Student rights – what you need to know before you sign your contract

Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. But there are some things to be aware of – including differences in contract length, bills and regulations.

Student accommodation – what to ask?

When you’re looking for student accommodation, you’ll want to find somewhere that meets your needs. So when you’re using the UCAS accommodation search or reading accommodation info on uni websites – don’t just think about where you like the look of, check the practical details too.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself.

1. How much rent should a student pay?

Student rent varies a lot, depending on the kind of accommodation it is, the location and on-site facilities. Think about your budget – and remember some student rent includes more bills than others.

Once you’ve settled on a budget that leaves you enough money for food and student life, take a look at the accommodation options in that price range.

Here are some things that can affect the rent

  • How modern is it?
  • Do you have an en-suite bathroom?
  • What bills are included – heating, electricity, water, internet?
  • Is it your own room in uni accommodation, or a shared house with private landlord?
  • How near to your campus is it?
  • Is there on-site laundry, gym, SU bar etc?
  • Are you in town or a bus ride away?

 

2. How can I check if my student accommodation is safe?

All accommodation should have a minimum standard of door locks and build quality to keep you secure.

In uni accommodation, e.g. student halls or shared townhouses, you’ll have external door locks and a lock on your bedroom door. You might have residential assistants who can support you – as well as CCTV and on-site security guards. There’s also usually a maintenance team you can get in touch with if there’s any wear and tear.

Take a look at virtual tours of uni accommodation to see if you think you’d feel comfortable there.

Shared houses with private landlords are often located in residential neighbourhoods – so you could explore the area and see if you’d feel at home there. You may or may not have a lock on your bedroom door, and for any maintenance issues you’d contact your landlord.

3. Do I pay tax as a student?

Possibly, but only if you earn above the ‘personal allowance’. This is an annual amount you can earn tax-free within the tax year (6 April to 5 April). For the 2021/22 tax year, the personal allowance is £12,570. So you can earn this amount and pay no income tax on it (as long as you earn less than £100,000 in total over the tax year).

Anything you earn above the personal allowance will be taxed at the normal rates of income tax. Though if you have a part-time job while you study you might not exceed the personal allowance anyway.

There are some types of income that are totally non-taxable – these include student loans, grants, bursaries, scholarships, Child Tax Credits and Disability Living Allowance. So these won’t count towards your personal allowance or be eligible for tax.

4. What are my student accommodation rights?

Whether you’re in uni halls of residence or accommodation with a private landlord, as a tenant you’ll have a contract you should read in detail.

Check the details of your contract for two things

  1. A list of rights your landlord can’t legally overrule – for instance, that you can’t be evicted unless you break the rules.
  2. A list of responsibilities you need to follow – to make sure you don’t breach your contract.

In particular it’s worth making sure your deposit is protected in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.

You also legally have to be given 24-hours’ notice before your landlord can enter the property. They may want to have inspections to make sure you’re keeping the place in good condition – so it’s a good idea to keep on top of your cleaning/tidying to make sure you don’t have to rush last minute!

5. How many weeks do you pay for student accommodation?

This varies – and is a key consideration when you’re choosing your accommodation.

  • Some contracts match the standard academic year, e.g. September to June.
  • Some could be 1 September to 31 August.
  • Some are term-time only.

If you’re planning to go home to live with your family outside of term-time, then you could go for a shorter contract. Or if you’re planning to stay in your university town over summer, you might want a longer one.

Want to know more?

Feel free to have a chat to students who are already at uni to see which of these questions were most important when they chose their accommodation. Or which ones they wish they’d thought about!