LIVING OUT GUIDE
KEY FACTS FOR SUCCESSFUL
Looking for accommodation may seem like a big challenge, but there is support and advice available. Advisors at the Student Advice Service will be happy to help you.
Remember that with planning, patience and care, living out need not be stressful. It is important to take time and explore the options open to you.
Important points to be aware of when house hunting
- Don’t be pressured into renting the first house you see. If you have any doubts, don’t sign.
- The supply of houses in Oxford exceeds the demand and no one will end up without accommodation. Act as an informed, confident consumer: know what you want, spend time researching your choice, negotiate on price and don’t accept poor quality or bad service!
- Your friendship group may change or someone may drop out. Be aware that as soon as a group signs a contract, everyone in that group is responsible for all the obligations of the tenancy.
- Once you have signed a fixed-term tenancy, it is extremely difficult to end it early.
- Your deposit must be placed in an authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme and you must be given information about which one and a receipt within 30 days.
- If you are unsure, before you sign a contract, get it checked by an Advisor at the Student Advice Service who will do this for free.
When you are asked to pay any money
- Be sure you know what the payment is for.
- If you are asked to pay large sums of money or several month’s rent in advance, get advice before you pay.
- If possible, make the payment by bank transfer so you have a record.
- Get receipts for all your payments.
Remember: Don’t rush, and take your time. There are plenty of houses available, and it’s important to make a good, well-informed decision about the one that’s right for you.
Remember: Planning is the key!
Looking For Accommodation
Looking for accommodation can seem daunting and finding the right house can make all the difference to your experience as a student.
- Who are you going to live with?
- Where do you want to live?
- What type of property do you want?
- How much will it cost?
When should I start looking for accommodation?:
Start looking at the beginning of Hilary Term for a lease starting in October that year. Don’t feel pressured to look early.
How do I start looking for accommodation?:
Think about where you want to live. Decide on the area that best suits you. Do you want to be near shops and night life; do you want quiet; do you need to be near your department or lab; what about transport?
Summertown: An area popular with families. Good shops and schools. Rent prices are high. Jericho: A popular student area. Lots of pubs, restaurants, a cinema and small supermarket. Rent prices are quite high.
Abingdon Road: Fewer facilities and less popular with students so rent prices are cheaper. Close to the river and boathouses. Iffley Road: Fewer facilities than neighboring Cowley Road. University Sports ground located here.
Botley Road: Fewer facilities and less popular with students so house prices are cheaper. Close to the train station if transport links are important.
Cowley Road: A popular student area. Vibrant and more cosmopolitan than Jericho, lots of pubs, restaurants and independent shops, a music venue (O2). Frequent buses to the city centre. Rent prices are less expensive.
Popular with students who need to be based near the John Radcliffe and other hospitals. Shops, cafés and a Waitrose supermarket. Buses to the city centre. Lower rent prices than north Oxford.
How do you want to live?
Alone or in a group?
Are you looking to rent a house as a group or do you want to live alone? If you are going to share, get a group together and talk about:
- The type of things that are important to everyone (such as cleaning, smoking, drinking and your work habits)
- What facilities you all want from a house
- Your budgets.
If you all want different things or if your budgets differ greatly, it’s best to form a new group with people who want and can afford the same things as you.
Remember: large groups (7-8 or more) may find it difficult to find a big enough house. Houses that can accommodate large groups are know as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) . There are additional regulations governing HMO properties and all HMOs should be licensed by the City Council. Ask an Advisor if you need help.
At Oxford, students tend to choose accommodation that falls within one of the following categories. Your consumer rights vary depending on which you choose.
With a resident landlord?
If you share accommodation with your landlord, or share accommodation with a member of your landlord’s family, you are known as an “excluded occupier”, and have very limited consumer rights. Generally as an excluded occupier your only right is to stay until your landlord asks you to leave, or for as long as your written agreement says.
Without a resident landlord?
When the landlord does not live in the property with you it is known as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Your main rights under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy are:
- To have your deposit placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.
- To live in your accommodation for a fixed period of time. As a student this will usually be 10-12 months, or it may be a periodic tenancy continuing on a month-by-month basis.
- To have any necessary household repairs completed during the course of the tenancy.
- To be provided with evidence that the property meets certain safety standards.
- To control your home so that you can stop other people from entering. The landlord should give you 24 hours notice when they want to enter the property.
- To remain in your accommodation for the duration of the tenancy. Only a court order to evict you removes this right.
- To have ‘reasonable adjustments’ made to the property if you have a disability.
Your main responsibilities under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy include:
- Not leaving without notice
- Paying the rent as agreed
- Taking care of the house
- Not causing a nuisance
- Giving your landlord access when necessary.
Failure to uphold these may result in eviction.
How do I find a Private Landlord?
Some landlords rent out their properties through agents. These agents sometimes also manage the property on behalf of the landlord. It is important to find out the fee an agent will charge you for arranging the tenancy as these vary greatly. Letting agents should not charge you for providing a list of available properties.
It is also important to establish how the agent will manage the property. If you are unhappy with the way the agent or landlord is treating you, FIND ANOTHER. If the initial contact is not good they may not be helpful if you have a problem.
An online property finder allows you to search for all types of short or long-term accommodation:
There are a number of websites which advertise accommodation. One popular with students is Daily Info:
These often advertise informal arrangements and care should be taken before you sign a contract.
How Do I know the agent is good?
Oxford City Council’s Landlord Accreditation Scheme is a voluntary scheme that private residential landlords and letting agents are encouraged to join. You can find out if your agent/landlord has signed up to the Oxford City Council Landlord accreditation scheme:
- Choose a letting/managing agent that is registered with Association.
- National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS)
- Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
- UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
- National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
- Talk to other students and find out their experiences.
- Talk to the Student Advice Service firstname.lastname@example.org
Signing Accommodation Contracts
When you sign a contract, it forms a legally binding agreement between you and your landlord. If you have agreed to certain conditions with your landlord, make sure they are written into the contract, otherwise it will be difficult to prove if the landlord does not comply with your verbal agreement.
Most student accommodation is for a fixed period of time and with a “no-break clause”. This means that once you have signed you have a contractual obligation to pay the rent for the length of the tenancy.
Before You Sign
- Your group is one that will work. Make sure you all understand the contract and your legal obligations. If you are signing a joint tenancy and one of you drops out and stops paying the rent, the remaining tenants will be required to pay it.
- You have seen the property.
- You have read and understand the contract.
- The address, names, start and end dates and amount to be paid are all correct.
- If your landlord has promised certain work will be done before you move in, make sure this is included in your contract.
- You have checked there is a HMO licence for the property (www.oxford.gov.uk) if necessary.
- You have an inventory of the property’s contents and checked it is correct.
If you are unsure don’t sign. Get further help and information.
When you sign make sure you get:
- A copy of the contract.
- The landlord’s name and address
- Details of the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme and a signed copy of the deposit protection certificate.
- Information on how to get the deposit back and what happens if there is a dispute.
If you can’t agree deposit deductions with the landlord/agent when you move out, the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme will provide a mediation or an alternative dispute resolution service.
Beware of landlords/agents who do not comply with statutory requirements. Make sure you know your legal rights before signing anything.
If you have any questions ask them. If you are unsure or unsatisfied with the answer, consider finding somewhere else.