What are the true costs of renting?
No sooner as you’re settled back into your studies, focusing on exams and projects or getting to grips with some module changes, you face another huge challenge – where to live next year. It seems that students start looking for places earlier and earlier and there isn’t just the rent to think about, especially if you’re using a letting agent.
If you’re in your first year and living in Halls now, the chances are that you’ll have to move out at the end of the academic year. Similarly, some landlords like to change their tenants each year so if you love where you’re living now, check your options with your landlord sooner rather than later.
Assuming you’ve got to move, or want to move, here are some helpful pointers and tips which you should consider before diving in to your next commitment.
This article contains links to up to date and relevant guidance from the sector experts. They’ve done all the research so you don’t have to. Tick!
Don’t make a rush decision Think carefully about who you want to live with. You’ll have an idea of how you get along with people now but living with people is a whole new ballgame. Stop and take a breath. Write a list of what is essential eg heating, what is desirable eg bath and shower and what you’re willing to compromise on eg parking. Very few student places offer everything you want at the price you want to pay so there will be inevitable sacrifices.
Location, location, location How much the rent is will depend on a variety of factors but location is usually the big one. According to NatWest Student Living Index, students in London have the highest monthly rent £584.23, but they reported spending less than average on household bills and those studying within Greater London Authority receive additional Maintenance Loan each term to help counter the higher London rents.
When we surveyed second year undergraduate students here at Brighton, as part of the Student Finance Survey 2016, 83% of respondents were living in private rented accommodation. Back then, students were paying on average £400 to £439 per month for accommodation. Local rent levels for 2017 look more like this:
- One bedroom flat £160 per week
- Shared house £120–125 per person per week
- One bedroom flat £144 per week
- Shared house £88 per person per week
- Four bedroom house £85–130 per person per week
If location is something you’re willing to compromise on, look at options further afield but still within the Unizone or reliable bus routes as rents can be considerably cheaper.
A cheaper option can also be renting as a lodger in the same property as the landlord and possibly their family. You have your own room and share the kitchen and other living space. You may not receive a full tenancy agreement with this arrangement, so check the conditions of the arrangement before you agree to move in.
Thinking about more maverick cheaper rental options? There are always alternatives – Property Guardians offer less secure but cheap rental arrangements ie licenses, where you effectively prevent somewhere like a business such as an office from being empty. There’s also Homesharing where you live with typically an older person who wants to remain independent in their home. This invariably requires you to support them in some way, but not as a carer.
What are the start-up costs? Here are some examples of the extras and what they mean:
You’ve decided who you want to live, where you like and you’ve got an idea of the rent, now it gets a bit more complicated. As soon as an agent is involved, the price begins to creep up unless you secure somewhere through Studenthomes or it’s a Unihome.
- Admin fees can cost up to £200 per person. This charge covers setting up the agreement, the inventory, checking references and any other correspondence. This should only be charged once you have expressed an interest in a property.
- Damage/security deposits usually equate to 1 month’s rent, payable at the very start of the tenancy to cover any damage during or at the end of the rental period.
- An agent or private landlord may also ask for a Holding deposit. This usually applies where the property has been advertised. Your deposit pays for them to cease advertising and hold it for you. It may be non-refundable, so if you change your mind you may not get it back. On the flipside, a holding deposit can be deductible from other upfront costs
You may have heard about Tenancy Deposit Schemes. If you are offered an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the agent or landlord must place your Damage/Security deposit with an independent scheme registered with the government. This should be repaid to you promptly at the end of the agreement, unless you are in dispute with your landlord if you have rent arrears, or the property is damaged.
A colleague at Bucks New Uni, Tim Dixon, has created this excellent public resource which calculates how much the costs will be for you. You can use this to help you decide which place is the most affordable and you can compare one place to another, side by side. Just click here to open it up in a new window and follow the simple instructions. Don’t forget to save your calculations in one of your own folders.
The chances are that you will need a guarantor. If you have not got access to a UK based guarantor, you can look into seeking support from Housing Hand or ask for advice from the Accommodation Service here at Brighton.
If you are a group looking for somewhere together, you will probably be asked for a combined sum, so be sure to just pay your share. However much this is, always insist on your own itemised receipt.
Some letting agents like all the money to come from one tenant who they may call the ‘lead tenant’. If you are that person and another house mate doesn’t pay you, you will get lumbered with the bank charges if you exceed your overdraft limit, so make sure you fully understand the consequences of what you are signing up for, or at least schedule direct debits between your own accounts before the due date to the landlord/agent.
If you are asked to pay anything else, check exactly what these are for. It is a legal requirement for agents to display exactly what they can charge you before, during and at the end of a tenancy so take your time to read through the small print. If this seems too overwhelming, ask someone you trust for a second opinion.
Chris Chesman, UoB graduate, produced an excellent House Hunting Good Practice Guide which has some excellent student focused hints and tips.
Throughout Money Week, we’ll be publishing different articles in support of the national theme Where I Live.
You can find the roadshow at Hastings and Falmer today. Just look out for the Student Advisers in the Student Lounge in Havelock and Checkland Atrium between 12 – 2
See you there!
Student Advice Service