Private rented housing for students

How to rent privately when you're at university or college. Check your rights around tenancy agreements, deposits, repairs and council tax.

How to find a rented property  

Ask your university or college for help to find somewhere to live.

You can also search online or use an agent who specialises in student lettings.

Some student landlords sign up to the National Code. They have to meet higher standards regarding conditions and management of the property.   

The quality and price of private rented housing varies. Visit the property if you can. Read any paperwork before you hand over money or sign a contract.

It can be very difficult to get out of a tenancy once you've signed an agreement.  

Don't be caught out by rental scams. Fraudsters sometimes advertise properties that don't exist or have already been rented out. They ask for an upfront fee and then disappear with your money. Students are often targeted by these scams.


Landlords and agents often ask student renters to provide a guarantor.

This is often a parent or family member who guarantees to pay your rent if you don't. 

They'll have to sign a guarantor agreement and may want to get their own legal advice before signing.

For example, a parent might be happy to guarantee your rent but may not want to do the same for other people you share with.  

Find out more about the responsibilities of a guarantor

Understanding your tenancy agreement

Most students who rent privately are assured shorthold tenants. You have the same rights as non-students in this type of tenancy.

Your rights are different if you're a lodger in your landlord's home.

Fixed term and periodic tenancies

Your tenancy agreement could be:

  • fixed term - for a set amount of time

  • periodic - a tenancy that rolls often on a monthly basis

Assured shorthold tenancies change to periodic tenancies at the end of a fixed term if you stay in the property but don't sign a renewal agreement.

Sole and joint tenancies

If you share your home with other people, you might be asked to sign a:

  • joint tenancy with the other people who live there

  • sole tenancy for your own bedroom with access to the shared areas

You're jointly responsible for the rent if you sign up for a joint tenancy. This means you are responsible for the full rent if one of you moves out or doesn't pay their share.

Ending your tenancy

You must end your tenancy properly when you leave or you could still be liable for rent.

Find out how to:

It can be harder to end a joint tenancy if you need to leave before the end of a fixed term contract.

Paying a tenancy deposit

You'll probably be asked to pay a tenancy deposit to cover things like unpaid rent or damage during the tenancy.

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy, your deposit must be protected in a scheme.

You should get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy unless the landlord has reasons to make deductions from it.

Ask for an inventory before you move in. Take photos and videos. This can help avoid disputes about return of the deposit when you move out.

Repairs and conditions in your home

The home you rent should be safe to live in and in good repair.

Your landlord must:

You're responsible for looking after your home, reporting any repairs and allowing access to your home for inspections. 

You're also expected to do small jobs like changing light bulbs or testing smoke alarms.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

You probably live in a house in multiple occupation if you share your home with at least 2 other people who aren't related to you.

All HMO landlords have additional responsibilities. For example, they must:

  • take certain fire safety precautions

  • get electrical installations checked every 5 years  

  • provide clean rooms and furniture at the start of the tenancy

  • keep outbuildings, gardens, boundary walls and fences are in good condition

  • make sure there are enough bins and arrangements in place for refuse collection 

An HMO must be licensed by the council if 5 or more people live there. Some councils require all HMOs to be licensed. 

Licensed HMOs have to meet additional health and safety standards.

Ask your local council if you're unsure whether your home should be licensed.

Responsibility for council tax

Your home is exempt from council tax if everyone who lives there is a full time student.

Get a document confirming your student status from your university or college and the the council that you're exempt if you get a bill.

Tell the council you're all students so they know the property's exempt. Get a document from your university or college to confirm your student status.

If you share with non-students

The council will issue a bill for the property but you shouldn't have to pay it.  

It's usually your landlord's responsibility to pay the council tax in the following situations:

  • the property has been built or adapted for use by more than 1 household

  • you each have your own separate agreement for your individual rooms 

  • you're a lodger who lives with your landlord

If the property is a self-contained flat or house and you have a joint tenancy, then the non-student tenants may have to pay the bill between them.

Find out more about council tax for students from Citizens Advice

Last updated: 27 November 2019

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