Housing & Accommodation

Private accommodation vs. UCA halls

Moving away from home can be one of the biggest steps in student life. If you have decided to move into accommodation rather than live at home, you can choose to stay either in halls or private accommodation during your studies.

You can explore accommodation options around each campus, apply for halls, and find out all information on applying for private accommodation on UCA's accommodation page. It's also worth knowing that, if you’re a first-year student on an undergraduate course and you apply before the January UCAS deadline, UCA university will guarantee you a place to stay in your first year - whether that's in UCA halls or in other rented accommodation.

Living in halls offers a vibrant and communal experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the student community and make lifelong friendships. On the other hand, private accommodation provides greater independence and flexibility, enabling you to tailor your living arrangements to your preferences. Remember, this choice is all about you and what makes you feel most comfortable and excited. Whichever path you choose, there's a world of opportunities waiting for you to explore, learn, and make the most out of your university days.

Private accommodation guide

Moving into private accomodation can be a big step, whether you are new to living away from home or moving on from student halls, which is why we put together some tips and tricks, our best advice and favourite links to give you the confidence you need in finding your next home away from home. From Roomates to refrences- we've broken down the key points to consider when private renting.

  1. Budget: Make sure to set a realistic budget that includes not just the rent, but also other expenses such as utility bills, council tax, and internet. Keep in mind that some areas may be more expensive than others. When looking for accommodation, avoid Facebook marketplace! Instead use websites like Sparerooms, Rightmove, and Zoopla. Think of it this way - if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
  2. Location: Consider the location of the accommodation in relation to your campus, as well as other amenities such as public transportation, grocery stores, and entertainment options. You can use Google Maps or a browser to estimate time spent commuting to and from your campus; e.g. if the accommodation you are looking at is at Ashley Road in Epsom, google “Ashley Road, Epsom to University for the Creative Arts, Epsom” and check the “Public transport” option to see the estimated time spent commuting.
  3. Safety: Look for accommodation that has proper safety measures in place, such as fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and secure locks on doors and windows. It's also a good idea to research the safety of the neighbourhood. You can check out Crime Rate public safety data for your area here.
  4. Contracts: Read and understand the rental contract thoroughly before signing. Pay attention to clauses related to rent, deposit, repairs, and any additional fees. Seek legal advice if needed (reach out to Citizens Advice for free help).
  5. Deposit and Rent: Be prepared to pay a security deposit and advance rent. Make sure to understand the terms and conditions related to the deposit, including how it will be protected and under what circumstances it may be withheld. Often the deposits are protected by a service such as Deposit Protection Scheme. Click here to read more about it.
  6. Amenities: Check what amenities are included in the rent, such as furniture, appliances, and internet. If anything is missing or not working properly, discuss it with the landlord or agent before signing the contract.
  7. Repairs: Inquire about the landlord's responsibility for repairs and maintenance. Make sure to have a written agreement on how repairs will be addressed during your tenancy.
  8. Roommates: If you are renting with roommates, discuss expectations and responsibilities upfront, including rent sharing, household chores, and bills. This way you will avoid future misunderstandings and disagreements. It might be worth agreeing on a bill-splitting service/app to help you track expenses and payments such as the FREE Housemate app by Natwest- it even recognises your rent payments to help build your credit score and renting history!
  9. References: If available, ask for references from previous tenants or other reliable sources to get feedback on the condition of the property, the landlord's responsiveness, and any issues you should be aware of.
  10. Guarantors: Your guarantor is someone who agrees to pay your rent if you are unable to, this might be a parent, a close relative or a third-party service such as Housing Hands. If living in shared accommodation you will need to double-check if this applies to all or just your share of the rent. In cases where you are unable to obtain a guarantor, you will need to be prepared to pay an advance on the rent, this could be as much as 6 months however there is no legal limit to how much rent a landlord can ask for upfront.
  11. Legal Rights: Familiarise yourself with your legal rights as a tenant in the UK, including your rights to repairs, privacy, and protection from unfair treatment (reach out to Citizens Advice for free help).
  12. Document everything: To ensure a seamless end to your stay, it's essential to document everything. By taking photos and screenshots, you can have a visual record of the property's condition when you move in. This practice can prove invaluable in case of any disputes about the deposit amount that should be returned to you upon leaving. Be sure to take this step before settling into your new accommodation. Additionally, it's crucial to keep any relevant filed documents in a secure location where they'll be easily accessible if needed. These documents could include your contract, move-in inspection report, and any correspondence with your landlord. By storing them in a safe place, you can avoid the hassle of having to search for them later on, saving you time and effort.
  13. Check out private accommodation options at Studentpad:Studentpad has an official partnership with UCA to supply private rental properties in Canterbury, Epsom, and Farnham. They frequently upload new properties to their website, and they have some great guides you can check out too. Get your search going for your new pad athttps://www.studentpad.co.uk/

Entering the private rental market as a student can be daunting. It’s a big commitment and a significant step for your independence, so take your time to research and ask questions. Start looking and familiarising yourself with the process early on, so you don’t cause yourself unnecessary stress. Trust your gut! If something doesn’t sound right, double-check your research and/or reach out for advice. You can always seek guidance from UCA Gateway Services or legal professionals such as Citizens Advice to ensure you make an informed choice.