Got a late uni place? Here's how to get your housing sorted
When you're looking for a university place in either Clearing or Adjustment, your chosen course isn't the only thing to think about.
Because you’ll be getting your uni place confirmed quite late on, you won't have already applied for accommodation. So, before you get prepped for an amazing fresher’s week, you’re going to need to sort out somewhere to lay your head.
Do your research
That means some quick research, says Kathy Carruthers, head of student housing and welfare student services at University of Gloucestershire. "It's usually best to check the university website first, in particular the dedicated Clearing web pages," she says.
"These should give an indication of what accommodation options are available and whether halls accommodation is guaranteed for you."
If you’re lucky, your uni will guarantee you a place in halls. Even if they can't provide that guarantee, many students will find their uni is still able to find them a halls place.
You can double-check this once you start phoning around universities, by asking whether accommodation is available. You'll then be clear on how to get a place in halls - or whether you'll instead need to find out about private halls or a shared house.
Getting your place
Once you've got a Clearing or Adjustment place confirmed, your best bet is to get your accommodation sorted quickly.
"See if you can apply straight away," says Kathy. "If in any doubt, call the university's accommodation office or its Clearing hotline.
"They will be able to tell you the best way to get an application in and confirm what accommodation you can apply for. There's a good chance halls will be available if you are interested so make sure you ask."
If availability is really tight, you may find yourself being put on a waiting list. In this case, timing is again really important. Getting on the list sooner rather than later is key.
When staying in halls, you won't normally get a say in who you share with. But if you later find your building or flatmates aren’t for you, check with your university about room-swaps. All year round, there will be a list of students who want to swap rooms.
If your university can’t house you directly, they may block-book space in private halls or be able to recommend you trusted landlords.
"Most universities will have an approved housing list either through the accommodation teams or the student union," says Kathy.
"Get in touch with the university so they can point you in the right direction and let you know about all the options available. Make sure you take advice and support from the university accommodation teams if you have any queries about contracts, locations or prices - they are there to help!"
Private halls are run by private companies; they're a good alternative, especially if university halls are full. Some large private hall companies include Unite Students, CRM Students and Fresh Student Living, though there will also be smaller and individual private halls available.
Private halls are typically a little more expensive than university halls, but you can expect a new-ish building with good security and lots of amenities. They'll often have a central location - but it's worth checking exactly where yours is situated before you sign up.
Shared house (private renting)
A shared house is just a normal house that a group of students rent from a landlord. Usually everyone has one bedroom each, and then shares the bathroom, kitchen and lounge.
The quality of shared houses varies wildly and the rental cost often has very little relation to how nice the house is. Don't believe everything you see on the online listing - photos can be years out of date and taken at selective angles, so it’s essential to view the house before you rent it.
Our Find a Flatmate forum is a good place to start looking for a private rental. You can also check sites such as Gumtree, Rightmove and Spareroom. Ask local letting agents – often they will be aware of spare rooms in shared houses that their tenants are looking to fill. Most importantly, ask your uni’s private sector housing service. They will have comprehensive knowledge of the local rental market that they can share.
Private landlords will request a deposit (usually a month’s rent) and will often need a guarantor. There may be additional admin fees involved as well, especially if you're going through an agency.
Once you’ve signed a tenancy, it can be difficult to get out of your contract; you'll be obliged to pay the rent for the duration of the period you signed up for. This is an important consideration – if you don’t like your room or housemates you won’t be able to easily switch. Or, if you decide the course isn’t right for you and you drop out, then you’ll have no income from student finance but might still have to pay your rent if you’re anywhere other than uni halls. So make sure you understand your tenancy agreement and what your options are if you change your mind.
The advantages of shared houses are that they usually work out cheaper than private halls (but do bear in mind that you’ll be paying rent for 52 weeks a year, and bills often aren’t included) and you’ll typically get a larger room (with a double bed!). On the downside you will have a smaller group of people to get to know, and if they’re second or third years, then they will already have established friendship groups.
If you're keen to find out more, check out some of the community's tips for having a happy tenancy and renting.
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