Living in private accommodation for the first time and finally having your own place to call home, is a great experience and can make you feel more independent than ever. Choosing who to live with and decorating to your style are just some of the benefits but first, you need to find a place to move into.
If you are confused about tenancies, ResLife will be able to help you out. Remember, most private landlords operate under private residential tenancies but RGU and PBSA (purpose-built student accommodation) are likely to operate with short assured tenancies, which means they can continue to offer fixed-term lets to students which have a specified end-of-lease date. For further information on tenancies, visit Stevenson Marshall.
Ensure that you know what responsibilities you are taking on when it comes to being a tenant, for instance: paying the bills (and being liable for any unpaid ones), setting up accounts with service providers, monitoring and managing how much energy you use, and ensuring that all tenants contribute a fair share to both rent/bills and housework/chores. The sections below are common parts of the renting process you might want to get familiar with.
When it comes to property type, the world (or Aberdeen) is your oyster! You could get a room in a house, a 5-bed flat with your friends, a studio property just for yourself or even a 1-bed flat for you and your partner. However, they are all at different price points - It will come down to what you want, what your budget is and how many people you want to live with… if any! Make sure to check out multiple private renting websites and both the RGU website and Live Right Campaign. Check and compare what is on offer, as an estimate from 2019 prices, you could get: a room in a shared flat for £250pcm; a 4-bed flat with a group of friends for £1200pcm or £300pcm each; a studio flat for £400pcm and a one-bed flat for £450pcm.
Always view a property as pictures never tell the full story - inspect the property and actively look for flaws (check fittings, inspect appliances, and look for signs of pests, bugs, cracks and holes). Ask questions to the landlord/letting agency (and current tenants if possible) to find out how much the bills are and how energy efficient the property is. Take into consideration location, neighbourhood and neighbours! A property on the outskirts of Aberdeen may be cheaper but it may cost you double on transport, likewise a property in the centre might offer better nightlife but it could cost you sleep and rest during exams! Try to avoid picking the cheapest as a lower priced rental may cost you more (maintenance, bills, stress etc…) in the long run, and certainly don't choose a property just because you knew the last tenants, always choose based on research (renting a property is like wearing high heels, yes, your friend looked great in them, but would you? Can you walk in them? Are they safe?). Most importantly, DO NOT commit to anything until you are 100% sure - take your time and don't feel pressured to rush into signing without adequately checking the property. If you miss it, don’t worry, there will be another one.
Landlord/Letting Agency Registration
A private landlord needs to be registered with the council in order to be able to lease out a property; they are required by law to apply for registration, and operating whilst unregistered is a criminal offence. Check the Landlord Register and Letting Agent Register to see if they are registered. A letting agency must also adhere to the Letting Agent Code of Practice which details the standards expected of letting agents operating in Scotland. There are exceptions and some landlords do not need to register, for example a property in which the landlord themselves lives with their tenants would not need to register, for further information visit Shelter.
House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
If you are living in a shared house, it's likely that you are living in a HMO, which applies to any living accommodation occupied by 3 or more unrelated people, as their main or only residence, and who share kitchen and/or bathroom facilities. There are some exceptions but you can find whether you live in one at Shelter.A HMO landlord must have a licence which to ensure they are fit and proper to lease a property but also that the property itself is managed properly and meets certain safety standards. It is advised you become familiar with these standards so that you can tell if your landlord is meeting the standards. You can ask your landlord to find out whether they have an HMO licence or you can contact the council. If you think your landlord is not managing the property properly and not maintaining safety standards, then talk to your landlord and communicate the issue. If they disagree or refuse to act, then inform the council as the will be able to determine whether the landlord is failing to comply with HMO standards and can force the landlord to act.
A deposit is a sum of money (usually a months’ rent) you are asked to pay before the start of your tenancy and is held until the end of the tenancy. After the tenancy ends, the money is either returned (fully or partially) or not returned. Landlords are allowed to deduct reasonable amounts, for example: if you leave your tenancy with an unpaid bill then part of the deposit may be used to cover the cost. The landlord is legally required to put your deposit in a government approved deposit scheme and they must tell you which one they have used. This is done to protect the money and to ensure that any disputes over deductions can be resolved fairly. If you need further information, read our advice on deposits.
A landlord and/or letting agency might stipulate that you nominate a rent guarantor which is someone who can guarantee the rent is paid in the event that you are unable to. Students usually ask a person (parent/guardian) to take on this role and it is often required the guarantor be UK-based although some may accept an EU guarantor. Some landlords/letting agencies may waive the guarantor requirement if you provide a bigger deposit upfront but be careful as this is an advance rent payment and not a deposit so it won’t be protected by a deposit scheme. In the event you do cannot secure someone to be your guarantor, some companies provide guarantor services and whilst it is not ideal they might be a good alternative (ensure to check the T&Cs carefully). For further information, visit Citizens Advice.
PBSA (Purpose Built Student Accommodation)
PBSAs normally resemble up-market versions of university halls but you should think very carefully before signing a contract. PBSA contracts usually run longer and are likely more expensive per week than one with RGU, but that cost can give you state of the art facilities and communal areas and a great location. Usually utilities (gas, electricity and internet) along with contents insurance are included in the price. They also provide extra facilities like pool tables, a gym or even a cinema. However, student welfare and concerns are likely to be less important to PBSAs than to RGU. RGU may offer more leeway or flexibility if you don't get the grades to come or if you are dropping out (remember, once you have signed a PBSA contract, you will have to fulfil it). PBSAs are also not exclusively for RGU students so you could be staying with non-students or students from other unis - so you may meet more people but you could miss out on ResLife welfare support and a true fresher’s experience.
Finding accommodation can be difficult but try not to stress out! There are a lot of other people in the same situation as you, and you will all eventually find somewhere great to live! Visit the Live Right Campaign which aims to support students in finding safe, affordable accommodation while living and studying in Aberdeen, and where you can find ratings for local letting agencies, advice and tips on student accommodatoin, and also information on events such as the Live Right Housing Fair.
If you feel like you are getting nowhere and are really struggling, then accommodation advice is available on the RGU website (private accommodation, private student accommodation and RGU accommodation), by contacting the Accommodation Services Team and by getting in touch with ResLife.
Contact RGU:Union Advice and Support via the below links or via the chat-widget on this page, and to provide feedback on the service, please complete the Advice & Support Survey.