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Finding a Home: Private Rented Accommodation - Preparation

 

Last time we took a dive into the Halls v Private Rented debate. If you decided that private renting is the way you want to go, today we’re going to talk about how to prepare yourself

 

When to start looking

The rental market in London moves much faster than in other university towns/cities. Properties are usually advertised around 1-2 months before the move in date. If you are looking to move in time for the start of the academic year, we recommend you start looking around May/June time, but no need to panic if you are struggling, statistics say that most private rented properties to students are let in August.

 

Where to look

Letting Agents

  • Letting Agents have access to a large number of properties and landlords, and can make the process easier. They will charge fees for their services, but these fees are strictly regulated. 

  • However, it is important to note that Letting Agents work on behalf of the interests of landlords NOT tenants, and they can not always be trusted to be completely honest about properties they are letting. A good way to ensure a Letting Agent is trustworthy is to check they are a member of a redress scheme, a member of a client protection money scheme, they clearly display fees and memberships in their office/on their website and they have a complaints procedure. Some are also members of professional bodies or accreditation schemes, these agents tend to be the best.

 

Websites

  • University of London has a dedicated database of student properties and should probably be your first port of call. 

  • There are plenty of places to look for accommodation online. Websites such as On The Market, Right Move and Zoopla all have properties advertised and are popular amongst students. For individual rooms or flatshares, SpareRoom is by far the most popular.

  • BEWARE OF SCAMS! If something seems too good to be true then I’m afraid it usually is. Scammers target students, particularly international students who are new to London and can only view properties online. Signs to look out for include cheaper than average rent price for the area, asking for payment before viewing, communication all done over whatsapp and asking for money for ‘extras’. If you are concerned, consult an expert or run away!

 

Word of Mouth

  • Some good properties aren’t advertised and the landlords rely on word of mouth. If you know of a current tenant who is preparing to leave their accommodation, they can put you in touch with their landlord and you can take over the property. The advantages of this is that you can ask the current tenant all the questions you need to about the landlord.

 

How Much Will It Cost?

Unlike with Halls where most, if not all, bills are included in the rent, in the private sector you will more than likely be responsible for paying these bills (unless the property is advertised as ‘bills included’ but that is rare). Therefore it is important to factor that into your thinking. Use a budget calculator from UCAS or Save the Student to work out what your monthly budget will be and then think about the below.

 

Rent

  • There’s no getting around it, London rents are expensive, particularly in the areas close to LSE Campus. If you have a reasonably high budget this may not be an issue, but if you are on a smaller budget you may have to be prepared to look at properties a bit further away. This is not necessarily a bad thing, London is a hugely diverse city with every borough offering something different for students. Transport services are very good, meaning it is quite easy to get around. The University of London has an excellent Average Rent Guide which you can use to narrow down which areas may be suitable for you. (For reference, the LSE Campus is in the WC section of the guide.)

 

Bills

  • You will be expected to pay a number of bills in most private rented properties. These include Water, Electricity, Gas, Broadband, TV Licence and Contents Insurance. Some of those such as Contents Insurance are advised but optional. Make sure to ask your prospective landlord what bills you will be expected to pay and how to go about paying them before you sign anything.

  • Currently, the UK is experiencing what some are terming a Cost of Living Crisis. This means that bills are rising significantly for households and it is important to keep in mind that next year will be more expensive than last.

  • If you are living in a house where everyone is a student then you will be exempt from Council Tax. However, you will need to apply for this exemption by getting in touch with your local borough council and sending in your LSE Certificate of Registration which you can get from Student Services

 

Transport

  • Remember, transport costs add up, so do not overlook this when choosing a property. 

  • The bus is cheaper than the tube. Walking and cycling are cheaper than both. Remember that.

  • You will be entitled to an 18+ Student Oyster Card, more info on which can be found here. This will give you 30% discounted travel across TFL.

 

Now you’re all prepared to start finding properties within your budget, next time we’ll be discussing property viewings and contracts 

Blog written by Laurence Mackavoy.

Laurence works as a Student Advisor in the LSESU Advice Team.

The LSESU Advice Team

The LSESU Advice Team is based on the 3rd floor of the Saw Swee Hock Building and we provide free, independent and confidential advice to all LSE students on academic and housing matters. We also administer the Hardship Fund, the Childcare Fund and the Graduation Gown Support Fund (GGSF).

Our service is currently operating using a hybrid working pattern. We are still open and can be accessed by emailing su.advice@lse.ac.uk. You can also book a telephone or Zoom appointment with an adviser through Student Hub.