How to Apply for Student Accommodation in the UK

How to Apply for Student Accommodation in the UK in 2024

Finding suitable student accommodation is one of the most important tasks for freshers and students in the UK. With over 2.3 million students enrolled in higher education across the UK, competition for accommodation is huge. Learning how to apply for student accommodation is one more thing on the list for students, besides UCAS application, exams, interviews, and everything else. 

Students need to start their housing search early and be prepared to act quickly when applying for their preferred accommodations. This guide provides an overview of the student accommodation application process in the UK, including types, key tips, and strategies for successfully securing housing for the 2024 academic year in the UK.

Types of Student Accommodation

When beginning your student accommodation search, it’s important to understand the main types of housing available for students:

University Halls of Residence

This is accommodation provided by the university and located on or near campus. Halls of residence offer convenient living, with shared kitchens, common areas, and on-site amenities. Rooms are single occupancy. Rent usually includes utility bills. This is the case with Oxford, Durham, and Cambridge, for example.

Learn more: Student Accommodation In Cambridge Colleges

According to a 2021 student housing survey, over 34% of students in the UK opt for halls of residence.

Private Halls

These are similar to university halls but operated by private companies. Also usually located close to campus and with shared common spaces. Provides student community living. 

Around 22% of students live in private halls.

Standard student accommodation in the UK

Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)

These are housing blocks built specifically for students, privately run. Offer private bedrooms and bathrooms as well as shared kitchen and lounge areas. Rates include utilities and wifi. 

PBSA has increased in popularity, with over 20% of students living in PBSAs in 2021.

Private Rented Accommodation

This is when you rent a room or flat from a private landlord. Usually located in residential neighbourhoods, either sharing with other students or living alone. Account for over 17% of student housing.

Homestay Accommodation

Living with a local family in their home. Can practice language skills and learn about UK culture. Includes bedroom, shared common spaces, and daily meals. Homestays are used by approximately 4% of students. This type of student accommodation is suitable for international students with scholarships or on budget. 

More from Accommodation for Students:

Timing Your Application

Apply early! Competition is high, so students need to start their accommodation search 6-9 months before starting university

Applications for university halls often open in January or February for the following September intake. The top private halls and PBSAs also accept bookings from Jan/Feb. Students hoping to rent shared houses should start viewing properties 4-6 months beforehand.

To secure your preferred choice, it’s advisable to make applications by Easter at the latest. For example, UCAS reported that 91% of purpose-built rooms were booked for 2022/23 by the end of March 2022. Students applying after this will have fewer options.

Consider Your Priorities and Budget

Once you know the main options, think about your priorities for student accommodation. Important factors to consider when applying for student accommodation are:

  • Location: How close do you want to be to campus? Important if you don’t have a car.
  • Cost: University halls and PBSAs may be more expensive than home shares. Create a budget.
  • Amenities: Do you want an en suite bathroom? A gym onsite? Laundry facilities?
  • Environment: Are you looking for a quiet living space? Or easy social interaction?
  • Independence: Do you want to cook for yourself, or have meals provided?

Make a list of your must-have features in student housing and preferences. This will help narrow your choices and decide what you can afford. The average monthly rent for purpose-built freshers housing in London for 2023 is around £245 per week, due to the high cost of living in London for students. Compare this to your budget.

Making Applications

University Halls and Private Accommodation

When applying for university halls and private student accommodation, students go through a direct application process with each provider. This usually involves:

  1. Online application form – Provide your details, university, course, housing preferences, etc.
  2. Booking fee/deposit – For university halls, you pay a booking fee of £150-£300. Private operators may charge a larger deposit of 1-3 weeks rent.
  3. Guarantor form – A UK homeowner agrees to cover rent if you’re unable to pay. A parent or close family member often acts as a student guarantor.
  4. Tenancy agreement – Carefully check your contract before signing to see contract length, rent details, cancellation policy, etc.

Renting Private Accommodation

Renting shared student houses is more complex. This involves the following steps:

  1. Finding suitable properties – Search online listings websites, university message boards, local ads, etc.
  2. Arranging viewings – Visit your shortlisted properties and ensure roommates attend too.
  3. Applying – Provide documents like ID, student status, previous landlord references, and proof of finances.
  4. Signing the tenancy – Once landlords approve your group, sign the joint tenancy agreement.

Use University-Approved Housing Services

Many universities partner with student housing providers and list approved accommodations on their websites. 

These are great options since they are vetted by the university, and verified to be secure and good quality for students. Search the approved housing list on your university’s accommodation page.

Reach out to any you are interested in and ask questions before applying. Some will have their application, or you may have to contact the landlord directly.

Check Private Listings Sites

Websites like UniAcco, Amber Student, or allow you to search for privately rented flats, home shares, and PBSAs in your university area.

Filter by location, price, room type, etc. to narrow options. You can view photos, amenities, and ratings, and make inquiries with no fees.

Private student accommodation websites are especially good for finding home shares with local families who take in borders. This can be a nice cultural exchange.

Ask Your University For Recommendations

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your university’s housing office for recommendations on good off-campus housing options.

The housing office can provide advice on reputable providers in the area that offer secure accommodation for international students. They often have partnerships.

Explain your budget and must-have features and preferences to get personalised guidance. The housing office is there to help students like you find great housing solutions.

Join Student Accommodation Facebook Groups

Here is one last great tip when looking for student housing in the UK – join some University and Accommodation Facebook groups.

Search for ‘[University name] Accommodation 2023/2024’ or ‘[University name] Student Housing’.

People will post available rooms, sublets, and advice, and you can ask questions to current students about good areas and landlords.

These groups are extremely helpful to get insights, find flatmates, and secure housing from students already familiar with the local market.

Factors to Consider When Applying for Student Accommodation

When selecting and applying for student accommodation, keep the following factors in mind:

Location – Convenient travel to your university campus via public transport, walking, or cycling is essential. Also check access to local shops, nightlife, and amenities.

Cost – Check if rent includes utility bills and internet access. Consider how much your maintenance loan and budget allow for. The average weekly student rent is £153 for halls and £177 for shared houses. Read more: How Much Is Student Accommodation In The UK?

Facilities – Look for essentials like a comfortable bed, adequate study space, fully equipped kitchens, and laundry facilities.

Environment – Will you thrive best in quiet or lively surroundings? Consider whether en-suite or shared bathrooms suit you.

Leases – Tenancy lengths range from 39 to 52 weeks. Avoid being tied into rent when you don’t need the room.

Cancellation policy – Understand fees if you withdraw your application or leave early. Halls usually have more flexibility than private landlords.

Securing Offers

How you can secure an offer for accommodation? Here are some guidance.  

  • University halls – If you receive an offer, you will need to accept within 7-14 days and pay a security deposit. This secures your place.
  • Private halls – Similarly, accept your offer within the specified timeframe and make a deposit payment when required.
  • PBSA – After accepting an offer, your booking is confirmed once your first rent instalment is paid.
  • Student houses – Once your group’s tenancy application is approved, you can confirm your booking by paying the deposit and first month’s rent.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right student accommodation is important for an enjoyable and successful university experience. Learning how to apply for accommodation for students, starting your search early, and diligently checking multiple providers will help secure your ideal housing. 

Consider the tips mentioned here during the student accommodation application process in 2024. Thorough preparation will go a long way in ensuring you have comfortable and convenient accommodation during your studies.

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