Moving to London as a student? Congratulations! Now you need to get a room. It sounds obvious, but perhaps you got scored a class spot through Clearing, but all on-campus halls of residence are full. Maybe you missed out due to the ratio of students to rooms. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help.
London is the UK’s largest student market, and according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of international students doubled between 2016 and 2018. If you’re one of those aspiring international students, you might also want to check out our guide to SIM cards in London—nobody wants to arrange a new flat (or classes) without mobile data!
Off-campus options can be pricey, but before you despair at the eye-watering cost of ‘luxury’ private student halls that will require a second loan (circa £200.00–£300.00 per week—ouch!), read our handy guide to affordable London student accommodation.
But first, you’ve got a few big decisions to make. Primarily, where you want to live, how long you plan to live there, and who you’re going to live with. Read our guide to London’s most affordable areas for help with that. Next comes the tricky part of actually finding your next home. From checking your rights to actually finding a place to stay, the links and advice in this guide should be enough to triumph over anything the London rental market has to throw at you!
Short-term vs long-term
The big advantage of term-time-only accommodation is you’re not paying rent over summer. That said, finding a good house share and hanging around during the holidays can take headache out of moving in and out each year. Most tenancy agreements will not allow you to sublet, so if you’re vacating the place for any length of time, you’ll probably be paying for that empty room yourself.
Spend some time with a map
London is massive, you’ll probably want to find a place close to campus if you can. Your timetable might mean long gaps between lectures and seminars during which you can head home if you need to. And of course, it’s good to be close to social events, clubs and societies. Weigh up whether moving farther afield will be worth the additional travel time and costs. No one enjoys the tube that much!
There are plenty of affordable neighbourhoods to check out, particularly if you have 3–4 others to share with. If your campus is in central London, moving a bit farther out starts to make sense.
Student-specific rental (and how to find it)
Consider whether you want to live as part of a student community, or whether you’re open to staying in mixed accommodation. For new students, campus life is the more sociable option and a chance to make new friends more easily.
A lot of student places might well include bills, which makes the rent a little less painful. But if you’re a returning student, or prefer a quieter place to rest and study, halls of residence might not be your cup of tea.
If you’re looking for private rented accommodation as a student, start by getting a list of approved landlords and estate agents from your university. They’ll have a good idea of the landscape—which should filter out the dodgy landlords out there.
Unlike halls, your private rental agreement won’t necessarily be just for the academic year, so consider if you’re likely to want to have a base during the summer or other holidays periods.
You’ll rent under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), usually for a fixed term of 6 or 12 months, but some roll monthly after the initial period.
Before you move in, your landlord must:
- Have a mains smoke alarm in the building
- Provide gas safety certificates (usually to cover boilers and/or gas appliances)
- Provide an Energy Performance Certificate rating of at least E
House or flat shares where everyone is a full-time student are exempt from Council Tax, but if someone is a part-time student or you’re in a mixed share with some people who work, you’ll receive a bill. You might still qualify for a discount though, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Useful sites for student-specific rentals:
One of the bigger student specific sites out there, Uniplaces has thousands of options, and a few handy tools and filters to help you find the right pad.
The most obvious ways to filter your results are by area and price. But you can also choose to live exclusively with other students, as a lodger, or with professionals. There’s also options for women and men’s only dorms. If you’re craving the American college experience, you can even save a few quid by sharing a room.
Average costs from: £100.00+ per week
2. Accommodation For Students
This site acts as a search engine for different types of accommodation. You can filter by location, budget and type of housing. It’s also a good place to find housemates.
How to sign up: You don’t need to sign up to get started—just type in your search. You can also use it as someone looking for a room or to find someone for a room in your student house. Featured properties usually state whether bills are included too.
Other features: There are decent guides covering most student accommodation issues. From everyday stuff like finding the right housemate and budgeting to more technical topics, like understanding your tenancy and dealing with difficult landlords.
Average costs from : £150.00 per week (including some bills)
Studentpad also filters by accommodation type, availability and budget.
How to sign up: It’s search-based accomodation for students, but has a cleaner search interface. Handily you can also filter by university as well as city.
Other features: The site includes guides for housing, freshers and international students too. There is also a list of associated UK universities and some useful blogs on general student life, not just accommodation.
Average costs: £100.00+ per week.
A popular property search website with plenty of student listings.
4. Student Stay
A listings site that also includes private rental and homestay options.
Average costs from : £130.00+ per week.
5. Shelter’s tenancy rights checker
A simple, questionnaire-style guide to where you stand legally as a tenant.
Living with non-students
Widening the search beyond student-only sites seems to yield a better bang for your broke-buck, so it’s worth taking a look at those as well.
Short-term lets are also a decent option if you’re only coming to London for a semester, rather than a full academic year.
Useful sites for living with non-students:
A short-stay (1-12 months) Airbnb-type accommodation marketplace with a decent student accommodation section, but they cater to young professionals as well.
Shared housing is by far the cheaper option than halls.
How to sign up: Sign up with your email or Facebook account, then fill out a form with your preferences. You can also filter between shared flats, family homes, student halls or a full apartment (though, let’s face it your budget extends to that then this article isn’t for you!). Most featured accommodation appears to be inclusive of bills too, which is a huge bonus.
Other features: Live chat if you need some advice during your search, and an interesting blog with neighbourhood guides, articles on living and working abroad and student life.
Average costs: £160.00–£200.00 per week (including bills)
2. LHA London
A registered charity providing affordable accommodation in Zones 1 and 2 to students and working people. It’s hostel-style accommodation, where you can stay for the long (max 4 years) or short term. The deposit is one week’s fee and £30.00 key deposit. LHA have a mix of self- catered and catered and have dormitories, single rooms and shared rooms.
How to sign up: Fill out a booking form and search by university or postcode.
Other features: All accomodation has 24/7 security, and a contents insurance policy.
Average costs: £88.00–£274.00 per week
Finding a homestay programme
If you’re new to the UK as well as London, and you want somewhere calmer to lay your head, and hit the books, this might be the option for you. Hosts include families, couples and professionals, offering rooms in their own homes. The goal is to encourage cultural exchange, and there are self-catered and catered options.
Be sure to use accredited providers.
Useful sites for finding homestays:
1. London Homestays
How to sign up: Apply via an online form and you should start receiving host matches within 24-48 hours. London Homestay manages the communication with the host families until you’re booked in.
Other features: Homestays are also open to interns and trainees as well as students.
Average costs: £125.00–£180.00 per week
2. HFS London
This site specialises in providing homestays for international students and interns.
How to sign up: Fill out an online application. Once that’s processed you’ll receive some host profiles to look through. HFS will act as a go-between, connecting you with your preferred hosts.
Other features: Area guides and meal plans are also available on their site (but hey, why not check for one of ours first?)
3. Britannia Students
This site specialises in all kinds of student accomomodation, dealing in house shares, campus rooms and homestays.
How to sign up: Fill out an enquiry form and read through the terms and conditions.
Other features: Price bands vary between room size, Zones of London (so Zone 4 is cheaper than Zone 2) and board type—which can be B&B, half-board or self-catering.