Student life

The parents’ guide to student housing


Last updated: 14/12/2020

There are so many choices your child makes when they head to uni, and it can be a confusing time for the whole family – especially after a year as tough as 2020!

Even once they’ve chosen where and what they want to study, they’ll still need to decide what type of student housing they want to live in. And this doesn’t stop after first year – they’ll most likely need to go through the same process of securing suitable accommodation every year while they’re at uni!

Let’s be honest, with so many different student accommodation types available that all have their pros and cons, it can be difficult to see the wood through the trees at times. That’s why we’ve created this parents’ guide to student accommodation - so you can help your child choose their new home and find out more about the process together.

What types of student housing are there?

1. Student halls

Many students choose to live in halls of residence during their first year at university. Halls of residence are usually the most secure of all university accommodation as they’ll have:

  • University officials on-site (usually found in the accommodation office)
  • Fire doors and fire alarms fitted
  • Easy-access, and well sign-posted, fire exits

Student halls are generally well-maintained, with lots of accommodation being cleaned regularly so that students have more time to focus on their studies. Halls are also usually close to the university campus so your child won’t have to go far to locate their first lecture or seminar.

Bear in mind that student halls are normally allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. If your child is going through clearing for their university spot, they might want to consider alternative student accommodation options as a backup plan – just in case.

Quick tip: Don’t forget there are also private sector halls available through providers such as UNITE - while they’re usually more expensive, they also have great facilities and offer more independence than living in university halls of residence.

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How much does halls of residence cost?

The cost of halls will vary depending on which university your child is considering, and how long their academic terms are.

Save the Student’s 2019 Student Money Survey found that the average student spends £806.62 on living expenses each month, with rent accounting for over half of that amount at an average of £431 per month – that’s a lot of money to factor into a student budget!

When calculating the cost of their accommodation, don’t forget to factor in the food bills. Some halls of residence will offer a catered option where students are provided with breakfast and an evening meal. However some students prefer the freedom of self-catering, and this option is naturally less expensive.

The best ways to calculate your child’s student accommodation costs will be to:

  • go along to an open day and ask one of the volunteers
  • phone the university and speak with the accommodation office
  • get hold of a prospectus

Quick tip: Remember that students usually pay their rent for halls each term in two or three lump sums, so they’ll need to make sure they have enough in their bank account when those payment dates roll round!

2. Student house share

Usually students move into shared student housing for their second year onwards. By then they’ll have formed friendship groups either with their flat mates from halls or with people from their study course or extra-curricular societies, so they’ll have a good idea of who they want to live with.

While some universities will have their own version of a letting agent that will advertise house shares, student housing is normally dealt with via local letting agents instead of the university’s accommodation office. Make sure you check out the letting agent before they sign on the dotted line, or contact the university as they usually have a list of recommended agents or landlords to go with.

Bear in mind that while the deposits for student housing can be pricey, generally the cost of a room is lower than the cost of halls. It all depends on the landlord and the rates the letting agent has in place. Your child should also check whether the landlord is registered with a deposit protection scheme to avoid deposit disputes.

If your child is moving into a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) don’t forget that their landlord will need to meet certain obligations to make the property safe and habitable – find out more about private renting rights by visiting the government website.

Quick tip: If your child misses the cut off for halls of accommodation, a student house could also be a good option for their first year – speak to the university accommodation office or local student letting agents to find out if there are any student houses looking for an extra roommate.

When should students start looking for second year housing?

Typically students start looking to secure their house for second year just after the Christmas period. But remember, demand for student houses can be high, especially those nearer campus - so it’s important they start their research early so all the best houses don’t get snapped up.

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3. Living at home for uni

There’s always the option for your child to stay at home and commute to university. This is a great way to minimise student debt as there won’t be any need for a maintenance loan, as well as having the privacy to fully focus on their studies. It’s also a great solution if you already live near to the university, as commuting will be cheaper and easier for them.

However it’s worth bearing in mind that if your child is hoping for an active social life at uni, living at home can sometimes make this difficult – if they’ve got a long commute ahead, they’re unlikely to want to hang around for a drink after lectures. They may also miss out on some of the skills you learn from living independently, such as cooking and managing a budget.

Quick tip: If they want to be close to uni but they’re not so sure about shared housing, your child’s best option could be to live alone at university - they’ll always have a quiet place to study and, if they enjoy a tidy home, won’t have to deal with the anxiety of living in other students’ mess!

Read our guide to living at home during uni.

Are students covered by parents’ home insurance?

Have you considered how much it would cost to replace your child’s belongings should they have an unexpected mishap at uni? You might be surprised by how much it can add up – which is why it’s important to make sure their items are protected in student accommodation.

Sometimes you’ll have the option to cover your child’s student belongings under your home insurance policy while you’re away at university. However not all home insurance providers offer this, so it’s worth making sure. If they do, you will likely need to give your insurance company a call to extend the policy, and to double check exactly what’s covered.

You should also bear in mind that while putting your child’s belongings on your insurance policy may work in their favour, it may not always be positive for you. A claim on your insurance could affect your renewal quote and annual premium. There’s also the cost of adding your child’s items to your policy - it may be cheaper for them to take out their own student insurance policy.




What’s next?

Ultimately, choosing their accommodation is an exciting prospect for most students - your child may already know exactly which type of accommodation they want to live in! As their home away from home, it’s important to make sure they are safe and comfortable.

If your child is starting to arrange viewings, read our top tips for student house viewings during a pandemic!

And if you’re worried about your child losing or damaging their belongings? Get peace of mind that your child’s belongings are protected with flexible cover from the UK’s No. 1 student insurance provider*!

Find out more about student insurance or get a quote.

*Voted ‘Best Student Insurer’ at the Insurance Choice Awards 2017-2020!

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