NSMW – What are the true costs of renting?

National Student Money Week starts today at the University of Northampton!

This year, our campaign  ‘Where I live’ is focussing on housing, including the typical costs of renting and what to think about when looking for a new house for next year.

If you’re in your first year and currently living in Halls, you’ll probably need to move out at the end of the academic year. Similarly, some landlords like to change their student tenants each year, so even if you love your house share now, check with your landlord sooner rather than later so you know if you need to start looking.

Assuming you need or want to move, here are some helpful pointers and tips to consider before diving in to your next commitment.

Don’t make a rush decision

Stop and take a breath. Although many students start looking for their next property early, you don’t have to take the first house you find. Take time to compare what’s available, and think about what the essentials are; do you want to live within 5 minutes’ walk from university, or are you willing to live further away? Do you want an inclusive rent (e.g. including gas/ electric, water), or would you prefer to pay separate bills? The Studentpad Housing Advice section can be useful here, as well as Save the Student’s Guide to viewing student accommodation.

Remember that very few student places will offer everything you want at the price you can afford to pay so a few compromises will be inevitable.

Also think carefully about choosing your housemates. You may already know who you’d like to live with, but living with your friends is not always straightforward – especially where money is concerned; further guidance can be found on the Guardian, Enterprise, and The Student Pocket Guide websites.

How much is your rent?

How much rent you pay will depend on a variety of factors, but location often makes a difference.

According to current housing vacancies on Studentpad, on average, rooms in Kingsley, Kingsthorpe and Semilong (£83.80 – £89.27 per week) tend to be cheaper than in the Town Centre or Abington (£101.29 – £106.72 per week). With utilities included, the cheapest average is £87.88 per week (Kingsthorpe) and most expensive £109.11 per week (Abington); without utilities, rent vary on average from £76.06 per week (Kingsley) to £90 per week (Town Centre).

Make sure you read any contract so that you know exactly how much you are due to pay in rent, whether this covers utilities, and when it is due to be paid (this will usually be monthly or termly).

What are the upfront costs?

You’ve found a house, decided who you want to live with, and you know how much the rent will be, now it’s time to check the upfront costs such as a deposit, and – if you go through an agency – admin fees.

Damage/security deposits usually equate to 1 month’s rent, payable at the very start of the tenancy to cover any damage during or at the end of the rental period, unpaid rent or other bills – on average, this is £300-350 per person. If you are offered an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the agent or landlord must place your Damage/Security deposit with an independent Tenancy Deposit Scheme registered with the government.  The deposit should be repaid to you promptly at the end of the agreement, unless you are in dispute with your landlord regarding rent arrears, or if the property is damaged.

Many agencies and some private landlords may charge additional admin fees of up to £200 per person. This charge covers setting up the rental agreement, the inventory, checking references and any other correspondence. This should only be charged once you have expressed an interest in a property.

If you are asked to pay anything else, check exactly what this is for. It is a legal requirement for landlords or agents to display exactly what they can charge you before, during and at the end of a tenancy so take your time to read through the small print. If this seems too overwhelming, ask someone you trust for a second opinion. Further guidance on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant can be found on Studentpad and Citizens Advice.

Other costs

From September 2018 onwards, the University will be based at the new custom-built Waterside campus, therefore you will need to consider how you will travel to University. To save money, we recommend that you take the subsidized bus service, cycle or walk as these methods are far cheaper than running a car.

Check to see whether you need a TV licence with this online guide.

Unfortunately, many student houses are targeted by burglars, so don’t forget insurance to cover your belongings including gadgets from theft or damage. With so many options available, shop around for the best deal; further guidance is available from Money Supermarket and Save the Student.

Usually, if all the residents in a student house are enrolled on full-time courses, they may be exempt from paying council tax. However, if one or more of the occupants is either not a student or is studying part-time, they may be liable. Find out more on the Citizens Advice site.

How to plan for your new house . . .

Before you sign up to anything, make a new budget to check that you can afford your new rent; useful sites include Brightside student calculator, Save the Student rent calculator, Money charity, Citizens Advice.

If your utilities are separate from your rent, don’t forget to include these within your new budget (allocate £20 per week as a guess until you get your first bill); further information can be found on Save the Student.  Apps like Splitswise can take the hassle out of splitting bills with your new housemates; for a fee, companies like Split the Bills will sort this out for you.

If you are not planning to live in the property during the summer (typically July – August), you may be charged a Retainer – this is usually 50-75% of the rent per calendar month. If you’re paying a retainer, you usually won’t be able to stay in the house over the summer, but you may be able to store some of your possessions there. But don’t forget to take any valuables (e.g. computer/ laptop, tablet, etc) home with you during holidays.

If you’re due to receive a University of Northampton Bursary, you may want to consider saving this towards your deposit. If you are a UK or EU students who is struggling financially, you may be eligible for support from the Financial Assistance Fund or EU Hardship Fund; students from care may also be eligible for additional support (eligibility criteria apply).

We hope that this guide helps you prepare your finances ready for your new home.

For further information on managing your money, see National Student Money Week (NSMW) page.

Further guidance on renting is available from the Private Sector section of the Student Hub, and if you have any funding queries, please speak to the Financial Guidance team.