As if there isn’t enough going on when settling into university as it is, you’ve also got to throw next year’s housing into the equation. But don’t fret, it’s not quite as daunting as it seems.
When do I start looking for a house for the second year?
You’ll need to start looking at housing between November and January of your first year. But don’t fret; many people end up finding houses later on in the year, but it’s a good idea not to leave it too late. I personally started looking a couple of weeks before going home for Christmas, but we didn’t actually secure a house until late January.
It’s not as simple as just finding one you like and it automatically being yours to take. We often found that landlords/agencies would have several viewings booked for one day and if you didn’t get back to them saying you wanted it on that same day, it would always be taken before we got there. It did begin to get frustrating after a while; it felt like a losing battle where another group would always take it just before us. However, it comes to a point where you need to accept that this is going to happen in the house-hunting process and you will find one eventually. Communication with your group is key to avoid missing out on houses you really like!
Who should I live with?
When I was first told to look for housing in November, I was worried that I wouldn’t have made secure enough friends just two months into university to start arranging my accommodation for the next year. But in reality, you’re living on-campus seven days a week and you spend a lot of time with people in those first two months, so you do find the people who you want to live with for Year Two in that time. Having said that, our housing group changed a bit during the house-hunting process itself as we had to adjust numbers/people made alternative plans/friendships evolved. And that was fine too! In the end, we ended up in a group that I was very happy with.
Equally, there are ways to find housemates for the next year if you’re struggling. Or maybe there are one or two friends you want to live with but not enough numbers to fill a house? The University puts on an event on campus for finding housemates in a similar position, where you can chat to people that you could potentially live with the next year. Similarly, housing sites like StudentPad have the facility for you to engage with other house hunters and maybe find more people in a similar position to you as well.
Where should I live?
Whilst a house anywhere in the city would be fine, the go-to place for students to live off-campus is Oldfield Park. At the time, I knew this was the case but wasn’t too fussed if I didn’t end up living there. After all, places near town like Lower Bristol Road are quite common too. The house we ended up with was in fact in Oldfield Park, and it’s only after moving into it this past week that I’ve realised what a good idea it was. The estate is made up mostly of students, so it feels communal and you bump into people you know like you would on campus. From where I am in Oldfield Park, it is only a 15-minute walk into town, a 5-10 minute walk to Co-op, Lidl or Sainsburys local and there are plenty of bus stops around. So whilst it will be fine wherever you live as long as the commute up to campus isn’t too long, Oldfield Park is definitely the place to look!
What is a guarantor?
It’s likely that each member of your housing group will be asked for details of their ‘guarantor’. This is basically a contract to say that if you cannot pay your rent at any point, then this person (your ‘guarantor’) becomes responsible for paying it for you. Therefore, your guarantor is likely to be your parent or guardian. However, be sure to discuss this with them before writing their name down, and make sure that they understand what this means as well. They will need to sign a contract that states that they acknowledge and accept that they are your guarantor. Hopefully, it’s not something you’ll ever need to rely on, but it basically gives some security to your landlord or agency.
For overseas students, the guarantor system is a little bit different. This is because your landlord will typically ask for a UK-based guarantor, which may cause a problem if you are the only member of your family living/working in the UK. There are two ways around this:
- Paying more or all of your rent upfront to lower the financial risk for your landlord
- More realistically, you can apply for the YourGuarantor scheme. This is a scheme that the University of Bath has partnered with, which will act as your UK guarantor, whilst charging you for their service (3.5% for an overseas or EU student, 5% for a UK student.) For the latest information on this, visit this webpage or read this accommodation student blog written by an international student.
What fees will I need to pay?
This is the slightly painful part of house hunting...
To secure your house, you’re certainly going to need to pay a deposit per person, the first month's rent before you move in and possibly a holding fee (around one week's worth of rent) This can end up being a LARGE sum (typically between £500-£600 deposit per person plus a month's rent and maybe a holding fee). Because of this, you need to budget during your first year with the knowledge that you will need to make these payments upon securing your house for the next year. You’ll get the deposit back at the end of year two, but you need to be able to cover it in the first place. For advice on budgeting, see my previous blog post and video with key tips and tricks. You can also check this government web page for the rules on what you can and can't be charged and don't forget to contact the Student Accommodation team if you need any help.
Hopefully, this answers all of your questions regarding house hunting, but if not, the university is full of resources to help you out. This link will fill you in on all the key details. There’s also a student accommodation team you can reach out to for advice (see their email address on the previous link), and a service within the university that will check your housing contract to make sure everything is smooth-sailing.
My key advice to you is to talk to your housing group, work out what it is you’re all looking for in your future home, and then get searching as soon as possible.