1. Apply for university accommodation if available.
2. Book temporary accommodation.
3. Arrange accommodation.
4. Types of accommodation.
5. Tenancy agreements.
6. Other costs.
7. Questions to consider when searching for accommodation.
8. When you have found a suitable property.
9. Buying a house.
It is important to arrange accommodation in advance. You have various options:
1. Apply for university accommodation if available
Some universities have a small selection of properties available for short-term accommodation when you first arrive. You should contact your university’s accommodation office as soon as you know that you will be working in the UK, as generally there is a waiting list. You may need to ask the following questions:
• How long can I live in the property?
• Can I bring my family with me?
• Can my children live in the property?
• How far from the university is the property?
• How much is the rent?
• Are bills included?
• Will I have to share my accommodation with others?
• Do I need to pay a deposit?
2. Book temporary accommodation
If there is no accommodation provided by your university, then you will have to arrange temporary accommodation before you arrive in the UK. Staying in a local hotel will allow you to get to know the area better and you can get a feel for the local area and transport connections to the university. You can call your university to get a recommended hotels list or search the internet and book online.
3. Arrange accommodation
When you arrive in the UK you may wish to take a short-term let (a rented property) to allow you to familiarise yourself with the area before entering into a long-term agreement. You may wish to employ the services of a property search specialist to assist you with your move, although this can be very expensive. A cheaper approach may be to ask colleagues in your department about popular, local areas in which to live. Get their views on issues such as transport, commuting times and journeys, schools and childcare, if applicable. There may also be a university notice board or website which advertises available properties. Ask the university’s accommodation service for more information about where to seek help.
When you have some basic information about possible locations, you can start to search the internet for sites advertising property rentals. Popular national sites include Rightmove, Gumtree, findaproperty, and spareroom. Please note that this website does not specifically recommend a particular company.
Monthly rental costs will vary depending on the size, condition and location of the property. The rent will be higher for properties that include all bills and are furnished.
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4. Types of accommodation
Renting a whole house or flat
You can find local properties owned by private landlords (as opposed to properties owned by the local council) advertising online, on notice boards, or via a lettings agent. Letting agents tend to hold information about properties belonging to several different landlords, and they act as intermediaries, sorting out administration, rent, contracts and property repairs. It might be the case that you never meet the person who actually owns your property. This is standard practice in the UK.
Renting from a private landlord is the most popular form of rented accommodation for university staff. You will have a legal agreement with the landlord to rent the property as a unit. The property may be furnished or unfurnished. Rent for unfurnished property is usually cheaper but you have to supply your own furniture. The minimum time you can live in the property is usually six months. You are required to pay a deposit which will be refunded to you at the end of the tenancy agreement provided you have not damaged the property and all bills have been paid. The advantage is that you can live exactly the way you want to. The disadvantage is that rent can be expensive depending on where you live and compared to your home country. Rental costs vary around the UK but you can expect to pay anything from £100 to £400 per week.
Usually a single room with shared bathroom. In some cases the room has a small kitchen area but it is common for the tenants to have no more than an electric kettle and single electric ring for cooking. Bedsits are usually only occupied by a single person. The advantage of renting a bedsit is that they are fairly cheap to rent. The disadvantage is that they are often very small and the idea of cooking, sleeping and living in one room isn’t attractive to many. The rent for a bedsit varies depending on the location. You can expect to pay anything from £50 to £150 per week, depending on the location.
Shared flats and houses
A self-contained, furnished flat or house, usually with living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom(s), and sometimes a dining room. Various sizes are available, from one and two-bedroom flats up to four- or five-bedroom houses. You will have a legal agreement with the landlord and you may have to pay an initial deposit as security, in case you break or damage anything. Depending on the arrangement, you may also need to pay the heating and electricity bills, and you will almost certainly have to pay the telephone bill. You will have to provide your own bedlinen and towels. The advantage in choosing this type of accommodation is that you may meet new friends and overall costs may be cheaper. The disadvantages are that it is sometimes hard to find a suitable flat or house near the university. You may also not like the people you live with and if one person leaves or falls behind with their rent the others could be liable to make up the difference. Expect to pay anything from £60 to £200 per week depending on the area.
Buying a house
UK house prices can be high compared to other countries. It is advisable to live in and research the area you will be living in for at least six months before you buy. Visit local estate agents and look at nethouseprices to see the prices of recent house sales in your area. The advantage to owning your own house is that you may make a profit on its sale. The disadvantage is unfortunately the cost price.
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5. Tenancy agreements
Tenancy agreements should normally contain information about the amount of rent, the length of the tenancy and what rights you and your landlord will have under the law. In most cases, you will have an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ which means that your landlord cannot ask you to leave without a good reason during the first six months. Although these rights offer you some protection, it is still your responsibility to check the tenancy agreement thoroughly and make sure you agree with the terms.
Do not sign the tenancy agreement if you do not know what all of it means. If you do not fully understand your rights, show your tenancy agreement to an adviser in the accommodation office at your university and ask for help. You can also get help from a housing advice centre, law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. When you do sign the tenancy agreement, make sure you get a copy to keep for yourself, in case you need to check any details later on.
The landlord may also ask you to sign an inventory: a list of all the items in the property (pieces of furniture, kitchen items, etc.). If so, make sure you get a copy of this as well. Check that it is correct and that any existing damage to these items is included before signing it. If your landlord does not provide an inventory, you should make one yourself and send a copy to the landlord.
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6. Other costs
Before you move into private accommodation, you will probably be asked to pay a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent. Make sure you get a receipt for any deposit or fees you have paid. If you are renting through a lettings agency, you may also be asked to pay fees for preparing tenancy agreements, administration and cleaning of the property at the end of your stay. You should also keep a written record of all the rent payments that you make, as you make them. If you have a dispute with your landlord, or you get behind with your rent, you should get advice as soon as possible.
Gas and electricity bills
When you move into the property check and note down the gas and electricity meter readings. You usually receive a bill every three months, although you can also pay by monthly direct debit, straight from your bank account. Make sure you take a reading regularly and alert your gas and electricity providers when you move out to ensure you do not overpay.
You need a licence in the UK to watch television. See the TV licensing website for more information.
There may be an existing telephone line in your property. Contact BT
Many properties offer an internet connection. It can cost anything from £15 to £25 per month to connect to the internet at home.
It is important to protect your possessions against damage or theft. It may be cheaper and more convenient to insure your possessions before you come to the UK in the first instance.
If you wish to compare UK costs with home costs you may find this currency converter helpful.
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7. Questions to consider when searching for accommodation
- What does the rent include? Do you have to pay more for electricity, gas, water bill, council tax, internet charges, telephone?
- Are there meters for the gas, electricity and water?
- Is there sufficient furniture to live?
- Do you have to buy your own kitchen equipment and bed linen?
- Do you have a copy of the inventory? You need a copy in some cases to get your deposit back.
- Can the landlord increase the rent?
- When must you pay the rent? Weekly? Monthly?
- How will you pay the rent? Cash? Cheque? Direct Debit?
- How will you keep a record of what you have paid? Is there a rent book? Will the landlord give you a receipt?
- If you have to pay an initial deposit when will it be returned to you? What does the deposit cover and in what circumstances will it not be returned? Your deposit should be no more than two months rent.
- How long is the tenancy agreement and how much will it cost to renew it?
- If you want to end the tenancy agreement, what terms and conditions affect your ability to do so?
- If you want to leave the accommodation, how much notice must you give your landlord?
- If the landlord wants you to leave, how much notice must the landlord give you?
- Make sure you have your own copy of the tenancy agreement, signed and dated by the landlord.
- What happens if something breaks such as the cooker?
- Can you paint the walls if you want to?
- Does the landlord have gas and electric safety certificates?
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8. When you have found a suitable property
Log onto Up My Street and check the area you have chosen. This website has information on cost of bills, amenities in the area, schools and much more.
9. Buying a house
Buying a house can be a complex procedure in the UK and you will need to hire a solicitor. There are many online sites available to search for a suitable property in your area including Rightmove, Findaproperty, Vebra, Propertyfinder and Your Move.
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