Student to Student
Living in London
A Student's Guide to Off-Campus Housing
Dorms are notoriously noisy stressful places to live, and living on your own gives you the chance to more fully experience the local culture. Surprisingly, living off-campus in London is easier than you would think. I studied in London for almost six years and only spent four weeks living in a dorm.
London, like New York City, is an expensive place to live. In addition to rent, there are taxes to consider. Full-time students are exempt from Council Tax, a mandatory property tax for apartments and homes, but those studying part time are required to pay it. Ask either the landlord or the real estate agent how much it is. Additionally, if you choose to own a TV, you will have to pay a "television license."
Types of Accommodations
Flatshares are popular. These are usually apartments, which are sublet by room, allowing tenants to share utilities. Typically, the kitchen and bathroom are completely shared. Another and far more common type of accommodation is a "bedsit," short for bed-sitting room—a room that serves as a combination living room and bedroom. As with a flatshare, residents are expected to share a bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Where to Begin
Start your search for accommodation at the housing office of your university or student union. Local landlords leave details with the colleges, hoping that the school will find them tenants. The next best bet is to read through The Loot (www.loot.com), London's version of The Pennysaver. It is available online or at news agents, and it divides properties into various price ranges. You can also find an apartment by going to the area of London where you prefer to live and seeing what properties agents have to offer. Bear in mind that realestate agents are not licensed and there is no governing body to oversee their activities. While it is illegal for agents or landlords to charge prospective tenants a finding fee, I fell victim to this scam.
Landlords, as a matter of course, require at least four weeks' deposit, if not six, and one month's rent. The money needs to change hands immediately if you want the agent or landlord to hold the property for you.
Finding affordable housing in London can be challenging, but with a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance, you'll succeed.