Although it’s still four months away, the new academic year is slowly creeping up on us. Each year, one of the main questions we get asked by current and prospective students (and their families) is: ‘”When should we start looking for accommodation?’” followed by: ‘”When do we start?”
As an undergraduate in Birmingham, I’d already found my second year house within a couple of months of starting my degree. It was common for students to have already found somewhere to live by January; a whole nine months ahead of time. This is also a trend across many other university towns where there is an area perpetually occupied solely by students (such as the infamous, but nicer than it sounds, Selly Oak - also known as ‘Smelly Oak’ - in Birmingham).
The exception to this trend is London. With institutions spread across the capital, and a diverse mix of students, there is no specific area which is made up of a student majority. As such, landlords will rent to a mixture of tenants; for example, a group of professionals one year, a group of students the next, followed by a family the year after.
With notice periods in Assured Shorthold Tenancies usually being two months for both landlords and tenants, many landlords will not be aware that their tenants will be leaving until a month or two prior to the start date of the new tenancy. As a result, they will usually find that the majority of properties available in September will come onto the market in June, July or August. There’s nothing wrong with starting early, even if it’s just a few minutes spent browsing online every now and then.
This brings us to the trickier part. Often the more daunting subject to students is: “How do I find somewhere to live?” This is where the University of London Housing Services department steps in. As well as our database of accommodation, contract checking service, and legal advice appointments, we also run several events per year.
The biggest event in the calendar is our annual Housing Fair. This took place on Friday 5th May 2017. With roughly 2000 students from across our 30 subscribing institutions, and 55 exhibitors in attendance, the event is one of the biggest of its kind, and is an exciting start to the househunting season.
Filling out three large rooms in Senate House, it’s a huge event. It’s always a fantastic experience to see so many students in attendance, chatting to stalls and finding out more about what to expect. It’s a real mixture of exhibitors: private halls of residence; charitable halls of residence; private landlords; letting agents; charities and other useful organisations.
The fair is as inclusive as possible, to ensure that a fair mix of budgets and accommodation types are represented. Attendees have the opportunity to check out the different types of accommodation on offer, in order to make the right choice based on what suits them.
It wouldn’t be a university fair without the opportunity to pick up bags of freebies, and the London Housing Fair can rival any Freshers event when it comes to giveaways. As well as our own ULHS bags that all attendees received, provided by our Gold Sponsor, iQ Student Accommodation, students this year were greeted with stalls giving away candyfloss, hotdogs and even massages from professional masseuses (amongst many other things). Ever heard of a tote bag with one of your Instagram photos on it? We hadn’t either, but courtesy of one of the stalls, fair organisers James and Nic now have one to treasure for years to come.
The fair has now passed, but will be held again in early May next year. It’s only the start of the househunting season, so there’s still plenty of time to find somewhere to live in September. Following on from the Housing Fair, properties that are available for the summer onwards will continue to be added to our database throughout the summer. You can even set up property alerts to let you know when a new property matching your search criteria has been added.
University of London Housing Services remains open throughout the summer, and we can answer any questions you have. If you’re about to sign a contract, we also offer contract checking appointments, during which we can check that your contract doesn’t contain any hidden surprises and to explain your rights and obligations as a tenant. On the rare chance that you face any issues during your tenancy, our Housing Advisors also provide year-round support, advice and guidance.
Whether you or your family member is about to move to London, or you’re already studying here, we’re sure that you’ll be successful in your search, and welcome you to get in touch with any questions. A great place to start is our Housing Guide, which covers everything from start to finish.
With the Housing Fair over with for 2017, it’s time to focus on the busy summer period. Planning for the 2018 event will start in December, and I’m sure it will sneak up as fast as always…