Move over tuition fees, rent rises are the hottest topic for students

Tuition fees have been fiercely debated in recent years. But rising rents are having just as big an impact on student debt, with the university you choose making a huge difference to how much you owe when you graduate.

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There’s been an annual rent rise of up to 10% in some university cities, meaning students are up to £600 a year worse off. However this year students aren’t just battling rising rents, they’re also affected by a private rental market struggling to cope with demand – in parts of London and Edinburgh, 5 people are competing for every room available. Overall this means that where you go to uni can have a huge impact on your housing experience and post graduation debt (no one mentions that at the open day).

For example, the difference between rent for students at Imperial College in London compared to those studying at St. Andrew’s in Scotland is a massive £792 a month. Over a three-year course the difference is eye watering – over £28,500. Even choosing Durham over Oxford could save students more than £7,000 in rent over three years.

Durham students have one of the best chances of finding a student-friendly house share, with 92% of rooms available to students – over 20% more than the national average. Durham is also arguably one of the best cities to be a student as rents in the area have actually decreased over the past year – bet you’re feeling smug now Durham students!

Check out our table below for all the facts, figures and average room rents in 30 of the UK’s top university towns and cities:

Rank University Location Ave monthly room rent Q2 2016 (£) Annual % difference between Q2 2015 & Q2 2016
1 Cambridge Cambridge £541 6%
2 Oxford Oxford £557 10%
3 St Andrews Kirkcaldy £339 3%
4 Surrey Guildford £574 9%
5 Loughborough Loughborough £350 3%
6 Durham Durham £362 -1%
7 Imperial College London SW7 £1,131 4%
8 Lancaster Lancaster £371 5%
9 Warwick Coventry £388 5%
10 Bath Bath £448 2%
11 Exeter Exeter £434 4%
12 London School of Economics London WC2 £1,034 -5%
13 Birmingham Birmingham £405 -2%
14 UCL London WC1 £870 4%
15 Coventry Coventry £388 5%
16 Leeds Leeds £374 6%
17 Southampton Southampton £436 4%
18 City London EC1 £920 2%
19 York York £400 6%
20 Sussex Brighton £511 4%
21 Edinburgh Edinburgh £469 7%
22 Kent Canterbury £418 -1%
22 UEA Norwich £401 7%
24 Nottingham Nottingham £374 4%
25 Glasgow Glasgow £390 4%
26 Heriot-Watt Edinburgh £469 7%
27 Dundee Dundee £323 4%
28 Aston Birmingham £405 -2%
29 SOAS London WC1 £870 4%
30 Manchester Manchester £414 7%

Source: SpareRoom.co.uk

As usual we’d love to hear your stories. Are you struggling with the cost of renting? Did you choose your university based on the cost of housing as much as the course? Let us know in the comments.

Flatmates not cleaning up after themselves? Here’s a handy solution

Living in a flatshare can be fun, sociable and affordable. Unfortunately it can also be a source of headaches, particularly when it comes to arguments about cleaning.

When we surveyed the SpareRoom community about annoying flatshare habits recently, flatmates who don’t clean up after themselves came close to top of the list. If your flatshare doesn’t have a cleaner as standard, it can be a constant source of anguish, especially if one of the flatmates feels they’re doing more than their fair share to keep the place hygienic.

Could Mop be the answer to your cleaning woes? Our friends at MOP (www.wearemop.com) are making house cleaning super simple with an online booking service for trusted, pre-checked cleaners, with no commitment to a contract. All cleaners are interviewed, reference checked, and given a cleaning test before they start to work for Mop and there’s an insurance policy in place to cover your property and liability too, giving you complete peace of mind.

Mop just covers London for now, but is planning a country-wide expansion later this year. To keep things affordable, Mop is offering SpareRoom users a £10 discount for your first booking. Book now using code SPAREROOM to get your discount – and get a trusted cleaner online in under 60 seconds.

The lunacy of TV licensing – lodgers and sharers beware!

If you live in a shared house or share with your landlord as a lodger, do you need a TV licence for your own TV in your room? The rules are complex and daunting for the faint-hearted, but we think we’ve managed to get to the nub of them. Do bear with us whilst we try to explain.

Sharing with flatmates

So here’s the scenario. You’ve just moved in, say with friends or a bunch of people you don’t know. There’s a telly in the living room but you can’t all agree on watching the same programme together. So you put a small TV in your own room and watch what you like. The house has a TV licence which you pay jointly towards. You’re covered aren’t you?

No. Not exactly. It depends on the tenancy arrangement. If you’ve moved in with friends and rented the whole house jointly (on a joint and several tenancy agreement where you’re all equally liable for the rent), one TV licence should cover the whole house. But on its website, TV licensing notes an exception, “such as whether or not you have exclusive access to a toilet or washing facilities”. What difference having your own en-suite should make to your legal status regarding television watching is anyone’s guess, but if you’re not sure how this might apply to you, it’s best to give them a call.

If you’re renting just a room and you have your own separate contract or rental agreement, then it’s quite clear that you’ll need your own licence for watching a separate telly in your room.

Sharing a house with your landlord

Scenario B – you’ve found a nice place to live, sharing with a lovely family. They’ve got a spare room and you’re happy to share their cosy home with them. You’ve signed a licence agreement, which is quite different in law from a tenancy agreement, and doesn’t give you exclusive rights over any part of the house. So you should be fine to watch TV in your room, assuming your landlord has a licence already, right? Wrong.

The TV licensing website is a little hazy on the subject of living as a lodger, stating that “You’re covered by the homeowner’s TV Licence if they have one, provided you live in the same building. If you live in self contained accommodation such as a separate flat or annex you need your own separate licence.” So far, so good – you’re not living in self-contained accommodation, you just have a room, and it’s not even got a lock on the door! But wait, there’s more. “You don’t need a licence if you’re a lodger and have a relationship with the homeowner – for example, a family member, common law partner, a nanny, au pair or housekeeper.” Hang on a second, you just said it was ok if it’s not self-contained. Do I also need to be related to the homeowner or working for them? It’s not entirely clear from the wording on the site, so we asked TV Licensing for clarification. They came back and said “If you are a tenant or a lodger with an individual tenancy agreement for your room it would mean your room is classified as a separately occupied place and you must be covered by a valid TV Licence to watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. This includes the use of devices such as a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box and DVD/VHS recorder.” So even though a lodger is not a “tenant” in law, they do seem to require a licence to watch TV separately from the rest of the household.

What’s more a licence isn’t shareable between properties you’re living at. So if you’re a Monday to Friday lodger, and have a licence for the TV in your own home, you’d still need an additional licence to watch another TV in your weekday room, separately from the TV in the communal sitting room. Wait. There’s a single exception to even this rule. If the TV is battery powered, you don’t need a licence, but as soon as it’s plugged into the mains, thereby installing the device, you do need a licence. Have you ever heard of such lunacy?

TV licensing tell us, “Anyone caught watching or recording live TV without a valid licence can risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.” For more information on licensing and to ask questions, visit http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/. Please don’t ask us – we’re as bemused as you are!

Don’t have a deposit? There is help available.

For young people it can be hard to rent privately, even in shared accommodation. Rents are rising in areas of high demand and limited supply, and you need to come up with a deposit as well as rent in advance. If you haven’t got a job or received your first pay check yet, it’s going to be tough to put a roof over your head as well.

We’ve discovered that there are some sources of help available, primarily for young people who are vulnerable, disabled or at risk of becoming homeless. Crisis, the homelessness charity, has a handy search facility where you can find schemes in your local area willing to offer support. This is often in the form of deposit loans, rent advances or deposit guarantees – this latter where a charity will guarantee they’ll pay the landlord, rather than you having to find the cash.

Search the Crisis access scheme database

Please note that Crisis does not provide deposits or rent in advance to access private sector rented accommodation.

The Crisis Private Rented Sector Access Development programme, which provides housing help for single people at risk of homelessness, has been boosted by a cash injection of £1.2m, announced by the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, today. This welcome additional funding will help more young vulnerable people find the accommodation they desperately need, and often struggle to afford even if they’re in paid work.

Kindle an interest in Flatsharing

We’re pleased to announce that The Essential Guide to Flatsharing is now available for Kindle. Priced at a very reasonable £4.98, the book is now available to download from Amazon.

Whether you’re looking for a flatshare or renting out a room, The Essential guide to Flatsharing has everything you need to know. Written by Rupert Hunt, the founder of SpareRoom.co.uk, and Matt Hutchinson, SpareRoom’s resident expert, the book serves as a no-nonsense guide to the world of shared accommodation. It brings together the pair’s expert knowledge of dealing with flatshares, lodgers and landlords and shares tips and insights on how to avoid the pitfalls of sharing. From financial issues to living in harmony with your flatmates, this book covers it all.

Now available for Kindle for the first time, the guide will prove your stalwart friend and advisor as you travel through the maze of shared accommodation. Download a copy now!

Why students should consider accommodation costs before worrying about tuition fees

Whilst students face the daunting prospect of up to £9000 a year tuition fees, there’s actually a much more pressing worry for them in the shape of living costs. Tuition fees, whilst looming large on the horizon, are not actually payable until students start earning significant salaries. Living costs are payable right away, and with rents stacking up to several thousand pounds a year, could form a decisive factor in many young people’s choices to study away from home. At SpareRoom.co.uk we’ve analysed private room rents across more than 300,000 rental properties in university towns, and can now reveal the places to study that will have the least immediate impact on your pocket.

Students at Queen’s University in Belfast are best off when it comes to affordable living, enjoying average weekly rents of just £67 per week or £290 per month, leaving more in the kitty for the student union bar. A student living in Belfast will save around £13,000 over 3 years compared to one in London, on rent alone.

Universities in the North have great value accommodation available, with double rooms including bills in Leicester, Liverpool and Loughborough all £78 per week, and Nottingham and Sheffield £79 per week.

Not surprisingly, London is the most expensive city for students to live in, with private sector accommodation costing £151 per week, or £654 per month.

If rents in London carry on rising by 8% a year, as is the trend, students starting university this year could end up spending £25,491 on rent and bills over the course of their studies. Whilst less than the £36k they can expect to pay in fees, the difference is they’ll have to pay accommodation costs now, whereas fees won’t need to be repaid till they’re earning a graduate salary.

Here’s the table showing what students can expect to pay in rent at the top UK universities, based on SpareRoom data collected between January-June (H1) in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

CUG (Complete University Guide) Ranking 2013

University (and rental data used if not immediately obvious)

Average weekly rent for a double room including bills (£)[5]

Annual % change (2011-2012)

Two-yearly % change (2010-2012)

2012

2011

2010

1

Cambridge

107

103

98

3.88

9.18

2

London School of Economics

151

139

131

8

15.38

3

Oxford

103

102

97

0.98

6.19

4

Imperial College London)

151

139

131

8

15.38

5

Durham

79

85

78

-7.06

1.28

6

St Andrews (Kirkcaldy)

77

81

79

-4.94

-2.53

7

Warwick (Coventry)

85

85

84

0

1.19

8

University College London

151

139

131

8

15.38

9

Lancaster

82

81

82

1.23

0

10

Bath

91

87

85

4.60

7.06

11

Bristol

88

87

83

1.15

6.02

12

York

84

85

83

-1.18

1.20

13

Exeter

91

89

87

2.25

4.60

14

Loughborough (Leicester)

78

77

76

1.30

2.63

15

Southampton

94

90

88

4.44

6.82

16

Edinburgh

94

88

88

6.82

6.82

17

Glasgow

86

83

85

3.61

1.18

18

King’s College London

151

139

131

8

15.38

19

Nottingham

79

77

77

2.60

2.60

20

Leicester

78

77

76

1.30

2.63

21

Sussex (Brighton)

107

102

96

4.90

11.46

22

Surrey

109

104

101

4.81

7.92

23

Birmingham

85

85

84

0

1.19

23

Newcastle

83

79

80

5.06

3.75

25

Queen’s Belfast

67

71

67

-5.63

0

26

Royal Holloway (Egham, Surrey)

120

114

109

5.26

10.09

27

East Anglia (Norwich)

87

83

83

4.82

4.82

28

Sheffield

79

76

74

3.95

6.76

29

Manchester

85

85

82

0

3.66

30

SOAS

151

139

131

8

15.38

31

Liverpool

78

79

75

-1.27

4.00

32

Reading

100

96

95

4.17

5.26

33

Kent (Canterbury)

90

89

85

1.12

5.88

34

Aston (Birmingham)

85

85

84

0

1.19

34

Leeds

80

79

79

1.27

1.27

36

Cardiff

80

80

75

0

6.67