When to start looking
Every year many students panic and sign up for the following years accommodation only a few weeks into term one. If you are a first year undergraduate with no experience of renting and are thinking of sharing you really haven’t had enough time to get to know each other. If you sign a tenancy agreement this is legally binding so it is best to ensure that you are completely confident in the people intend to share with. Try to take your time and make an informed decision.
When to start looking is different to everyone, so if you are thinking of renting in a group, consider everyone’s point of view. Try not to pressure each other. We would recommend you wait until at least Spring Term. Some students find the Christmas break a good time for reflection about their course, their friendships and the year ahead but it also gives you a chance to discuss it with friends and family.
Some points to note:
- Despite what you might hear or read, Newcastle has a vast amount of traditional private accommodation and new accommodation clocks are also being built all the time.
- It will not ‘run out’ if you are not signed up before the end of the Autumn Term, despite the rumours that fly round campus.
- Many students wait until term 2 which allows them longer to get to know each other
- Letting Agents are competing against each other for your business. The lettings ‘season’ becomes very competitive from November onwards, so they will encourage you to sign up early.
- If you start viewing, an agent will be very keen for you to commit to something. You may well be told that several other groups are looking at and are interested in the same property. This may or may not be the case; you should not be pressured into making these big decisions.
- Try not to get swept along with what everyone else seems to be doing or saying and consider your own needs. Give yourself time to consider relevant information.
- Each Year in Autumn Term NUSU runs a housing campaign which includes a Housing Fair. Come along to get some advice and information before you start viewings.
- Along with our own advice pages, the Government How to Rent guide is worth looking through before you start searching for a house and the Private Rented Service also have information on their website.
Call in or contact the Student Advice Centre to arrange a face to face, telephone or Skype appointment with one of the advisers if you have any particular concerns or would like to discuss house hunting generally.
Take care before you sign anything
A contract (tenancy agreement) is legally binding once you have verbally agreed it. The written documents provide the details and terms of the agreement.
When you sign you are likely to have to make some form of payment in the form of fees, advance rent, deposits etc. See our section on Fees for more information.
Before you even verbally agree to take a property after a viewing, ask to see all pre-contract paperwork, ask what payments you have to make upfront and when and whether these are refundable.
It is not advisable to send someone to a viewing on your behalf. If you are not in the country to do a viewing consider waiting until you do arrive and stay somewhere temporary and short term until you can see the property, amenities and location for yourself.
Consider visiting the location at different times of the day as they can be very different environments during the day and at night.
Can I get out of my contract?
One of the common questions we get asked each year is ‘How can I get out of my contract?’ The simple reply is that you usually can’t. We deal with a lot of students wanting to get out of their contract for various reasons. In most cases, it's up to the discretion of the landlord but usually they refuse to release you. The landlord may allow you to opt out of your contract if you find a replacement tenant but even then the landlord isn't required to accept the replacement tenant.
These are the most common reasons why students want to get out of a contract:
- Fallen out with housemates
- Year Abroad/Placement opportunity decided after signing the contract
- Withdrawn/suspended studies
- Financial reasons
- Prefer to share with other people
- Personal circumstances
- Not making satisfactory progress on course
Some tenants decide to sub-let their tenancy as a way to deal with the fact they cannot get out of their contract. Great care needs to be taken if doing this as the sub-tenant may be living there illegally and have no rights, you could be in breach of your tenancy and you will often become the landlord and have taken on legal responsibilities. Before making any decisions seek advice and support from the Student Advice Centre