceptions. For example some accommodation providers (such as Unipol Student Homes in Leeds) have an online booking system offering access to their portfolio of accredited properties that are still available in September (the usual time for international students to arrive). It is always worth contacting the accommodation office at your institution to see if they can recommend any such organisations that they work with. For students attending institutions without these relationships, you won’t be able to look at the accommodation and you won’t be able to get a good idea of whether the landlord is trustworthy or not. Nor will you be able to get a full and proper sense of what is available generally in the private sector.

It can be frustrating, arriving with uncertainty about your longer-term accommodation arrangements. However, there are things you can do to help prepare:

  • read through what your institution has to say about private accommodation in your host town or city
  • work out what the processes are for house-hunting and the level of support provided by your institution, your students’ union and any other local agencies. (They may have lists of local accommodation available for rent. They may also have inspected the accommodation to check that it is suitable.) The student office at your country’s Embassy or High Commission in the UK may also be able to give you information about accommodation
  • have a look on the internet to get an early idea of what is available and the quality and cost of accommodation in your host town/city
  • through social networking sites try and connect up online with other international students who are starting at your institution at the same time and who will be looking for private sector accommodation. This could give you a head-start in making new friends; it could also be a way of sorting out housemates with shared interests
  • ensure that you book temporary accommodation before you arrive in the UK, even if this is just for your first night here. Your institution may be able to give you short-term accommodation – check early with them.

If your institution does not have any temporary accommodation to offer you, your other options are hotels and guest houses. Guest houses are like hotels but instead of having a restaurant, they may have a dining room where you have no choice about the meals served. Living in a hotel for a long period of time will be expensive. However, hotels and guest houses provide useful temporary accommodation which you can reserve while still in your home country. Hostels also offer temporary accommodation.

Once you have arrived and you are in your pre-booked temporary accommodation, start your search for longer-term accommodation early. Make full use of whatever house-hunting support your institution offers.

Internet searches, accommodation agencies, local newspapers (for example the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds) and advertisements in shop windows or on an institutional notice board are useful when you are looking for somewhere to live. However, don’t forget to check if there is any type of accreditation scheme in operation. Also, you need to be aware that fraudsters have been known to operate in the private student housing market, preying on vulnerable (often international) students, for example by presenting themselves as legitimate providers online (eg through Gumtree) and getting their victims to hand over money for a deposit on a non-existent property.

Agencies sometimes charge a fee but, by law, they cannot charge you just for registering with them and you should not pay for details of places they have to let.

Viewing properties

Time spent inspecting a potential house systematically is hugely important. This will save you time, money and, maybe, pain. You’ll need to be clear about what you want and work through a checklist each time you view a property:

  • What amenities does it have and how good are they (eg washing machine or plumbing for one, a good cooker)?
  • What sort of heating does it have and how efficient is it to use?
  • Is it furnished and if so, how well for your purposes?
  • Are the bathroom and kitchen facilities adequate?
  • Is the house in good repair, inside and out?
  • If there’s a garden, who is expected to look after it?
  • What are the electrics like? Are they adequate?
  • If there are gas appliances, has the landlord shown you a gas safety certificate which they are required by law to have each year
  • Is there a decent fire detection system and fire escape route?
  • What’s security like?

Properties over a certain number of storeys and occupants (known as Houses of Multiple Occupation or HMOs) need to be licensed (usually five or more rooms over three or more storeys). You can check this with the local authority, which should hold a database with details of properties that have been issued with a licence.

Unipol Student Homes has produced a checklist that you can print off and take with you when you’re going to view a property.

If you take private accommodation, read the contract and any associated documents carefully before you sign. If you have any concerns or queries about the contract or if you want any help with your legal rights you can get free advice at a local law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. Your institution or students’ union will also offer a free advice service and it advisable to use it. Once you have signed a contract, make sure you get and keep a copy and written receipts for all payments you make.

Accommodation options for students with families

Check early if your institution provides:

  • accommodation suitable for families
  • short-stay accommodation for families or for international students individually
  • house-hunting support for students with families or international students more generally.

Few institutions provide accommodation suitable for students with families and where there is some provision it is in very short supply, both for long-term and short-term temporary accommodation.

Check before you arrive whether your institution can help you in your search for suitable accommodation. Be aware, however, that generally, it takes several weeks for newly-arrived international students to secure family accommodation.

If you are intending to have your family or any dependants with you while you study in the UK, you should:

  • EITHER come on your own first and stay in temporary, single accommodation while you look for a family home. Once you have fixed up your longer-term accommodation for yourself and your family, you can send for your family;
  • OR, if you must arrive with your family or any dependants, bring enough funding to cover the high costs of temporary family accommodation – check with your institution what the minimum needed per night is, eg for a family of four.

Requirements for students with families will vary, but, as a guide, these are the kinds of factors which students with families attach importance to when looking for suitable accommodation:

  • accommodation made safe for children
  • a location close to healthcare services, childcare provision, schools, parks/play areas, bus routes, supermarkets, car parking, parent and toddler groups, ante-natal classes and other forms of local infrastructure that can support family life and reduce the risk of isolation for non-studying parents
  • a quieter location, removed from undergraduate residences
  • a stronger emphasis on the quantity and quality of social space
  • a stronger emphasis on the quality of study space
  • longer-term accommodation contracts
  • affordability

Meeting your accommodation needs if you have a disability

In the UK colleges and universities are legally required not to discriminate against students with a disability and not to treat them less favourably than students without a disability. Institutions are also required to make adjustments to services for disabled students so that they are not disadvantaged in comparison with non-disabled students. These laws apply to international students as well as to students who are UK citizens.

Because the law is strong on disability rights in the UK, you should find your institution helpful in supporting you in your search for suitable accommodation. Some institutions include accommodation in their portfolio which is designed to support students with a disability, for instance wheelchair users. Your institution may also make changes to accommodation to support your particular disability. In some institutions it may even be possible to secure accommodation for the full duration of your course.

There may, however, be no suitable accommodation available at your institution and no accommodation which can be reasonably adjusted to support your needs. In this case, it is important you review the options carefully and seek your institution’s support in helping you find accommodation in the private sector which is suitable for you.

The most important thing here is to let your institution know as early as possible that you have a disability which means you have particular accommodation needs. Although you might declare this as part of your application for a place on a course, it is also advisable to contact the institution’s accommodation service and disability officer to raise and discuss the matter directly with them. In this way you are likely to receive the best service that your institution can offer you. If you do not raise it early, you may be disappointed and struggle to find anything appropriate.

You should also be aware that international students with a disability do not generally have access to additional funding from UK authorities to support their living costs, although funding may be available from your institution to assist with direct study-related costs.

Further information and contacts

The NUS provides some useful information about accommodation on its website: www.nus.org.uk/en/student-life/Housing-Advice/

Unipol Student Homes has a website which is a valuable resource for all students looking for guidance on securing accommodation in the UK.

Hostels in Nottingham

www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/england/nottingham/

Nottinghamshire Tourist Information

http://www.experiencenottinghamshire.com/

Throughout UK

British Tourist Authority
www.visitbritain.com

for hotels, bed & breakfasts and guest houses.

Youth Hostels Association (YHA)
www.yha.org.uk

Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)
www.ymca.org.uk

Insurance

Endsleigh Insurance
www.endsleigh.co.uk
Endsleigh was set up by the NUS in 1965 to negotiate suitable cover and preferential rates on insurance for students.

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The information given in this information sheet is given in good faith and has been carefully checked. UKCISA and Unipol however, accepts no legal responsibility for its accuracy.