Horror stories abound of the rat-infested, mouldy, poorly-secured flats and houses encountered by moving out of halls and into private-rented accommodation and of landlords who are either intrusive or negligent or both. The truth is these horror stories represent a tiny proportion of student accommodation but there are still things you can do to limit the chances of ending up in a nightmare and more mundanely, making sure you get what you expect. Your first port of call when you start looking for a new place to live should be your university accommodation office and your students’ union. They’ll be able to give you plenty of advice about what’s available in your area and may be able to point you towards reputable lettings agents or landlords.
Many landlords and lettings agents are accredited and have signed up to a code of conduct that gives you some security as far as what you’re likely to get in terms of accommodation and service. For more information about accreditation look to the Accreditation Network UK, the National Approved Letting Scheme and the Association of Residential Letting Agents. Many student properties (in England and Wales) are counted as ‘licensable HMOs’ – rented properties of five or more people and three or more floors – and these must be properly licensed and meet certain standards, giving you another layer of protection.
When you’ve found some properties you’re interested in there are a number of things it is important to consider relating to the internal and external condition of the property, the suitability of the accommodation, security, your prospective landlord and your contract. The National Union of Students (NUS) have put together a House-Hunting Checklist of some of these considerations and we’d recommend taking one to every viewing. Whatever you do, don’t panic the first time you see a half-decent place and lay down a deposit straight away. Make sure you view at least three properties and take photos if you can so that when you come to make a decision later they can jog your memory.
Take your time and get all the information and you’ll avoid being caught in one of the student digs horror stories. For more information you can visit the NUS housing pages - the NUS website contains advice on all sorts of aspects of student life.
These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Deposit Protection Service.