New Students – A Guide To Finding Accommodation in Edinburgh

Finding accommodation can be a daunting prospect, especially for new international students, so we’ve put together some handy tips to help you with your search.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO THE UK

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It’s important that you arrange accommodation before travelling to the UK. However, it may be difficult to find long-term accommodation while you are still in your home country so you should arrange temporary accommodation for at least your first few days in Edinburgh.

You can find useful information about temporary accommodation in Edinburgh from Accommodation Services and Visit Scotland.

FINDING ACCOMMODATION

There are various types of accommodation available for students while they are studying. Aside from the University’s accommodation options, Edinburgh is well supplied with private accommodation (flats / apartments) for students. Over 50% of our students live in privately rented accommodation.  Costs will depend on size and location. The University’s Accommodation Services website is an excellent source of advice about both University and private properties.

University Accommodation

The University offers a variety of accommodation options, catering and self-catering, postgraduate and undergraduate. Information about University accommodation is available on the Accommodation Services website. Their helpful team will be able to answer any queries that relate to choice and availability.  We recommend that you apply for a space to live sooner rather than later as demand is very high.

Private Accommodation

University accommodation is not for everyone and you may want to have your own place or share it with friends. You can look for lodgings, flats and other types of shared student accommodation on the Studentpad website.

Family accommodation

It might take some time to find suitable accommodation for you and your family when you arrive. While you are looking, you will have to stay in temporary accommodation. This can be costly and cause disruption to your family, especially if you have young children. Therefore, we recommend that you relocate to Edinburgh without your family until you have arranged appropriate accommodation for you and your family.

Take a look at our International Families and Partners group on Facebook for more advice and events to help you and your family settle in.

The Advice Place, Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s professional student advice team, have compiled a very useful checklist  to help you in your accommodation search. They provide a wide range of resources to help make searching for accommodation easier and safer. Take a look at their Fair Housing Campaign 2015 for more information.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN LOOKING FOR ACCOMMODATION

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Tenancy agreement

No matter what type of accommodation you go for, you will have to sign a tenancy agreement. This is a contract between you and your landlord which highlights rights and responsibilities of both parties (you and your landlord).
Two copies of the tenancy agreement should be signed by both parties and each party should keep a copy.

It is important that you understand and agree with the agreement before signing it. In particular, you should check if there is a minimum length of time to rent the accommodation (normally six months) and what happens if you choose to leave early. You should also check what changes you can make to the accommodation, if you wish to do so. You can find further information and advice on tenancy agreements from The Advice Place here.

Tenancy Scams

Be very careful when responding to adverts for private accommodation.

  • Never send money to anyone for accommodation before viewing it first.
  • Always ask to view the tenancy agreement and verify that the person is the actual landlord or representative (such as the letting agent).
  • Do not hand over cash before or at a property viewing. Take the time to check that they are genuine before parting with any money.

Guarantors

Agencies will usually require a UK based guarantor. If you don’t have a UK guarantor, you will probably have to pay money in advance (usually between 3-6 months’ rent) to secure accommodation in the private rental sector. The University of Edinburgh runs a Rent Guarantor Scheme: to see if you are eligible, and how to apply, please refer to our website.

Landlord Registration

You should ensure that the landlord is registered with the Council. Most private landlords need to be registered and their registration number must appear in any written or online advert. Check landlord or property registration online.

Deposits

A security deposit is a sum of money you pay to the landlord at the beginning of a tenancy agreement. It is used to cover any damage to the property or any rent that is not paid. When your tenancy agreement ends your security deposit will be returned to you. Any cost of damages or outstanding rent will be subtracted. To protect yourself and your deposit, you should have a full inventory of the items within the property and their condition before moving in. You and the landlord should sign this inventory and keep a copy. Landlords lodge deposits with Mydeposits Scotland scheme. The scheme ensures that the money is kept in a safe bank account until the end of the tenancy.

Council Tax

Council Tax is a government charge that is used to pay for local services such as rubbish collection, street cleaning, police and schools.  Council Tax is collected by the local authority (City of Edinburgh Council). It is possible to claim discounts and exemptions from this tax when you are a student. More information about student exemptions and discounts can be found on the City of Edinburgh Council website and at the Advice Place.

OTHER COSTS TO CONSIDER

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There are additional costs you should consider when budgeting for your accommodation.

  • Heating and electricity. There are a number of different companies that provide electricity and central heating in Edinburgh. Sometimes there will already be an agreement with a provider when you move in. You can check with your landlord or letting agency who the provider is and whether you can change. If you stay in University accommodation, the cost of heat and electricity will be included in your rent.
  • Broadband and telephone. The cost of installing internet broadband and/or a telephone landline in a private flat ranges from £0 to £65. There are a number of options and special offers you can explore from different internet and telephone providers. You can compare providers and packages on a price comparison website, such as www.moneysupermarket.com
  • TV licence. If you watch or record live TV, including on a TV, laptop, tablet, smart phone or other device you must buy a TV licence. This applies to students who live in university accommodation. The TV licence costs £147 per year. It can be paid in full, or in instalments.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A PROPERTY

  • Double glazing. The weather in Scotland can be very cold and therefore it is important that you make sure that the accommodation you get is well insulated. Having double glazed windows will help you keep your rented accommodation warm and save you money on heating costs.
  • Central heating. It is cold and damp a lot of the time in Scotland, so a good heating system is always very important. Because of the weather, people tend to stay home more than in other parts of the world and therefore use more electricity and gas, especially to keep warm. Electricity and heating bills can be quite high.  There are a number of different types of central heating systems:
  • Gas Fired Central Heating (GFCH): This runs on natural gas that is piped into your home. You can normally turn it on and off when you like, or you can set it to come on automatically at certain times of the day. Having a gas central heating system is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than having an electric central heating system. When possible, try to get a flat with gas central heating.
  • Electric: With most electric heating you can turn it on and off when you like, or you can set it to come on at certain times of the day. Electric heating is not usually as effective as gas heating. It often takes longer to heat your accommodation, and is more expensive.
  • White meter heating: This is a type of electric heating. It only works at night, when the electricity is cheapest. It will normally heat enough water for the next day, depending on how much you use.

Some older accommodation may not have a central heating system and run on plug-in electric heaters. We advise that you avoid this type of accommodation; plug-in heaters are extremely expensive.

  • Furnished and unfurnished accommodation. Furnished accommodation usually comes with basic furniture, such as beds, sofas, an oven, fridge and washing machine. Sometimes it will include a television and microwave. You will normally have to provide your own towels, bed linen and kitchen utensils (plates, cups, cutlery etc.). Unfurnished accommodation does not normally have any of these things.

You will find that unfurnished accommodation is cheaper than furnished ones. If you are only staying here for a short period of time (a year or less), it is not worth buying furniture for a rented unfurnished flat.  If you are staying in Edinburgh for a few years because of your studies, you may consider unfurnished accommodation. You could always furnish it very cheaply from shops like Ikea or charity shops. When leaving the UK you could either sell your furniture online or donate it to your local charity shop.

  • Safety Check your accommodation to make sure it is safe before you rent. You should consider the following when you view any accommodation:
  • What is the area like? Generally, Edinburgh is a very safe city. However, it is common sense to make sure that you live in a safe area. This is particularly important if you are likely to go home alone at night, or spend time alone in your accommodation.
  • Is the building secure? Check for an intercom, so you know who is at the door before you open it. Make sure that the locks on the doors are reliable and the windows are secure.
  • Is there a good fire escape route? Are smoke alarms fitted?

If you have any questions about any of the above, please email our team: isas@ed.ac.uk. You can find further advice on living in Edinburgh on our website and information for new students on the University’s New Students website.

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Categories: New Students, Practical Guides

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