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 non-returnable holding fee to reserve a property or room. The fee is usually around £150 but can be as much as one month's rent, you may be able to negotiate the amount.
When you sign the tenancy agreement, the holding fee is refunded to you. Alternatively, it can be used to reduce other costs you must pay.
You will usually lose the holding fee if you do not decide to take the accommodation after all. 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.
A letting agent can charge you an administration fee to cover the costs of preparing the tenancy agreement, inventory, and checking references. You may pay a fee to accept a tenancy once you have signed a contract. Check carefully whether these fees will be charged each time a contract is renewed.
All fees and charges should be made clear to you before you sign a tenancy agreement. If you are not given full details or charges are unreasonably high, you can challenge this. For advice, speak to us or someone from the Bristol SU Just Ask team.
An agency cannot charge you to register with them or for providing you with a list of properties. Some agencies will waive fees for students and if you rent directly from a landlord you can avoid agency fees. Our letting agencies factsheet has details of agents that do not request agency fees.
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. The amount you will pay is usually equal to one month’s rent, but it can be 6 weeks rent or more.
Your deposit must be protected in a government-approved scheme and details of this scheme sent to you.
When you leave your property, your deposit will be returned to you; as long as you are not in breach of your tenancy agreement. Find our more by downloading our deposits factsheet (PDF, 363).
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 a number of 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.
You should always ask the agency or landlord if any bills are included in your rent. If not, the average bills you should expect to pay are (per person, based on 4 people sharing):
- Electricity and gas - £38 per month
- Water rates - £12 per month
- Insurance - £10 per month
- Broadband - £10 per month
- TV licence - £5 per month
- TOTAL: £75
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.
- 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.
Guarantors are required by most letting agencies and some landlords. A guarantor is a person who agrees to pay rent or damages if the tenant does not make payment. Most students will need to provide a guarantor to a private accommodation provider, and you should think about who your guarantor could be early in your house hunting process.
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.