One of the issues that poses a substantial issue for students in Oxford is the stress of trying to secure housing, which can often be extremely expensive, of low-quality and poorly managed. Having been through the process myself, here are some words of wisdom.
1. Don’t Panic!
Finding a place to live can be a stressful experience, especially if you have never rented a place before. Nevertheless, it’s important to take your time, consider your options carefully, and talk everything through with your intended housemates beforehand. Letting agents will sometimes put a lot of pressure on you to make decisions quickly. In reality, unless you are part of a large group looking for one of the small number of 6-8 bed properties, you can generally afford to take your time and weigh up the pros and cons.
2. Start looking early
Similarly, the earlier you start in the academic year the less pressure you will be under, and the more options you will have. Letting agents and private landlords in Oxford start advertising their properties between November and January, so that’s the time you should really start looking.
3. Talk to people in the year above
If you have friends in the year above who rent a house you wouldn’t mind living in, it can be worth talking to them to see if it’s possible for your group to replace them as tenants. Landlords are usually very amenable to this as it saves them money and hassle. Although it doesn’t always work out, asking around can make things a lot simpler.
4. Research agency fees and other requirements beforehand
Letting agents will usually charge a fee of £100-200 to reserve a property for you, and in addition to this you will usually have to pay a deposit of one or two months rent in advance. This is different in different places, so it’s worthwhile researching these costs beforehand so you don’t get a nasty financial shock when it comes to signing the tenancy. Moreover, to rent as a student in the UK you will usually need a guarantor based in the UK. If you don’t have one, you can use a guarantor service (which will cost a months’ rent), or, if you have the means, pay up your rent in advance.
5. Take location into account
Most Oxford college accommodation is fairly central, so this isn’t necessarily something you think about much before it comes time to “live out”. Nevertheless, take into account the walking/cycling distance of your new place from the city centre and how that will impact on you. Remember, too, that a bus pass is around £420 for the year, and factor that in to any considerations about savings you might make by living further out.
6. Consider alternative options
It’s a fact of life that not everyone at uni is going to easily find a group of people to live with, and equally you may not want to live in a student house for a year or more of your degree. If this is the case, there are other options, like lodging or subletting. Some forms of social housing may also be available to students. Bear in mind that your legal rights in these situations can be limited in comparison with renting under a tenancy agreement, but it may be the best option for some.