Your student accommodation questions answered

Whether you are getting ready to start university in the autumn, planning to move on from halls or preparing for your final year, searching for a place to live is an exciting but potentially stressful time
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The Independent Online

Considering all the various options whilst trying to avoid the potential pitfalls of bad accommodation can be tricky, so it’s important to arm yourself with as much information as possible to help you make the right choice.

To help you get ahead of the game and find your perfect place, Shane Spiers, Managing Director, Property Management from UNITE, the UK’s leading provider of student accommodation, answers some of the most commonly asked questions.

1. I’ve never looked for somewhere to live before, what’s the first thing I should do?

A good place to start your search for student accommodation is at your university’s Accommodation Office which will have details of most of the options that are available. There are also a number of online sites which specialise in student accommodation.

There is a wide range of options, from university halls and traditional student housing to purpose built, managed accommodation provided by companies such as UNITE which offer a choice of locations, room types and prices.

Take time to think about what you want out of your living experience. If it’s the opportunity to meet lots of new people then you could consider halls, or privately managed accommodation, where you will be living in a building with other students. Some accommodation providers have studio flats which enable you to have your own space, but with the option to make use of communal areas.

2. Will I have to sign a contract?

Yes, all reputable landlords will want you to sign a tenancy agreement. This ensures that both you and your landlord agree on important terms such as rent and length of tenancy.

Make sure that you read the agreement thoroughly and understand the terms. If you have any concerns, you could ask your parents or university Accommodation Office to check through before you sign on the dotted line.

3. Will I have to pay rent during the holiday periods?

Most tenancy agreements are for a fixed number of weeks so, depending on the length of the tenancy, holiday periods may be included. Tenancy lengths and start dates can vary, so before signing a tenancy agreement you should get clarification from your accommodation provider on what the start date is for the tenancy and how many weeks it’s for.

Many of UNITE’s properties offer a 43 week tenancies which take you up until after your exams with the option of extending your stay over the summer at a reduced rate.

4. How do I ensure that I get my deposit back?

Ask to see the property before you move in. Make sure that the landlord is aware of any existing damage. You should also be given an inventory, check this thoroughly.

Deposits paid for rental properties are protected under a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. The scheme is designed to stop landlords from wrongly withholding all or part of your deposit and help resolve any disputes.

5. What should I budget for when I move into student accommodation?

Make sure you include the cost of all bills when working out how much you can afford to pay in rent. You will need to consider energy bills, water rates, internet connection, contents insurance and a TV license.

Some accommodation providers include the cost of bills in your rent. For example, room prices at UNITE are inclusive of utility bills, internet access and contents insurance. Check exactly what you need to pay for upfront so there are no surprises later down the line.

6. Will I have to pay council tax?

The vast majority of students are entitled to exemption on council tax, but it depends on your individual circumstances. For example, if you live in university halls or managed accommodation where everyone is classed as a full-time student for council tax purposes, you won’t have to pay council tax. If you live in a house with two or more non-students, the household will have to pay council tax. If there are fewer than two non-students, the household can get a discount.

For more information you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or visit their website, where they provide detailed information. Your university should also be able to provide you with advice on this.

You will need to register with your local authority and if you are entitled to a discount they may ask you to provide proof of your student status. Again, your university should be able to help by providing the necessary documentation.

7. How do I find people to live with?

Living in shared accommodation can be a great experience and an opportunity to make friends for life. Some accommodation providers such as UNITE offer a list of preferences when students make a booking and they will do their best to match them – this might be living in an all male or all female flat or living with vegetarians.

If you are planning to live with friends, think carefully about the qualities that you value in a housemate. It helps to pick people with similar interests, or someone from your course, that way you always have some common ground.

Many of UNITE's properties feature purpose built studios - an ideal option if you like your own space but also want to be close to other students and make new friends.

UNITE provides safe and secure, quality accommodation that is purpose built for students. With a range of living options available in 23 cities across the UK, there’s something to suit everyone.

Students can browse, arrange a viewing and book a room online by visiting or find out more by calling 0800 783 4213.

UNITE is a founding member of the ANUK Code of Standards for Larger Developments. The Code aims to facilitate good relationships between property owners, managers and tenants. Being member of the code is part of our commitment to providing students with first class accommodation.