Accommodation: Frequently Asked Questions
Where to live?Most students find it cheaper to live outside of central London (Zone 1 on the tube map). If you would like to live closer to the RCA campuses, the more affordable areas are considered to be Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush, Clapham and Battersea.
What are the options available when looking for somewhere to live?
The following search databases are useful for finding and contacting potential house-shares:
Please also see the University of London Housing Service for information regarding house-shares.
On RCAde, the College’s online learning environment, there is an ‘Accommodation Offered’ and ‘Accommodation Wanted’ forum. Here you will find adverts for rooms and properties listed by students or staff at the College. You can also post an advert to find other students looking for accommodation. You will be given access to this shortly before the start of your course, usually in the summer period.
Nearer to the start of the academic year, the Student’s Union will usually set-up a facebook group for new starters, and you may wish to post on here or find/start a group if you would like to find accommodation with other RCA students.
The Student Union have a new students facebook group for the Academic Year 2019/20. You will need to add that you study at the Royal College of Art to your profile in order to be accepted to the group.
Private Student Residence or Hostel
Private Student Residences and Hostels are good for students who would prefer to have their rent inclusive of bills and other amenities, and they can usually be booked prior to arrival in the UK/London.
If you wish to live alone, as a couple or with a group of friends and are looking to rent a whole house, flat or a studio you are best to contact a letting agent. Letting agencies act on the behalf of landlords who advertise properties with them. Agents normally deal with properties in their locality, so if you know the area you would like to live in you should go there and visit all the different lettings agents to see what is available.
Please note: When renting any of the above you should check if they will come furnished, part-furnished or unfurnished. Part-furnished and unfurnished will end up costing you more as you will need to buy furniture and household items.
Letting Agents must join one of the two government-approved redress schemes, so it is recommended that you look at there websites before you go with a Letting Agent:
More information can be found on the Shelter Website.
What do I need to consider when looking for somewhere to live?
Viewing a Property
You should never pay money to a landlord or letting agent to view a property, or be asked to show evidence of a money transfer. If someone asks you to do this, you should not contact them again and look elsewhere.It is a good idea to take someone with you when you go to look at a place. It is safer and also less easy for a householder or agent to pressurise you into taking it. Two people are also more likely to spot potential problems.
You should also try to talk to current tenants or other neighbours away from the agent. Ask them what the place and area are like, how much the bills are and if there is anything else you need to know.
For more detailed information about viewing a property, please go to the Private Housing Guide.
When I have found somewhere to live, what should I check?
When you have found a suitable property and are thinking about signing a tenancy agreement, you should check the following:
- How much you will be expected to pay upfront
- That you fully understand the terms and conditions of the contract
- That the deposit will be protected in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme
You should also ensure that you are provided with the following:
- Receipts of all financial transactions
- A copy of the signed contract
- The name and address of the landlord/letting agent
- Written confirmation of any verbal agreements
- A list of contents, also known as an inventory
Please note: It is your responsibility to return the property in the same condition as when it was let to you, allowing for fair wear and tear. When moving in it is a good idea to record the condition of the property, taking photographs of any existing damage.
What is a Guarantor?
You might need a guarantor when you rent a place to live. A guarantor is a person who agrees to pay the rent if you fail to do so; usually parents or a close relative. If you fail to pay your rent and the guarantor is unable to pay it for you the landlord could take your guarantor to Court, so it's essential that they agree to the terms and conditions and understand the risks.
Before a landlord accepts a guarantor they will usually want to check that they have the means of payment in the case of them having to step in; this is called a credit check. This part of the requirements usually rule out guarantors who are not based in the UK.
It is a legal obligation for a guarantor agreement to be in writing. You can find out more on the Citizens Advice Bureau website.
Signing a Tenancy
Once you have found somewhere to live you will usually be asked to sign a tenancy agreement. The following information should be included:
- Name and address of the landlord or letting agent
- The dates of the fixed tenancy
- The amount of rent payable and the date on each month that it should be paid
- Your responsibilities as a tenant (i.e. you must not damage property, annoy the neighbours etc)
Please see here for the University of London Housing Service ‘Contract checking’ poster for more information.
Period of Notice/Break ClausesYou should make sure that you are clear about the period of notice on any contract you sign. Notice periods are usually one or two months.
Some contracts may have a break clause in them that allows you to terminate your contract early. For example, a 12-month contract may have a break clause after six months, meaning that you can give notice after this point.
Please note: If you do not have a break clause in your agreement and you try to leave early you may lose money.
You will usually have to pay a deposit to cover any possible damage to the property or breaches of contract. It is usually the equivalent of six weeks rent. However, for international students this can be considerably more. See our section on deposits and financial considerations for international students.
Provided that you have kept to your tenancy agreement the deposit should be returned to you in full once you have vacated the property and an inspection has taken place.
Tenancy Deposit SchemeIn order to safeguard your deposit you should ensure that your landlord or letting agent puts your deposit into a tenancy deposit scheme – TDS (this was made a legal requirement in April 2007).
Information on tenancy deposit schemes can be found on the Shelter website.
Once you move into your property, your landlord or letting agent should supply you with the following information on how your deposit is being protected within a certain time frame:
- The contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme
- The contact details of the landlord or letting agent
- How to apply for release of the deposit, and
- What to do if there is a dispute of the deposit.
If you do not get this information you should request it from your landlord or letting agent. If they still refuse to give you this information you can apply to your local county court to either get the deposit paid back or make your landlord/letting agent put the deposit in one of the schemes.
What if something goes wrong during my tenancy?
Dealing with Disputes
Unfortunately, students can experience difficulties when renting accommodation. The types of problems students encounter include:
- Disputes in getting deposits back
- Problems with landlords (i.e. not carrying out essential maintenance work)
- Mice or other pests
- Noisy neighbours or noise complaints
If you encounter any of the above, or have any other difficulties you may wish to seek expert advice as to what are your rights as a tenant. The following organisations will be able to assist:
Information and advice can also be found on the gov.uk website.
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