Private Housing Rights For International Students

We know that being an international student comes with extra challenges, so at the SU we do our best to help you where we can. We have prepared this article full of key information to help you understand the complex process of private renting and to make sure you know your rights and keep safe.

We know that being an international student comes with extra challenges, so at the SU we do our best to help you where we can. We have prepared this article full of key information to help you understand the complex process of private renting and to make sure you know your rights and keep safe.

The Legal Stuff

Right to Rent

The law obligates landlords to check all tenants’ right to rent in the UK. This involves taking copies of your passports and visa documents to be sent for checks, which can take a few weeks. These checks can usually be done on the same day for UK residents as it usually just involves seeing their passport. Keep in mind this difference in processing time, if you are in a group with British students.

British Bank Account

You will need to have opened a British bank account in order to set up a standing order for your rent to be automatically paid out of your account each month.

Deposit Protection Schemes

The landlord, or an agency, must protect security deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme unless they’re a resident landlord. This helps ensure that you get back what you're entitled to at the end of the tenancy.  

Guarantors

Guarantors must be UK residents and be able to complete a reference check. They are expected to pay the money you owe if you cannot.  As most international students cannot obtain guarantors, agencies often ask them to pay 3-6 months rent in advance. 

If you don’t have a guarantor, you can look at the following services and make an enquiry/application:

The above companies will act as your guarantor if you proceed with them. They do charge a fee for this service.

If you are unable to afford the arrangement fee that these companies require, you can apply for our Study Support Grant to reimburse these costs to you.

You’ll be required to confirm that you are unable to secure a guarantor for this academic year. You will also need proof of payment for the arrangement fee so that you can be reimbursed for these costs.

You can check your eligibility by contacting Financial Wellbeing.

Be Safe

  • Remember, you are not supposed to pay any money until you are ready to sign. 
  • Make any payments by bank transfer and not in cash. 
  • Do not sign before viewing.
  • Do not attend viewings alone.
  • Get your contract checked at the Advice Centre by emailing them with the subject ‘contract check request’.

Costs

To sign a private housing contract you will need:

  • Security deposit (max 5 weeks’ rent)
  • First month’s rent in advance (3-6 months’ rent in advance for students without UK guarantors)

Living in Private Accommodation

Living in private housing gives you a lot more freedom than in Halls, but before you’re tempted to plan loud after-parties, we strongly recommend you read the University’s Be A Good Neighbour Guide to avoid problems with the University’s misconduct team. Misconduct in the community can have consequences at university and with your visa, so make sure you understand the rules. If you get into trouble for misconduct, get in touch with our Advice Centre for guidance and support through the process.

Heating and Ventilation

Lack of ventilation, condensation, and leaks can cause damp and mould which is harmful to your health. Wipe away condensation and open the windows to regularly let outside air in.

If you are gone for a few days or more, the cold weather can freeze the water in the pipes, so you need to leave the heating on a low setting in autumn and winter.

Gardening

Find out who is responsible for the gardening according to your tenancy agreement. If it’s you, then the landlord must provide you with gardening tools. If the landlord is paying for professional gardeners, you need to find out when to let them into the garden.

Gutters, Drains, Sewers

You need to keep any reachable areas unblocked of leaves and rubbish to avoid flooding. You could be liable for flood damages if you are found to be neglectful.

Insurance

Your landlord’s insurance does not cover your belongings. Look at comparison sights for deals on contents insurance in case of loss, theft or accidents. Make sure you read the terms of such deals carefully and book an appointment with an advisor if you would like an explanation of how these insurance policies work.

Safety

Remember to always lock the doors when you are out, otherwise, both you and your landlord’s insurance could refuse to pay for your losses. Always report any theft or vandalism immediately to the police and landlord within 48 hours for insurance purposes.

If you are away from the property for more than a couple of days, let your landlord know so that he can check in on the house while you are away.

Jargon Buster

  • Contract/tenancy agreement – gives certain rights to both you and your landlord, for example, your right to occupy the accommodation and your landlord’s right to receive rent for letting the accommodation. Both you and your landlord have rights and responsibilities given by law.
  • Council tax – a local tax charged by the council; students are exempt, but most students will have to pay some council tax if their degree ends before the end of their tenancy agreement. Make sure you’re prepared for your first council tax bill by reading our Council Tax article.
  • Deposit deductions - money deducted from your security deposit before it's returned to you at the end of the tenancy. Only things that cost money can be deducted. For example, it's reasonable for your landlord to take money off your deposit to cover:
    • Damage to the property or furniture
    • Missing items that were listed on the inventory
    • Paying for cleaning because the property was left in a dirty condition
    • Outstanding rent owed by you or a joint tenant
  • Estate Agent – landlords’ representatives
  • Fine - a sum of money exacted as a penalty by a court of law or other authority.
  • Guarantor - as a young student, your landlord might require you to ask someone to act as ‘guarantor’ – to provide a guarantee that the rent will be paid. This means that if you fail to pay the rent one month, the landlord can legally call on your guarantor to pay up instead of you. It is illegal to charge you for a guarantor credit check.
  • Admin Fees – most admin fees are now illegal and you should not be asked for any before you move in.
  • Holding fees/holding deposit - this is a fee agents charge to guarantee the property to you and to stop advertising it. A holding deposit usually contributes towards the security deposit you pay when you move in. Legally this cannot be more than one week's rent.
  • Inventory – a document, which can be accompanied by photos, that documents the property, its contents and their condition. The tenant and landlord should both have their own copies. Two identical inventory reports are performed – one before the tenant moves in and another one when they move out. Other synonyms you might encounter are: move in/move out inventory, check-in/check-out inventory, schedule of condition, tenancy inventory, etc. It is illegal to charge you for the inventory for contracts starting after 1 June 2019.
  • Landlords – property owners
  • Rent in advance - this is rent upfront which is usually one month's rent in addition to your security deposit and any fees. By paying your rent in advance you'll always be paying rent for the month/s ahead. You might be asked to pay several months’ rent in advance if you’re an international student, or if you don’t have a guarantor.
  • Security deposit - the deposit acts as security against non-payment of rent or damage to the property. Legally this cannot be more than five weeks' rent.
  • Standing order - an instruction to a bank by an account holder to make regular, fixed payments to a particular person or organisation. Some landlords will ask you to set this up with your bank so your rent is automatically paid out of your account when it’s due.
  • Tenancy deposit protection schemes - the landlord or an agency, must protect deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme. This helps ensure that you get back what you're entitled to at the end of the tenancy.
  • TV Licence - a TV Licence is a legal permission to install or use television receiving equipment to watch or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV or live on an online TV service and to download or watch BBC programmes on demand, including catch up TV on BBC iPlayer.

More questions?

During term-time, our Advice Centre runs drop-ins on Zoom every Tuesday and Thursday 13:30-15:30, and in-person every Wednesday 13:30-15:30. You can find more information on our Events Calendar and can join the virtual drop-ins

Email an advisor if you need a different meeting time, or would prefer to get advice via email.

What Else is Happening?

We've got plenty of events running throughout Housing Week! Check out our campaign page for more events and blog posts.