Once you decide to search for private sector housing, it’s important to take some time to plan what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.
Living in your own house will open a whole new world of experiences. You'll now be able to keep your house how you want it, without hassle from cleaners and resident staff and security.
Benefits and considerations
There are a variety of reasons why students may choose to stay in a private house or a flat. Some of the benefits of living in a privately rented accommodation are:
- You can choose who you want to live with, which is ideal if you're part of a group of friends wanting to stay together
- You can choose your own accommodation depending on your budget, with some private sector accommodation being a cheaper option than some halls of residence
- You can choose your own location, either closer to or further away from the City campus
- You can have unlimited friends and family visit or stay over.
Before deciding on where and who to live with, you should think carefully about exactly what you are looking for:
- Decide whether you wish to live alone or with others
- Think about the area of London you want to live in
- Decide how much time you're willing to spend commuting to City
- Remember the variations in rent levels that depend on location and the property's facilities
- Allow for bills (gas, electricity, water and internet) within your budgeting
- Consider what your transport routes to City will be and how much this might cost you.
When to look for housing
The student housing market is a fast paced environment with students from different institutions competing for the most affordable and modern properties during the busy summer periods.
The cost, location and standard of student accommodation can vary considerably, so decide your priorities before you start to look. Your decisions may be motivated by many things, such as cost, security, transport and closeness to campus.
In the vast majority of cases, private accommodation in London is only advertised a few weeks prior to it becoming available. If you are intending to move into a property at the beginning of September, you will need to start looking during August.
Where in London?
London is big and exciting, but finding the right place to live in London can be difficult. Accommodation can be expensive but London's size and diversity means there are plenty of suitable flats and houses students can rent.
The areas listed below are popular with many City, University of London students:
- Borough of Islington (Angel, Archway, Farringdon, Clerkenwell, Highbury, Holloway, Kings Cross, Newington Green, Camden)
- Borough of Hackney/Tower Hamlets (Shoreditch, Hoxton, Haggerston, Homerton, Clapton, Dalston, Stoke Newington, Bethnal Green, Bow, Limehouse, Shadwell, Whitechapel)
- Borough of Southwark/Lambeth (Borough, Walworth, Bermondsey, Camberwell, Dulwich, Peckham Rye, Nunhead, Clapham, Stockwell, Vauxhall, Waterloo)
- Borough of Haringey (Tottenham, Turnpike, Wood Green)
- Borough of Newham (Beckton, Canning Town, East Ham, Stratford, Upton Park, West Ham).
The Greater London Authority offers detailed information about the areas of London and expected rents which can help you narrow down your choices.
The next step is to find a property you're interested in and arrange a viewing - where you are given a guided tour of the property to see what it's like and ask any questions. Viewing private accommodation before signing any legal agreements is very important and strongly advised.
Common types of private accommodation you might find in London are:
- Shared house: as the name suggests, this is the rental of a room within a shared house of other students or tenants. It's important to choose your housemates wisely as you may be sharing responsibilities and spending some time together
- Studio: this is self-contained accommodation with private kitchen, living area and bathroom facilities. Studio apartments tend to have restricted floor space, so you may need to decide what things you need in your flat with you
- One-bedroom flat: unlike studios, these have a separate bedroom and often a separate kitchen. These are suitable for a couple, as they can be fairly expensive for one person
- Room only (and en suite): for those on a restricted budget, this is a bedroom with the most basic facilities - usually with access to a bathroom only as part of a shared house (or en suite in the case of having a private bathroom)
- Bedsit: similar to a room only arrangement, though generally including a kitchen area within your room.
Preparing to view a property
If you're viewing properties in London the following three items are essential:
- A comprehensive street and travel map of London
- A travel card covering the zones in which you will be travelling
- A mobile phone.
Travel cards can be purchased from any London Underground station. You find pay-as-you-go sim cards for mobile phones from phone shops and some larger supermarkets.
When you view a property, pay attention to the general condition of the building to see whether the landlord has looked after the property. Ask any questions you may have and think about whether you would feel safe walking home through the area at night.
Don't feel pressurised into signing anything immediately. Go away after your viewing, take time to think about it and arrange another visit if necessary.