University halls of residence
Halls of residence refers to accommodation that is usually owned and managed by the university and is located on the university campus. You can usually find out about halls on the university’s own website.
You may have to share a bedroom in halls, but many universities offer accommodation with a private bedroom and shared facilities (kitchen, bathrooms etc.). Some halls provide meals and bed-linen and some are self-catering.
Halls of residence are a popular option for students moving away to college or university for the first time. Most universities give priority for halls to first year students. After the first year, many students decide to move into alternative accommodation alone or with friends.
However not all universities or colleges have halls of residence on the campus. Some universities or colleges are located in city or town centres and their buildings are spread out. If this is the case there might be other purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) available in the area, or you may choose to rent a shared house or flat from a private landlord or letting agent.
What kind of agreement will I get in halls of residence?
You should be given a ‘standard occupation contract’ if you are living in halls. Your contract should explain your rights and responsibilities. The type of standard contract that a university or college can give you is slightly different to standard contracts in the private rented sector. You will have different rights (such as how much notice you should get if you are being evicted). To find out about standard contracts with different rules, such as those given by a university or college, see here.
It is important that you take time to read your contract to make sure you understand what it says before you sign it. If there is anything that is unclear or unfair, get help. The contract may not be legally correct.
Purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA)
PBSA is off-campus accommodation built as student accommodation by private developers. PBSA is usually managed by private companies although some universities manage off-campus accommodation themselves. There are different types of PBSA available, and the cost of rent can vary, so make sure you will be able to afford it before signing a renting agreement or occupation contract.
PBSA accommodation can be shared, where each person gets their own room and shares a living room and/or kitchen with other residents. Some PBSA offer studio flats for those needing their own space. There are usually facilities, such as game rooms, cafes, study areas etc. and accommodation managers sometimes organise social events.
What kind of agreement will I get in halls of PBSA?
If you live in purpose-built student accommodation and it is managed by a private company (i.e. not the university) then you should get a ‘standard occupation contract‘. This will probably be a fixed term standard contract, and will be similar to the types of contract given to anyone in private rented accommodation. If the accommodation is managed by the university, it will still be a standard contract, but you will have different rights (such as how much notice you should get if you are being evicted). To find out about standard contracts with different rules, such as those given by a university or college, see here.
Private rented accommodation
You may decide to move into a private rented houseshare or flatshare with friends. Many landlords and letting agencies advertise online. Popular national websites include:
These sites mostly advertise properties that are being let by a letting agent on behalf of a landlord. It is a good idea to check if the agent will manage the property while you live there, or whether the landlord will manage the property directly. You may also find local websites or social media sites advertising places to rent.
Other websites, such as Spareroom and Gumtree allow users to place ads directly. Many adverts on these sites are placed by landlords or letting agents, however some adverts are placed by people who are renting the property. If you are searching for a property on this type of website, be aware that you could have fewer legal rights if the occupancy is a lodger’s agreement or sub-occupation contract. Make sure you check the contract before you sign and view the accommodation before you agree to move in
You should also check whether the property is registered with Rent Smart Wales and whether a Rent Smart Wales licence-holder will be managing the property. If the advertisement is for a lodger, the property does not need to be registered and licensed.
What kind of agreement will I get in private rented accommodation?
As a student in private rented accommodation, you have the same rights as any other private renter. Your landlord or letting agent should give you a ‘standard occupation contract‘ (unless you are a lodger, see below).
Standard occupation contracts can either be periodic standard or fixed term standard contracts. Student accommodation is usually rented on a fixed term standard contract where the fixed term runs for the academic year or for a full 12 months.
If you live in a shared flat or house you will probably be given a ‘joint occupation contract’. This means that you all sign up to the same contract, and are each responsible to make sure you carry out your responsibilities. You will also be responsible for the rent in full even if your housemates do not pay. For more information about rent arrears see here.
In some shared houses, you might each be given a separate contract, for your room only. This is less common than being given a joint occupation contract, but means that you can only be held responsible for the rent for your room. If you only rent the room, you may have less rights in relation to the common areas. This is a complex area of law, so get help if you have any problems.
If you have a fixed term standard contract, you do not have a right to end that contract unless there is a ‘contract-holders break clause’. For more information about leaving a fixed term standard contract, see here. It is important that you are happy with the accommodation, the people you will be sharing with and the length of the fixed term. This because you will be responsible to pay the rent for that time. It is a good idea to agree with your housemates about having visitors, how you will pay bills and keep the place clean.
If you are all students, you don’t have to pay any council tax but you may need to get a certificate from your college or university to show the council. However, if you end your studies you might be liable for the full council tax. If you are on a separate contract for your room only, then your landlord is probably liable for the council tax. Be sure to check what your contract says about council tax. You can get help from Citizens Advice or Shelter Cymru if you are unsure.
If you live as a lodger in your landlord’s home and share any accommodation with your landlord you will be an excluded occupier. This means that you have few rights and can be evicted very easily.