Private Sector Accommodation
The No.1 Rule
Finding the perfect private sector student accommodation doesn’t have to be a chore. But it’s really important that you don't rush into it - this is the number one rule! You are signing for up to 12 months and it can be costly if you decide to leave the contract early. One in eight students sign a contract to the first house they view.
Find Approved Accommodation
USW has its own free student accommodation search engine. Studentpad lets you search for private sector student houses, flats and lodgings in South Wales and the UK. We have checked that all these properties are properly licensed (where necessary), have the relevant health and safety documents and are accredited with Rent Smart Wales.
We also support the Treforest Property Accreditation Scheme, which has been launched to raise the quality, amenity and management of student housing and these are highlighted on Studentpad with a star rating.
Rental agencies can be an easy way to search for a house but they usually hold administration fees and you are not guaranteed to find better accommodation just because you find it via an agency.
Look for rental agencies that are accredited. When applying in Cardiff keep an eye on Cardiff Digs, which holds a list of student friendly landlords and letting agents for this area.
Essential Reading Before Renting
Depending on the time of year that you find suitable accommodation, the landlord may request a retainer in order to book the room until you move in at the start of the Academic Year.
For example, if you find a room in July, the landlord will want financial assurance that you will turn up to occupy the room in September. This money is usually non-refundable and can vary from around £100 to £200.
2. Is the property licensed?
Many houses of multiple occupancy require a license. This is to ensure that the property meets minimum legal safety standards set by the government and enforced by the local authority.
As a general guide, any property with 5 or more students living in it should have a HMO License. All houses that are registered with the University must submit a copy of their HMO License and other safety documentation before they can be listed student pad.
3. Gas and Electrical Safety Certificates
You should also check whether the property you are viewing has a Landlords Gas Safety record and NICEIC Electrical Inspection Certificate.
The gas safety record should be displayed in the property and should indicate that any gas appliances (such as gas cooker and gas central heating system) are safe. The Electrical certificate is similar and should indicate the electrics in the property are safe.
This is an amount held against any damage to the house during the tenancy. This deposit is refundable less any deductions for any damages.
It is advisable to point out any existing damage and ensure that there is an accurate inventory to the landlord as soon as you move in. New Government legislation indicates that from April 2007 Bonds are held in accordance with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
The rent varies considerably and prices are an average of £49 per week for a single room excluding fuel bills. The landlord would expect payment in advance, usually per term. Some landlords require a UK Guarantor (usually a parent or guardian) to countersign the contract. This means they hold joint responsibility for paying the rent if you default!
6. Utility bills
Landlords request different methods of payment e.g. equal share of quarterly bills, token meter etc. Tenants in the property may be required to pay an equal share and are equally responsible for the bills. It is best to establish a method of payment at the beginning of the contract.
It is good advice to take meter readings as soon as you begin your tenancy to monitor fuel bills. This avoids any ambiguity or confusion at a later date when settling any outstanding bills. Other bills may include telephone.
There is no charge for Council Tax if the property is solely occupied by students but you will need to provide your landlord with a Council tax exemption certificate which are available from academic registry after enrolment in order to ensure your exemption.
It is recommended that a written contract, clearly outlining the terms and conditions of the tenancy, is exchanged. Do not sign anything without reading it very carefully and without fully understanding it as the contract is a legally binding document.
In some cases where a contract has not been provided it is important to be aware that a verbal contract is still legally binding on both parties and you still have statutory rights.
It is useful for both landlord and tenant to know what furnishings are at the property at the beginning of the tenancy and to agree their condition.
If the landlord has not provided a list of contents, it is advisable to request that one be compiled. This should be used as a checklist at the termination of the tenancy.
Further information and advice can be found in our Housing Advice Guide (PDF).
9. Rent Smart Wales
As part of the University’s commitment to ensuring our students are provided with good quality, well managed accommodation, the University of South Wales requires all registered landlords to become accredited with Rent Smart Wales, in compliance with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. .
Rent Smart Wales is the Licencing Authority under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and processes registrations and grants licences to landlords and agents who are required to comply with the Act.
Please visit https://www.rentsmart.gov.wales/en/about/ for further information.
Deciding who to live with
Deciding who to live with is the most important step, you are most likely going to live with fellow students you've met through halls, on your course or through university activities and societies.
You can be living with close friends but may be at each others throats within a month over who hasn't done the cleaning up. Everyone comes with bad habits and learning to deal with them can ease tension in the household.
Finding a place to live
If you are applying late for university or need to find a place immediately you can look online to find other students advertising a spare room in their house. You can view a property and meet up with them first to make sure you get on!
These can be found on the University's official search engine: south wales student pad. Note: This is the only place to find University Accredited Landlords.
Deciding to live alone
If sharing a shower or living space is something you don't want, then there are flats available to rent around the area for people wanting to live alone and under their own terms.
Shop around for these to find the best price, it is always cheaper to split the rent of a house with a group of people than live alone but if you feel you can afford this then keep an eye out for notices around the area, online or estate agents. Always view these flats - some landlords will create cheap student flats to make the biggest profit at the cost of quality to the living space and amenities.
Plan for your house
Try and make a list of needs and wants for the house you are looking for, if you are with a group plan this together and find somewhere similar you all agree on.
Do you want a communal area to relax, are there enough facilities for the amount of people you are living with and where would you best like to live. By doing this it makes it easier to search for the place you want.
Decide what you want, what nearby that you want? Is it close to the bars, shops, public transport that you may need to take every day? All this can be handy and should be decided during the planning stage.
Safety is also something to be considered, would you feel safe walking through or to the area during night time? Finally, is it right for you? Is it quiet or lively. Living close to the university might seem great but if it's near all the bars be prepared for some noisy nights.
Always view a property before signing
A house may sound perfect on paper and look amazing online that you may want to sign up as soon as possible so no one else will take it while you decide, but it could be plagued with problems so always view a property before signing a contract as once you sign, it’ll be difficult to back out when you find out the house is full of issues within weeks of living there. You may find it useful to refer to our Moving House Checklist.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, sometimes a question that may sound stupid is one that can help in the decision making process such as, is all the furniture on show included? A nice comfortable leather sofa and double beds may be a selling point to you when viewing a property but by the time you move in they have been replaced with uncomfortable chairs and old single beds, or sometimes nothing at all.
Ask about rent
At the end of the day it all comes down to money, always ask how much it will cost to live there, on average rent is around £50 a week excluding any bills. If the price is higher than this ask if the rent includes any of the bills such as water and then do some math to see if this is saving you money or not.
Landlords will sometimes hike up their prices and say it includes some utilities and appliances around the house as a selling point but you could still be getting ripped off. This may seem easier but you could be paying more per week than paying rent and bills separately. There are rent calculators online that can help do the math towards all this.
Are there any problems
During the viewing as well as looking at the rooms you are also looking to see if there are any problems. Do you notice any of the paint or wallpaper flaking? Are there black mould patches around? Is there a musky smell? All these are signs of damp and can be hazardous to your health.
There may also be problems of infestation so look if there are traps around, are there any droppings or slug trails? Landlords will try and cover these up to rent the house to you under a long contract so keep a lookout before you sign the contract.