The University offer a wide range of accommodation on-campus for undergraduate and postgraduate students. You can read more about accommodation at the University, including the eligibility criteria, here.
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 what are the needs and expectations of the group.
A few ideas of points to discuss with perspective 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 – does 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!
Before searching for properties, read the Housing Guide produced by Kent Union and the Kent Hospitality, this is packed with information and tips on finding a property in Canterbury.
Where to start
We recommend you rent an accredited property, these can be found on the Home Stamp website. The landlords of these properties have voluntarily agreed to follow a code of conduct to ensure that their properties are managed properly and meet health and safety standards.
If you cannot find an accredited property there are alternative ways to find local properties.
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;
- The rent is a lot lower than for a similar property
- You are asked to pay the deposit before viewing the property.
- You are asked to transfer money via a transfer service to a friend of relative and then provide the landlord with the receipt. They can then attempt to withdraw funds using the transfer details on the receipt.
You can read more about scams here.
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. NUS has produced a short video on key points to consider when househunting (below) and a handy checklist of things to consider when viewing a property you’re thinking of renting.
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 or contact the Advice Centre. 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 about 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 find a replacement tenant.
- Contracts can be joint or individual. If it’s joint, you could be jointly liable for all your housemates 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.
Many contracts can be long and some are quite difficult to understand but, unfortunately, there’s no substitute for reading the contract carefully. Once you’ve found a place, we strongly recommend getting your contract checked by an adviser in the Advice Centre. Don’t feel pressured into signing before you’re ready, good landlords will let you take the contract and any guarantor forms away for at least 24 hours before you sign. Read more information from Shelter about rental agreements.
The NUS have produced a short video which covers some of the key things you need to consider before you sign a contract.
Many letting agents ask tenants to pay administration fees before, and sometimes during, a tenancy.
These may include;
- Administration fee
- Contract fee
- Reference fee
- Inventory check in/out fee
An agency cannot charge you to register with them, for a property list, or for showing you a property.
All letting agencies must display the fees they charge on their website and in their office. There are no caps on the amounts they can charge so if they are not affordable you are advised to look for alternative accommodation.
Paying a deposit (damages)
This deposit is usually paid to your landlord when you sign your tenancy agreement. It is a safeguard against any damages caused to the property beyond normal wear and tear. Deposits are usually 1 -1 1/2 months’ rent and payable by each tenant.
If you signed a tenancy agreement for an assured shorthold tenancy it is a legal requirement for your landlord to protect your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme 30 days after receiving it. If your tenancy is covered by the scheme and the landlord has not complied with the rules, you can enforce your rights under the Housing Act 2004, by applying to the County Court.
Read more about this on the Shelter website.
This is a sum of money paid to the landlord or accommodation agency to hold a property. You should only pay a holding deposit if you are certain that you want the property. If you agree to pay a holding deposit and then decide not to sign the contract, the landlord or agency will probably be entitled to keep the deposit.
Most landlords and agents will ask for a guarantor. This is someone who can guarantee that your rent will be paid and will accept liability of any costs if you do not pay them. Guarantors are usually your parents, a family member, guardian or friend.
You can find more information here.
Usually guarantors need to be resident in the UK so if you are an international student you may not have anyone in the UK to act as your guarantor. In these circumstances the landlord may ask you to pay more rent in advance.
To help students without a UK guarantor, the University has partnered with Your Guarantor to act as a rent guarantor for undergraduate students renting in the private sector. The scheme is discretionary and open to students who meet a set criteria (limit of 300 students). There is a cost to use the scheme. You can read more on the University's website here.
Inventories are a written record of the condition of the property and the items included with the property. They should accurately describe the condition of the property, the furniture, items included and the cleanliness of the property. It forms the basis for any deductions from your deposit for breakages, loss or damage.When you first move in you should check the inventory thoroughly making sure you make note of any mistakes or omissions. If there are any missing information let your letting agent or landlord know in writing (send photographs where relevant), as soon as possible.
If the landlord/ letting agent has not prepared an inventory then you should prepare one yourself (and include pictures) as soon as possible after you move in. Send this to the landlord and ask them to confirm receipt of the document. Keep copies of all correspondence as this may be useful if there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy.
When you move out of the property the landlord or agent should check the condition of the property against the ‘move-in’ inventory.
You can read more about inventories here.
If you are responsible for paying the bills for the property (gas, electric, water) you will need to arrange for the accounts for these to be transferred in to your names.
To do this you should;
- Find out who the suppliers are from the letting agent or landlord.
- Take meter readings on the day you move in.
- Contact the suppliers - provide your names and bank details for payment. Also give them the meter readings so they can accurately calculate your bill.
You may be able to save money if you switch supplier/s. Before you do you should check your tenancy agreement to see if there are any rules about switching. You can read more here.
When you move out you will need to call the utility companies again to close you accounts, provide the final meter readings and pay any outstanding balance (or claim a refund if you are in credit).
You will need a TV Licence if you want to watch or record any TV at the same time as it is being broadcast. Also one will be required if you want to download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand. This applies to any provider you use and any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.
You will need your own licence if you live in halls and watch TV in your room.
If you live in a shared house off campus and have a joint tenancy agreement you will probably only need one licence between the tenants.
You can find out if you need a TV license and how much this will cost here.
If a property is occupied entirely by full time students it is exempt from council tax. In order for the property to be exempt you must each get a certificate from Student Records and send it to the local council tax department. If you do not do this you will get a council tax bill. If you live with housemates who are not full-time students then some council tax will be payable by the tenants who are not full-time students. You can read more about council tax here.
If you are a PhD student you will usually only be eligible for council tax exemption during the maximum 4 year period of registration permitted by University regulations. If your studies continue beyond this period you may be able to apply for additional council tax exemption if your course end date was extended due to a period of intermission from your course.
It is normal for people living in a shared house to sometimes have disagreements because everyone is an individual with their own personalities. The key to living harmoniously is to respect each other and communicate effectively. Ignoring a problem will not help to resolve the issue so it is best to speak to your housemates to try to come to an agreement that will move the situation forward.
Damp and mould
Damp and mould can be an issue in many properties, particular as the weather gets colder. You may notice damp or mould patches on the window and the walls, or even on your clothes. Damp and mould is not always considered to be ‘disrepair’ so it is not always the landlords responsibility to sort it out. Figuring out what the problem is the key to determining who is responsible for fixing the problem. You can read more about mould and damp, and the action you can take, on Shelter's website here.
The landlord is responsible for most repair problems if you live in privately rented accommodation. However, it is up to you to report the problem to the landlord because if your landlord doesn't know about it, he or she cannot arrange for it to be fixed! So you should report a repair problem to the landlord or agent as soon as you notice them. If you report the problem over the phone, or in person, make sure you also put it in writing and keep a copy of the email or letter, in case you need this as evidence at a later stage. You can read more about reporting repairs, and what to do of your landlord won’t do the repairs, on Shelters website here.
Health and safety standards
All rented home must meet certain standards so they are safe to live in. It is the responsibility of the landlord to make sure that the gas appliances in your home are safe and checked regularly. You can find more information here. Similarly, the they have to check that the eletricial appliances and wiring are safe in your home. The landlord also has to make sure the furniture and furnishings are safe and fit for use. You can find more information about housing standards in private rented homes on Shelters website here.
If you have signed a fixed term contract and you want to leave early you will only be able to do so if there is a break clause in your contract or the landlord agrees to you ending the contract early. If your landlord does agree to end you contract early you will need to make sure you get this in writing, just in case there is a dispute later. The landlord is under no obligation to agree to end the contract early, they can insist that you pay the rent for the remainder of the contract. If you leave the property without the consent of your landlord you will still be liable to pay the rent for the fixed term.
You can read more on ending a fixed-term tenancy here.
Below is a short video the NUS have produced which covers some of the key rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.
When you move out of the property the landlord agent should check the condition of the property against the ‘move-in’ inventory. If the check-out inventory is scheduled to take place in your absence, make sure you carry out your own checks and photographs before you leave the property. It is the responsibility of the tenant to leave the property in the same state it was at the start, less wear and tear. If any repairs or cleaning are required this may be deducted from your deposit.
Call the utility companies to close your accounts, provide the final meter readings and pay any outstanding balance (or claim a refund if you are in credit).
For a small fee you can ask Royal Mail to redirect your mail to your new address - you can read more here. To save time, register with I Am Moving and they will notify their database of companies of your change of address free of charge.
Your landlord should return your deposit once your tenancy agreement ends, less any agreed deductions for damage to the property, cleaning costs or unpaid rent. It is common for tenants and landlords to disagree about deductions from a tenants deposit once the tenancy has ended. Find out how to get your deposit back on the Shelter website here.
Clean the property
You should leave the property in the condition which you move in, less fair wear and tear. Therefore, you will need to make sure you clean the property to a good standard, otherwise the landlord may use some of your deposit to have the property professionally cleaned.
If you would like to discuss a problem with your housing with an adviser please contact the Advice Centre using the contact details here.