Education in the UK attracts students of all sorts and it’s this exciting mix that makes academia in this country such an exciting place to be. However, there are some differences for international and mature students who are looking for accommodation outside of that provided by a university or college.
Guarantees – many landlords will require a guarantee from students before they agree to rent to them. If you’re moving into a property with a private landlord then you need to be prepared for this. Some landlords will accept one guarantee-less international student in a houseful of students with guarantees but some won’t. If you have a friend or relative in the UK willing to guarantee your obligations then that’s great but most of the time a guarantor overseas will not be accepted. This is because it’s difficult to pursue a guarantor in another jurisdiction.
Holidays – remember that UK colleges and universities normally have a three-month break over the summer and at least a couple of weeks over Christmas and Easter. If you’re not planning to return home then you may well be the only housemate living in your student house during that time.
Rent payments – you’ll need to make your rent payments directly to the landlord or the agent who is managing the property for the landlord. If you don’t have an English bank account then find out what the fees are likely to be for transferring the money from overseas, what the conversion rate will be and how long the bank transfer will take. You risk incurring charges for late payment if the rent doesn’t arrive on time. Remember also that you will need to pay a deposit and the first month’s rent up front and you will not be able to get the keys to the property until this is done.
Contracts – make sure that you read and understand the contract before you sign anything. You can ask the landlord or agent to explain any clauses that are confusing or take the tenancy agreement to your Student Union or International Students Office.
Housemates – bear in mind that it’s very different living with people for the first time as an 18 year old. That made sound patronising but it’s easy to forget! If you’re renting as a mature student then have a think about whether you really want to be in a house with younger students or whether it would be better to find your own place or to share with other mature students.
Council tax – if you are a full time student then you won’t have to pay council tax. A full time course lasts for one calendar or academic year for at least 24 weeks out of the year and requires at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time. If you’re part time then you might be required to pay council tax. However, if you’re the only person in the house who has to pay council tax you might be eligible for a single person discount.