Unfortunately, the University is unable to offer on-campus accommodation to all the students at the University so most students will need to look for a property off campus after their first year.
It is very important to choose your housemates carefully since some of the worst housing problems can arise from disputes between co-tenants. You need to be confident that, come September, you will still be on speaking terms with the people you are planning to share with!
A signed tenancy agreement is a legally binding document and once signed, it is not easy to get out of. Before committing to a property it is a good idea if everyone has a frank discussion about the needs and expectations of the group.
At the very least we suggest that you discuss the following with prospective housemates;
- Income - can everyone afford the property?
- Cleaning - what are everyone's expectations?
- General lifestyle - are you an early riser or a night owl? Will your timetable work with the others in the house?
- Noise - do you need a quiet living environment or do you like a sociable home-life?
- Length of tenancy - do some want / need to stay in the property over the summer?
Don't feel pressured into signing for a property before you're ready. There is plenty of good quality, affordable accommodation of all sizes to go around. The large number of students in Canterbury leads many to believe that there are not enough properties for everyone; this is a myth and in fact there is a surplus of rented accommodation in the area. Although we would advise you against leaving your search for off-campus accommodation until the last minute, neither would we advise you to rush out and sign up for the first place you see!
Where to start
Letting agents usually advertise their properties on the following websites;
Landlords may advertise their properties on the following websites;
You should be careful when looking for a property because some advertisements may not be genuine. Scammers will often target students who are likely to be new to renting and the area.
Spotting a scam or dodgy agent:
- The rent is a lot lower than for a similar property.
- You are asked to pay the deposit before viewing the property or they demand lots of money upfront.
- You are asked to transfer money via a transfer service to a friend or relative and then provide the landlord with the receipt. They can then attempt to withdraw funds using the transfer details on the receipt.
- You are asked to pay in cash only.
- Having nothing in writing and only operating on whatsapp - steer well clear!
You can read more about scams here.
Scams can also be reported to the Citizens Advice who should notify the police https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/reporting-a-scam/
Take your time and make sure that you have found a place that is, among other things, affordable, in good condition and in the right location.
What am I signing up to?
Most private student housing is let under an assured shorthold tenancy. You will have a different type of agreement if you rent from the University, or if you share accommodation with your landlord. To check what kind of agreement you have, use Shelter's tenancy checker The agreement will give you and your landlord certain rights and responsibilities. The law also gives you certain rights even if these aren't written in the agreement.
Key points to understand your responsibilities:
- Many contracts are for a fixed term. This means that if you leave the tenancy before the end date, you are likely to be liable to pay the rent until the end of the contract or you will need to find a replacement tenant.
- Contracts can be joint or individual. If it's joint, you could be jointly liable for all your housemate's rent and behaviour.
What is the difference between joint and individual tenancies? And why does this matter?
If you and your housemates each have separate agreements:
- you will have individual tenancies
- you will only be responsible for your individual rent
If you and your housemates sign one agreement:
- this will normally be a joint tenancy.
- all joint tenants are 'jointly and severally liable' for all the rent.
This means that if one of your housemates moves out, or doesn't pay, then your landlord can ask you and/or any of the other tenants to pay instead. If any court action is taken the landlord can take everyone to court.
Tips for avoiding problems with joint liability:
- Take your time to decide who you want to live with.
- Check that everyone can afford the rent.
- Make sure everyone is happy with the property, the area, and the other housemates, before you all sign.
- Check everyone is happy with the room they have in the property.
- Understand what you are signing and how much your portion of the rent is.
- Make sure any guarantor forms limit your guarantor's liability to your share of the rent only. (although there is some dispute whether this is legally binding)
- Sign together - if you sign first on one day and then others pull out, you could still be tied into the contract and left to foot the bill.
- If you're really unhappy with signing a joint contract, you can negotiate with the landlord to see if they will give you individual contracts instead.
Get more detailed information about joint tenancies from Shelter here.