If you’re studying in London, the choice of accommodation can be a little overwhelming, read on to learn everything you need to know as a student moving to the capital.
How does University Accommodation Work?
There’s lots of accommodation for students in London - ranging from university-managed halls of residence through serviced apartments all the way to a privately let house share. Choosing one takes consideration and information.
This guide outlines why people choose student accommodation, what different types are available and will help you decide which option is for you. We’ll also cover where to look, what to expect, how much to pay and how to get settled once you’ve moved in.
Is Student Accommodation Worth it?
It can be tempting to save on costs by staying home or commuting into the city - but opting for student accommodation can really help you get the most of your experience during your studies.
- Meet new people - Living in halls or a student area can help you meet new people who are in the same boat, mates to study and to share the experience with. A lot of people become friends at Uni and keep them for life. It also minimises FOMO!
- A place to relax and call home as you study - having your own space is really important for productivity as well as relaxation.
- Helps to gain independence - it might be the first time you’ve lived alone - what better way to learn how to look after yourself, to cook, do laundry and generally gain independence and freedom.
Types of student accommodation
Halls of Residence
Often owned by the university or institute of study, but with competitive private providers on the rise, student halls are usually aimed at the first-year students.
There are usually more freshers than there are spaces available in the uni owned buildings, so some people will need to find alternative London accommodation. There is usually one dedicated hall for Post-Grad or mature students.
You can choose between catered or self-catered and whether you have a personal, en-suite or communal bathroom.
Halls usually come with a regular cleaner, bills and extra security included.
You can rent a private apartment through a letting agent or direct from a landlord (though be careful doing this), if they accept student tenants. You get your own space and within the confines of your contract can do what you want in it.
This can be quite a pricey and paperwork-heavy way to find your first home and if you’re not in a student neighbourhood but you want to live the student lifestyle, you might be unpopular with your neighbours.
Usually most popular with second - and third-year students, you can choose your housemates. There’s less support than other housing options, but a lot of freedom.
These are rental properties, usually located close to universities for convenience. There is a notorious tendency for some landlords to not take care of the properties properly and to exploit their inexperienced tenants.
The quality, size and cost of these houses vary hugely, so it’s a good idea to start looking early.
Serviced apartments sit between a private apartment and halls of residence - you get your own place, with friends or by yourself, and they come with regular housekeeping, utility bills and WiFi all included in the cost.
Providers usually have a dedicated team to help you through the process.
How to Find Student Accommodation in London
When should I start looking for accommodation?
With private rentals, you usually have to wait until it’s a month or two from your moving date to see what’s on the market, as previous tenants can give notice at any time of year.
Student specific accommodation means you have the advantage that most leases are for 12 months and most students move at the same time (usually in the middle of the summer holidays). The earlier you start looking the more choice you’ll have and the more likely it’ll be that you’ll find what you want. If you’re rushing into or desperate you might end up settling for something you don’t like.
Where should I look for accommodation?
- If you want to go for student halls, check out the halls of residence websites at your institution.
- Try ‘student’ specific searches on websites such as Casita.
- If you’re interested in something smaller scale, a Google search is (of course) a great place to start. If you know the area you want to live and the number of bedrooms you want this will help narrow it down.
- Property websites such as Rightmove or OnTheMarket and Zoopla.
- Student forums are a great place to get tips and advice. See if your university student union has one you can join, or find a London focussed one online.
What type of accommodation should I consider?
Think about the experience you want. If you want to have the most social time possible, perhaps halls are for you. Private halls offer competitive rates and amenities.
If you have a friend or small group you want to live with - then a two-bed apartment or a shared house might suit you best. For a little more luxury and privacy - but still maintaining independence - try a serviced apartment.
How much should I be paying?
Student housing in London varies in cost wildly, depending on where and what it is you’re after. For the most part, you get what you pay for.
If you’re living in purpose-built properties then you’re looking at between £800-900 per month basic or up to £1500 if you’re in a prime location, with included amenities, services and housekeeping etc. This avenue is more expensive than a private apartment or house rental might be - but it comes with so much more, including bills and services.
A private room in a shared house is likely to be somewhere between £500-800 per month - depending on location, whether you have an ensuite bathroom and what sort of quality of house it is.
What should I look out for when viewing accommodation?
- The convenience of location for your needs - you don’t want to find your dream house but have to spend 2 hours every morning zigzagging across the city to get to your lectures.
- Furnished or unfurnished? It’s up to you, and both are available. Unfurnished might mean you still get “white goods supplied” i.e. fridge, freezer and washing machine - but make sure to clarify.
- Dealbreakers: is there anything that really matters to you? Having an ensuite bathroom rather than sharing? Areas outside of your apartment where you can relax? A garden? A gym?
- Some accommodation, like Dolphin Square, comes with excellent onsite facilities, so make sure you know what amenities you can access.
- Pay close attention to the standard of living - what state is the property in? What appliances are included and how old are they?
- Check for mold or cracks in walls, as these may be signs of serious structural problems and could even damage your health.
- If the current tenants are still there, ask them how they have found living there.
How do I find housemates if I want to share my accommodation?
You might want to live with friends from your course or other campus activities - but have a think about whom you’d feel comfortable living with as it’s a very different dynamic to just hanging out.
If you don’t want to live with friends or you’re new in town but would like a housemate then, with 400,000 students in London, there are usually a few people in the same boat!
An important factor to bear in mind if you’re sharing with non-students is that this might mean the house might still require council tax payment - but if you’re a student this should bring down a percentage of the cost.
Moving in: What you Need to Know
So you’ve found your home for the next year, you’ve met your housemates (if you have some) and now it’s time to move in, get set up and make it your own.
Unpack and decorate
Get yourself settled in your new home. If you brought furniture, figure out where you want it to go. This is your space and you can put your stamp on it - perhaps get some posters, art and houseplants to make it feel more homely.
Find out if you’re allowed to paint walls or put up shelves.
Get familiar with your new neighbourhood
As soon as you’re able to get out and about, it’s a good (and fun!) idea to get the lay of the land:
- How long does it take to travel to university? Key information, especially during rush hour and for those slightly delicate mornings.
- What means of transport will you use to get around? Bear in mind that the Congestion Zone and parking can make having a car in London very expensive. Bicycles are brilliant to get around the capital, but it’s really worth investing in a good quality lock. Public transport is great in the city.
- What are your nearest shops for groceries? Some accommodation providers, such as Dolphin Square, have an onsite shopping arcade for convenience.
- What is there to do in the local area? You can find various blogs and reviews about local pubs, bars and restaurants online - but the best and most enjoyable way is to get out there and try them.
Setting budgets and expectations for life in London
Renting in London for the first time is an exciting experience - the city has so much to offer and you’ll find places to go and things to do you never imagined - but it can be notoriously expensive.
If you’re getting a student loan it can feel a bit like you’ll be flush forever, but it dwindles fast. Your rent isn’t the only cost of living in London. There are other outgoings to bear in mind if you don’t want to run out of money.
These might include:
- Food - groceries if you’re in self-catered accommodation, takeaways and meals out
- Other monthly bills - e.g. your phone, Netflix, Spotify or gym membership
- TV Licence - if you watch live TV you need to make sure you’re paying your TV licence or you can risk a fine of £1000. Find out if you need one.
- Household items and essentials: Everything from washing up liquid to loo roll.
- Transportation: Porsche, tube or Boris Bike, however you get around.
- Entertainment and activities: Includes anything from gig-tickets to board games; nights out to canoeing trips.
- Personal care: Healthcare, beauty products, Headspace subscriptions and pamper sessions.
- Unforeseen costs: life is unpredictable so it’s wise to have a little set aside for unplanned eventualities, like replacing a lost jacket or an accidentally broken laptop.
Getting set up to get around
There are a few other apps which are really useful for getting prepared to live in the Big Smoke. Citymapper is really great for planning routes and seeing how long journeys will take.
Trip Advisor is also helpful to have to check out places to eat, drink and relax when you’re out and about.
Student Accommodation at Dolphin Square
Located in Pimlico, a residential area in Zone 1 Westminster, it’s central and has fantastic transport links connecting you easily to anywhere in the city. You can access tourist spots, vibrant nightlife and a diverse and extensive range of places to eat in just a few minutes.
It’s also right on the River Thames and near lots of large parks, making it ideal for beautiful wintery walks and long summer days spent hanging out with friends.
Dolphin Square Serviced Apartments are fully furnished. They offer all-inclusive bills, a high-speed Wi-Fi connection, fantastic guest amenities including: gym and fitness club, squash, swimming pool, sauna, and Spa treatments. There are onsite shops, as well as meetings and events space, a club lounge and catering service for events.
There is a large and beautifully kept private garden.
A variety of accommodation at Dolphin Square comes with an ensuite or self-contained bathroom, including a shower and a bath.
Apartments include either a pantry-style or full kitchen - fully equipped - so you can cook for yourself. If you don’t feel like rustling up something yourself, there is the Bar and Grill, onsite shopping arcade, nearby public shops and a wide range of places to eat in the local area. The great location also means you are utterly spoilt for takeaway options!
All Dolphin Square apartments have been thoughtfully and carefully designed and decorated - providing a light, comfortable space to call home while you study.
The studio apartments at Dolphin Square are beautiful and ideal accommodation for one student or a couple. It’s a cosy space but you still have enough room to work, chill, eat and sleep in separate areas.
Also great for one person or a couple are our one-bedroom apartments, but these come with just that little bit more room. These are the most popular rentals at Dolphin Square.
If you’re planning to live in London with a coursemate, friend or flatmate then the larger two-bedroom apartment might be for you.
Dolphin Square Apartments are a brilliant choice for students in London. The convenience of having regular housekeeping included in the price means that you won’t spend your valuable time, energy or money on cleaning your apartment, leaving you to focus on studying and having fun.
If you’re an international student and you’re moving from abroad, opting for a serviced apartment with Dolphin Square will take the hassle, stress and risk out of the process. The bookings team will help you through the paperwork and make sure you find somewhere perfect for your time in London.
So there you have it - all you need to know about renting student accommodation in London. For further reading, you can download Dolphin Square’s handy guide to finding Student Accommodation in London.
Consider what it is you want from your location, housemates and home, then get out there nice and early to increase your chances of finding it. Book a viewing at Dolphin Square today to see what’s on offer, and most of all: Enjoy!
Once you’ve got everything sorted out and ready to go you can relax and fully embrace an exciting time studying (and playing) in London.