18th May 2023
Afia Azmi

Finding the Perfect Accommodation in the UK: A Must-Read Guide for International Students

Finding accommodation in the UK as an international student can be daunting. With the cost of living in major cities often high, and limited knowledge of the local area, it can be challenging to know where to start looking and what kind of accommodation is available.

This article aims to advise international students on finding a place to rent in a new city and making the process as easy and stress-free as possible.

UK international students have various accommodation options, including university halls of residence, private halls, privately rented houses and flats, and homestays. On-campus accommodation can be expensive and is often filled up quickly, so it's essential to consider your other options. Private halls and homestays can often be a more affordable and flexible option. 

AccommodationCost (Weekly)Deposit
University Halls of Residence/Dorms£100-£250£250-£500
Private Halls of Residence£120-£300 £200-£500
Shared houses/Flats£80-£150-
Private Rentals£150-£300One to Two months'
Off-Campus Housing Options
University Halls of Residence/DormitoriesOn-campus accommodation, often expensive and in high demand.
Private Halls of ResidencePurpose-built student accommodation near the university, with various facilities.
Shared Houses/FlatsPopular among international students, providing individual bedrooms and shared common areas.
HomestayLiving with a local family, offering a safe and immersive cultural experience.

How to Secure Accommodation

  1. Research agencies online for off-campus accommodation in the UK. Compare prices, amenities, and reviews for safety and security.
  2. Consider all costs associated with renting, including rent, deposits, bills, and council tax.
  3. Start your search early to increase your chances of finding suitable options that fit your needs and budget.
  4. Attend housing fairs hosted by universities and local organizations to explore available properties and meet landlords or agents.
  5. Contact accommodation agencies like Studentpad and Unihomes for direct communication with landlords.
  6. Utilize online platforms and resources such as SpareRoom, Rightmove, Zoopla, and your university's accommodation sections.
  7. Join active student Facebook groups and search for local student housing forums for advice and information.
  8. Seek guidance from your university's accommodation office or student services for recommended landlords and local rental market information.
  9. Plan property viewings to assess condition, location, and suitability. Arrange virtual tours or request additional photos if unable to visit in person.
  10. Read and understand the lease terms before signing. Ask for clarification if needed, then sign to secure your off-campus accommodation.
Legal Requirements for Accommodation
Right to RentLandlords must check immigration status and relevant documents before entering into a tenancy agreement.
Tenancy AgreementEnsure a valid agreement is in place, including essential details about the property and rent.
Deposit ProtectionThe landlord must protect the tenant's deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme.
Safety RegulationsComply with safety regulations and ensure regular inspections of gas and electrical appliances.
Repairs and MaintenanceLandlords are responsible for maintaining the property and making necessary repairs.
Termination of TenancyIf you plan to end your tenancy, there is typically a notice period specified in your tenancy agreement. This is the period you must give your landlord before moving out
Council Tax ExemptionFull-time students are usually exempt from paying council tax, but proof of student status is required.
PrivacyLandlords must respect tenants' privacy and seek permission before entering the property.
DiscriminationDiscrimination based on race, religion, gender, or nationality is prohibited.
InsuranceWhile not required by law, contents insurance is suggested to cover your personal possessions in the event of theft, damage, or accidents.
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Safety and Security

Research the area -

Investigate the safety and security of the site you're considering. Look into crime rates, local amenities, and resources for international students. Seek opinions from other international students living in the area.

Check security measures -

Assess the security measures in the properties you view, including locks, intercom systems, and security cameras. Inquire about the landlord's or agent's security policies, emergency contact numbers, and response times.

Keep your accommodation secure -

Always lock doors and windows, even for brief absences. Safeguard valuables and avoid leaving them unattended. Stay vigilant of your surroundings and report any suspicious activities. Register with the local police station for added safety.

Report safety concerns -

Notify your accommodation provider, local police, and the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) of any safety issues. UKCISA offers guidance and support for students who experience crime, harassment, or discrimination.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Ensure the property has working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Alert your landlord promptly if they require maintenance.

Emergency contact information

Familiarize yourself with emergency contacts such as police, fire, and ambulance services, as well as your international student support office and university's Student Services department. Know how to access local health services and contact your embassy or consulate if needed.

Resources For Finding Information
University Accommodation OfficesThese offices provide information on housing availability, location, and cost of living. They offer advice on finding suitable accommodation and adjusting to a new environment.
University WebsitesMany UK universities have dedicated resources for international students, offering guidance on housing search, tenancy agreements, and safety tips.
Student Union WebsitesCheck student union websites for comprehensive information on local accommodation options, rental contracts, deposits, and other essential details.
Online Student Accommodation PlatformsExplore specialized websites like Unipol, Student.com, and Accommodation for Students for various student housing options.
International Student Support ServicesUniversities often provide support services tailored to international students, including resources for accommodation, visa guidance, and cultural events.
Letting AgentsLetting agents can assist with finding suitable accommodation and navigating the application process. Be sure to clarify any fees involved.
Student Accommodation AgenciesThese agencies specialize in helping students find appropriate housing, offering personalized assistance based on preferences and budget.

Post-Arrival in The UK

Register with the Police (if required)

Depending on your nationality and visa type, you may be required to register with the Police within a specific timeframe after your arrival. Check the UK government website requirements or consult your visa documentation to determine if this applies.

Set up a Bank Account

Setting up a bank account is essential, especially if you plan to work or study here. You'll need it to receive payments, pay bills, and transfer money in and out of the UK. Many banks offer accounts specifically tailored for international students and migrants. 

Obtain a National Insurance Number (NIN)

If you plan to work in the UK, you will need a National Insurance Number (NIN). This unique identifier is used for tax and social security purposes. To obtain a NIN, you must apply through the Jobcentre Plus office by phone or in person. Check the government website for more details on the application process.

Register with a General Practitioner

Registering with a local GP as soon as possible after your arrival in the UK is essential. Doing so will provide you with access to free primary healthcare services and will help you stay healthy during your stay.

Set Up a Mobile Phone Plan

Most international students must purchase a new phone and contract when they arrive in the UK. Your current mobile phone may differ from the UK's network, depending on your location. Consider researching and comparing mobile phone plans to find the best value for your needs.

Attend Orientation Events

Many universities organize orientation events for international students. Attend these events to get acquainted with the campus, meet fellow students, and learn about available support services. It's an excellent opportunity to ask questions, gather important information, and build your social network.

Stay Connected with Home

Maintain communication with your family and friends back home. Set up a calling plan or use internet-based communication apps to stay connected. Adjusting to a new environment can be challenging, and staying connected with loved ones can provide emotional support.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.1) How do I handle accommodation in the UK during university breaks or holidays?

Most universities provide year-round accommodation, including breaks and holidays. Contact the accommodation office for available options and additional resources for finding accommodation during breaks, such as student housing listings or local landlord contacts.

Q.2) Can I bring my family or dependents to live with me in student accommodation in the UK?

Certain UK universities offer family accommodation tailored for students with dependents, featuring spacious living spaces and family-friendly amenities. Private rentals are also an option, offering greater flexibility, privacy, and a wider range of sizes and amenities for students with dependents.

Q.3) What are the essential terms to look for in a tenancy agreement?

When reviewing tenancy agreements, ensure they include essential terms such as agreement length, rent amount and due date, security deposits, tenant and landlord responsibilities, property use restrictions, and termination procedures.

Q.4) What should I do if I have issues or conflicts with my landlord or roommates?

It is essential to communicate your concerns openly and honestly with your landlord or roommates to try and resolve any issues or conflicts. If that fails, seek legal advice or contact your local housing authority office for assistance.

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