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How much does student accommodation cost?

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Written by  David McDermottroe
Updated: 05 Feb 2024

More goes into the cost of student accommodation than rent payments, and for students that may be living away from home for the first time there is a lot to learn. We'll tell you all about what goes into to the cost of staying in student accommodation.

Embarking on the journey of higher education is a pivotal moment in many young adults' lives. For most, attending university marks the first significant step towards independence, living away from the familial nest. This newfound freedom comes with its own set of challenges, as students grapple with managing academic workloads, budgeting their student loans, and navigating the often complex world of accommodation costs. Whether opting for university halls or venturing into private rentals, the financial implications vary widely depending on factors such as location and the type of property chosen.

How much is student accommodation?

The cost of student accommodation is a pressing concern for many, with the average annual expense in the UK reaching £7,374. However, this figure can soar to £9,488 for those studying in London, as reported by the National Union of Students (NUS) and Unipol survey. This article aims to shed light on the average rent students can expect to pay, additional budgeting considerations, and valuable tips for saving money on accommodation.

How much students pay for accommodation

University accommodation fees are not one-size-fits-all. They can range from basic to luxury, each offering a different set of amenities and, consequently, varying price points. The NUS and Unipol release data every three years on the cost of student accommodation, and the the latest survey from 2021-2022 showed that prices had risen by 4.4% annually. It also showed the average price of renting university-owned accommodation was £6,593 while a direct let from a private company was £8,002 per year.

A more recent survey from 2023 shows that the average monthly rent for students is £535, which totals £6,420 over a year. However, this average masks the significant regional variations across the UK. For instance, the monthly rent in London is a steep £633 (£7,596 annually), while Yorkshire is more affordable at £550 per month (£6,600 annually). Northern Ireland emerges as the most economical option, with an average monthly rent of just £319 (£3,828 annually). With the average maintenance loan sitting at £485 per month, it's clear that this financial aid often falls short of covering accommodation costs, leaving students to seek additional support from family or part-time employment.

Private sector accommodation

When it comes to private sector rentals, students typically deal with a landlord or estate agent. These arrangements usually come with a higher price tag compared to other accommodation types. After their first year, most students transition to private rentals, which, according to Save the Student, average £523 per month or £6,276 annually. This is in contrast to university-owned accommodation, which costs about £592 per month (£7,104 annually), and private student accommodation, which is slightly higher at £596 per month (£7,152 annually).

The survey also revealed that 46% of students choose private rentals, 20% stay in university accommodation, 15% live with their parents, and 12% opt for private halls.

What other costs are involved in student accommodation?

While university-owned accommodation may bundle some bills into the rent, private rentals typically require students to handle additional expenses separately. It's crucial for students to budget for food, utility bills, TV licence, insurance, and potentially council tax.

How much will a deposit cost?

The initial financial hurdle for many students is the accommodation deposit. In the private sector, this can range from four to six weeks' rent, whereas university-owned options may require less. Importantly, deposits must be protected in a Government-approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receipt. Although most tenancy fees have been abolished, students should be aware of potential charges for late rent payments, lost keys, or early contract termination.

Bills and utility costs

The cost of bills can vary significantly based on location, accommodation type, and service provider. In shared accommodations, it's common for roommates to split these costs. To give you an idea, here's a breakdown of average monthly utility costs: Energy (£85), Water (£37.3), TV (£38.22), and Broadband (£33.99), amounting to a total of £194.51.

Students are exempt from council tax

A notable financial relief for full-time students is the exemption from council tax, provided their course meets certain criteria regarding duration and study hours. Houses occupied solely by full-time students are exempt from council tax, while mixed households may be eligible for a 25% discount. It's important for students to apply for this discount through their local council to benefit from the exemption or reduction. If some people in the property are not full-time students, there will still be a council tax bill to pay but the home may qualify for a 25% discount. You need to apply for a council tax discount in both of these scenarios, which you can do on the Gov.uk website.

How to bring down the cost of accommodation

Balancing a part-time job with academic commitments can be a viable solution for students looking to offset accommodation costs. University websites and local recruiters are good resources for finding part-time work opportunities tailored to students. International students should note that they are typically allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time, subject to the conditions of their visa.

Universities also offer support and can provide information on grants and funds available to students facing financial hardships.

What kind of insurance may a student need while in term?

It's essential for students to consider protecting their belongings with student contents insurance, which covers everything from clothing and books to mobile phones and laptops. However, before purchasing a new policy, students should check if they are already covered under their parents' home insurance or if their student bank account includes contents insurance as a perk.

How to get cheap student accommodation

To reduce accommodation costs, students should start their search early and utilize university-approved housing lists. Opting for shared homes, documenting property conditions upon move-in, and considering living further from campus (while taking travel costs into account) are all strategies that can lead to significant savings. Additionally, Insurance can be a critical consideration for those renting in the private sector, providing peace of mind and protection for personal belongings.

Embarking on your university journey requires careful financial planning, particularly when it comes to accommodation. By understanding the costs involved, exploring all available options, and taking proactive steps to manage expenses, students can make informed decisions that align with their budget and academic goals. With the right approach, the challenge of finding affordable student accommodation can be met with confidence and success.