The Questions You Should Ask When Looking for Accommodation

Living in London is an adventure. The city is full of energy, teeming with galleries, theatres, pop-up restaurants, live music and much, much more. To make sure you enjoy it to its fullest, it is important to ensure your accommodation is just right. With this in mind, we have compiled a short guide to help you find the perfect home.

What kind of accommodation are you looking for?

There are a few different options available when it comes to living arrangements. Some people prefer to stay in purpose-built student halls with their peers, while others may choose to branch out and find a room or house to rent externally. In the latter situation your housemates can be students, or not – it’s up to you.

The final option is to arrange a homestay; this is mostly for international students who would rather live with a family than living alone, or with other students or housemates. Once you have decided on what will work best for you, you can start looking.

Where should you look?

These days, the majority of student accommodation is available to browse online. When you start searching you may feel slightly overwhelmed by the wealth of choice out there. Luckily, universities often have resources on their own website to help you.

Here at Northumbria University London, we have a whole section on site dedicated to accommodation. We’ve also teamed up with StudentTennant.com, a resource that helps students find housing in London and connects them with others trying to do the same. This approach has many positives, including the benefit of their expertise and experience, as well as the seal of approval from us.

If you’re looking for a homestay, there are various sites that can help you. We recommend trying LondonHomestays.com, as they are recognised by the British Council and have a good track record of placing international students with families.

Of course, there are independent letting agents you can find online, as well as websites like SpareRoom.co.uk but neither of these are particularly targeted at students, and will have less stringent standards in place.

What should I ask before entering into a lease or tenancy agreement?

Whatever route you decide to go down, there are questions you should always ask. If your landlord or the organisation you are dealing with refuse to answer them, it is probably best to look elsewhere for somewhere to live.

  • How much does it cost, is there a deposit and are bills included?
  • Can I have a copy of the contract before signing and does it include a break clause?
  • What is included in the insurance coverage?
  • What are the safety features of the property and are they up to date?
  • Where in London is the property and is the area safe?
  • How long is the tenancy and what are the terms?
  • How old is the property?
  • May I see some testimonials from previous tenants?
  • Can I see the EPC (energy performance certificate) for the property?
  • Can I see the property in person before signing the contract?

The final question may not apply to international students who want to sort out accommodation before they arrive and move straight in – so, in that case the previous questions are all the more important. You should also ask to be provided with accurate and up to date photographs of the property, and of your room specifically.

What warning signs should you be aware of when looking for accommodation?

If you choose to use a student resource like StudentTennant.com or LondonHomestays.com, you should be mostly protected from anyone trying to take advantage of your age or unfamiliarity with the city. However, if you decide to take a different route, make sure to look out for these warning signs and common mistakes.

  • Unless it’s a legally-binding deposit, you should not be asked to pay any money to a new landlord directly, in order to ‘hold’ a room or flat
  • Signing a contract before reading it thoroughly. For some non-native English speakers, this can seem daunting – so ask for help! We’ll be happy to help
  • Rent the property without seeing it, or without doing some external research on the landlord. You want to make absolutely sure that the person you are renting from is legitimate. One way to do this is by checking to see if they are part of a nationally recognised body like the National Landlords Association

And finally, do you like it?

You’re going to be living in this place, whether it be for a few weeks or anything up to 2 years, so make sure it feels like home. Your accommodation is an opportunity to meet people, make friends and experience life in London – but more than that, it should be your safe haven and a home away from home. If you need any more help or advice, you can always speak to us, we’ll be more than happy to help you.

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