Private rented housing for students usually gives you the same rights as any other private tenant, but your rights will vary depending on the type of housing.
Rights in private rented accommodation
Students who live in private rented accommodation have the same rights as any other private tenant.
Private landlords can provide different types of tenancies, but in most cases you are an assured shorthold tenant.
You have different rights if you are a lodger in your landlord's home.
If you share with others, you might live in a house in multiple occupation which may have to be registered and meet certain safety standards.
Use Shelter's tenancy checker to check what your renting arrangement is.
Finding somewhere to live
Some places are rented directly from the landlord and some are rented through a letting agency. There are lettings agencies which specialise in finding accommodation for students. Your college or university may have a list of approved landlords and letting agencies, available from a student accommodation office or student's union.
If you use a letting agency, you usually need to register with them before they offer you any accommodation. You can register with more than one letting agency at a time and they should not charge you for registering. All letting agencies should give you clear information about their charges before you agree to take up a tenancy. Shop around as these fees can vary.
Choosing the right place
The quality and price of privately rented accommodation varies. Always go and see the accommodation and read any paperwork involved before you agree to move in or sign any written agreements.
You may be asked to pay a tenancy deposit as security against damage and may be asked to provide a guarantor. This is usually a parent or guardian who promises to pay the rent in case you default or are unable to pay.
Don't hand over any money until you're sure what it's for and always get a receipt.
If you're not sure about any aspect of your agreement as a tenant or guarantor, get advice before you sign. Speak to a student adviser or use our directory to find an adviser in your area.
Find out more about finding place to rent.
Paying a tenancy deposit
For most tenancies you need to pay a tenancy deposit to your landlord. This is to cover any damage you may cause or if you don't pay your rent.
When you pay a deposit, make sure that your landlord protects the money in an authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme.
Student shared houses
Many students prefer to share flats or houses with friends. You may be able to get more for your money if you are sharing and are able to split the cost of the bills.
Whoever you are sharing with, be sure to set some ground rules, and agree whose name the rental agreement and bills are in. You could also ask that everyone's name is on the utility bills, so that you are all equally responsible.
Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
Flats and houses that are shared with other people who are not partners or relatives are called houses in multiple occupation (HMO).
Your home must be licensed by the local council if it is on at least three storey, and contains five or more people. The landlord can only get a licence if the correct fire safety measures are in place and there are adequate cooking and washing facilities.
If the property is licensed as an HMO, this also means the communal areas and the shared facilities should be kept clean and in good repair.
Living as a lodger in your landlord's home
Lodgers typically rent a room in the same house or flat as their landlord. Your landlord might be the owner of the property, or might themselves be a tenant subletting to you. In either of these situations, if you share any accommodation with your landlord and share facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen, you are an excluded occupier.
Being an excluded occupier means that you have few rights and can be evicted very easily. Your landlord only has to give you 'reasonable notice' when asking you to leave. This notice may only be verbal and it doesn't have to be for any particular length of time. After the notice period has ended, your landlord can evict you without a court order.
Repairs, health and safety in rented accommodation
The home you rent should be safe to live in and free from hazards.
Your landlord is responsible for most repairs, but you have responsibilities to keep the place clean and do minor repair tasks such as changing lightbulbs and unblocking sinks.
Report repairs to your landlord as soon as possible.
Your landlord is always responsible for gas safety.
Responsibility for the rent when sharing as joint tenants
If you are joint tenants and have all signed the tenancy agreement, you are all responsible for paying the rent.
When one person doesn't pay their share, the others may end up having to pay that person's rent.
When students don't have to pay council tax
You don't have to pay council tax if all of your flatmates are students or you are a student living alone.
You must tell the council you are all students so you can claim a council tax exemption. You usually need to get a certificate or a document from your college or university to show to the council.
If you are a lodger living with your landlord, your landlord is usually responsible for paying council tax.
Many letting agents and landlords ask for a third party, usually a parent or guardian, to guarantee that a student's rent is paid and to accept liability for the cost of damage caused during a tenancy. This is often in addition to the payment of a tenancy deposit. If the student defaults, the guarantor risks picking up the bill.
Guarantor forms supplied by letting agents or landlords may be worded in such a way that, for joint tenancies, a guarantor may risk being held liable for the unpaid rent of their son or daughter's flatmates. Because joint tenants are all jointly and individually responsible for paying the rent, if one tenant moves out without paying their share, the others may be held responsible for it.
To limit the liability of a guarantor, make sure the guarantor's written agreement clearly sets out each of these details:
- the name of the person whose rent is being guaranteed
- the start and end dates the agreement applies to
- the precise amount guaranteed, rather than a general commitment to pay an outstanding rent liability
If the guarantor form supplied is not clear on these points, the letting agency or landlord may agree to accept an amended form or a more suitable alternative form supplied by a student accommodation office, student union or housing adviser.
Potential guarantors may wish to seek advice from a housing adviser, or make use of legal services available through any legal insurance cover provided under home insurance, union or employee benefits.
Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your area.
Don't be caught out by rental scams. These often involve fraudsters advertising a property for rent that either doesn't exist or has already been rented out. They will try to trick you into paying an upfront fee and then disappear with your money.
Students are often targeted by these scams. Make sure you or someone else has seen the property before paying a deposit, or at least make sure that the person advertising it is genuine.