Work out your budget
When you sign a tenancy agreement you can expect to pay a deposit and usually a month's rent in advance. You may have to pay agency fees or a holding fee, and might need a guarantor. Think carefully how you can budget for this on top of paying your current accommodation fees and living costs.
You also need to make sure you take all of the additional housing costs that come with renting privately into consideration when working out how much you can afford to put towards your accommodation costs. For example, if you work out that you can afford £500 a month to pay towards your accommodation, you shouldn't be looking at properties that cost £500 a month in rent, as this won't leave you with any money towards other housing costs - such as your electricity, insurance and water rates. Below are details of the costs of renting privately. You should read each of these and take them into consideration when working out your budget.
You may be required to pay a holding fee to reserve a property or room. The maximum fee that can be charged is the equivalent to one week’s rent. From the time a holding deposit is received by a landlord/agent there is a deadline for finalising and signing the tenancy agreement which is 15 days from the date the holding fee was taken. This date can be shortened or extended but only by agreement in writing with the tenant. Once the tenancy is confirmed the holding fee money should be returned to you unless you have agreed for it to go towards rent.
You will usually lose the holding fee if you decide not to take the accommodation after all – so do not pay the fee unless you are certain you want to take the property.
If you drop out for reasons beyond your control, eg. if the rent is more than originally advertised or the agency or landlord decides your reference is not satisfactory, the holding fee should be refunded. If the agent or landlord pulls out then the fee should be refunded in full.
Following the Tenants Fees Act 2019, a letting agent can no longer charge fees to cover the costs of preparing the tenancy agreement, inventory, and checking references etc at the start of a private tenancy.
The only permitted fees they can charge are
- holding fees (refundable)
- deposits (refundable)
- payments to change the tenancy, eg transfer to another tenant (this should be capped at £50 or reasonable costs if higher)
- payments associated with early termination of the tenancy
- payments in respect to utilities, communication services, tv license or Council Tax
- Default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of lost key/security device where required by the tenancy agreement.
For detailed information about the Tenants Fees Act 2019 see our Letting agent and landlord fees PDF (186KB).
You can find further information, including how to report a property agent to Trading Standards, on the Bristol City Council webpages.
When you sign a tenancy agreement you will normally pay a security or damage deposit. This is charged in case of damage to the property or non-payment of rent.
Following the Tenants Fees Act 2019, the maximum amount you can be charged is 5 weeks rent (if your total annual rent is under £50,000) or 6 weeks rent (if your total annual rent is over £50,000).
Your landlord must protect your deposit in one of the 3 government-approved schemes within 30 days of it being paid and you must be supplied with the details of this scheme.
When you leave your property, your deposit should be returned to you as long as you have not incurred extra costs for the landlord. Find out more by downloading our deposits factsheet (PDF, 363).
Rents are on the increase in Bristol and for a room in a shared residential property you could pay between £350 and even upwards of £550 in monthly rent, not including your bills. Studios in commercial properties can be up to £1000 per month, although this does include bills and internet.
Rents can vary around these figures and within each area in Bristol - it's not possible to say that one area of the city is significantly cheaper than others, but as a rule the further out you go, the more you can get for your money, although this isn't always the case.
Some rents are higher because a property is fully-furnished or it includes bills. It is a good idea to view several properties and compare what is included in the rent.
How often will I pay rent?
You can expect to pay rent monthly in advance or quarterly (three months in advance).
Your agency or landlord should tell you whether rent is due monthly or quarterly, and it should be written in your tenancy. If not, ask them to clarify in writing.
To decide which would suit you best, think about how you fund your studies and when you receive the funds. For instance, if you receive a student loan once a term, is it enough to pay 3 months rent in advance?
Always let your landlord know if you will be late in paying rent. They have their own finances to manage too and they are more likely to be lenient/flexible if they are kept in the loop.
You should always ask the agency or landlord if any bills are included in your rent. If not, average bills you could expect to pay as a rough guide are (per person, based on 4 people sharing)
- Electricity and gas - £40 pcm (electric heating can be more expensive)
- Water/Sewage rates - £12 pcm (water meters can be more expensive)
- Contents insurance - £10 pcm
- Broadband - £7 pcm
- TV Licence - £3 pcm - you need a TV licence if you watch live TV on any device or if you watch iPlayer - see the TV Licensing website for further information
- TOTAL: £72
Remember, the amount you pay for each bill will vary according to the type of property and your lifestyle. Your electricity bills will be higher if you use a lot of appliances or you have electric heating.
Large Victorian properties with high ceilings and large bay windows are common in Bristol. Unfortunately, they can be poorly insulated and result in expensive heating bills.
Hints and tips
- Ask the current tenants for a copy of their bills, especially over winter, so that you are prepared for any increases in costs.
- Set up a joint house account to manage your bills and make monthly payments into it.
- Consider doing an energy provider comparison check to see if you can get lower bills.
- It is often cheaper to pay gas and electricity by direct debit.
- If everyone has their name on at least one bill, you will all have an interest in making sure they are paid.
- When you receive bills check if they are based on estimated readings, usually indicated by an E next to the reading. If so, give your supplier an accurate reading.
- When your tenancy ends you will have to pay your final bill based on an accurate reading. Don't rely on estimates over the year, even if they appear cheaper.
- Full-time students do not have to pay council tax but to qualify for exemption, you must notify your local council at the start of the tenancy. Students resident in Bristol can fill out an online form on the council website bristol.gov.uk.
- Commercial providers usually have all bills included.
Help with managing your finances
If you are in financial difficulties or would like budgeting advice, talk to the Student Funding Office.
You can also drop-in to speak to a funding advisor. The advisor can make sure that you’re getting the correct government funding, or give you details of funds available to help students in immediate financial difficulties.
The Fees and Funding website provides tips on how to save money and advice on managing your finances.
Some private housing providers want students to have a guarantor who lives in the UK.
If you do not have a UK guarantor you may be asked to pay anything between 3 and 12 months rent in advance.
Housing Hand are an organisation who may be able to provide you with a UK based guarantor.
For more information on guarantors, see our section on contracts and agreements contracts and agreements.