Housing at SU London
Please note: the following information applies to Fall/Spring semester students only. For more information on Summer semester housing, please see the SU Abroad website.
The Two Options: Pre-Arranged and Independent
Pre-Arranged Housing: What is it?
Independent Housing: How does it work?
When to Search: While in the US or once I'm in the UK?
Housing List: Why isn't it available ahead of time?
What can I do before I arrive?
Rental Deposits - Info for Independently Housed Students
The options for SU London students
At SU London there are two housing options: pre-arranged or independent. We hope that by clarifying the process of choosing housing below, you (and your parents) will feel better equipped to decide between these two options. Knowing that your housing is set-up before you come to London, not having to find roommates, and being close to school is what attracts students to pre-arranged housing. Having the freedom to live where you want, with whom you want, all while almost certainly paying less in rent is what attracts students to independent housing.
We'll try our best to explain how the process works, and both options have their pros and cons – so think carefully before you make your choice. We've also included advice from previous students who think they made the right decision.
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Pre-Arranged Housing: What is it?
Our pre-arranged housing is managed by Ango-American Educational Services and is located in the award-winning Gazzano Building in Clerkenwell, a trendy and increasingly popular neighborhood in central London. Please note that it is NOT an SU London dorm - SU Abroad books a certain number of flats at The Gazzano Building and students must abide by Ango-American Education Service’s rules and regulations as well as by the SU Student Code of Conduct.
With pre-arranged housing you move straight into your new London home upon arriving for the semester, which means you only have to unpack once. The Gazzano Building is a 20 minute walk or 5 minute bus ride away from Faraday House and the University of London library and Student Union, both of which you'll have access to (and you can join the University of London student gym for an additional fee). Clerkenwell has a vibrant arts, food and nightlife scene and is centrally located in the London; public transportation in London can be very expensive, so this central location and your ability to walk most places will help you save loads of money on travel. Weekly cleaning service, 24-hour maintenance crews and free laundry access are included in the price.
Pre-arranged takes the pressure off of finding flatmates. After filling out a roommate-preference sheet you will be assigned like-minded people to share with, or alternatively, if you do know people coming you can suggest by name who you would like to room with. Each flat is for four people living in two rooms. The flats are furnished, including a television in each lounge, a fully equipped kitchen and dining table, and a washer/dryer in each unit. Student liaisons have regular meetings with SU London staff, and help organize social events, like walks to nearby markets. All pre-arranged students have a mandatory "Living in London" Orientation the day after they arrive where you'll have a chance to meet Ango-American Education Services representatives.
For more information about pre-arranged housing, please see the SU Abroad website, or contact Gail Rich at SU Abroad.
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Independent Housing: How does it work?
Let's start by saying that we've been doing this for a very long time and no one is ever homeless after the first week! All independent housing students stay in a hotel we've booked for your first six nights, so don't worry, you have somewhere to stay while you look. The "Living in London" Housing Orientation will begin the morning after you arrive. Our expert Student Life staff and Student Guides will outline the process and the pitfalls of finding housing, negotiating contracts and dealing with estate agents. You'll be briefed on the areas of London preferred by former students and things to look out for when viewing a property.
Even if you start looking for housing before you come, we still require you to come to the "Living in London" Housing Orientation. Not only will there be general advice on how to get the best from the city, but we’ll also provide tips for dealing with housing agents and offer a full explanation of London's public transport system.
Following Orientation, you'll be divided into smaller groups, each led by an orange-shirted Student Guide who'll reinforce the important considerations when choosing a place to live. Then you'll be provided with our housing list – with many available properties and student-friendly realtors, and, equally important, some to avoid.
Throughout the week, your guide will check in with you and help you liaise with other groups. There'll also be a drop-in Housing Desk at Faraday House where you can check for new properties and open spots in flats that other students have found. Even over the weekend, there'll be housing support available in the Student Life Office.
We know it is easy to say, but please -- don't worry! When it comes to finding housing, the best advice we can give to any prospective students really is “don't stress.” Students always find housing, often more easily than they anticipated and more luxurious than they dreamed! Keep an open mind.
During Arrivals week there will be a certain amount of mixing and matching going on as students choose their flat mates. Sometimes groups splinter up for financial reasons, as some students have a higher housing budget than others. But everyone always finds housing by the beginning of classes so it is really not necessary for either you or your parents to get over anxious.
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When to Search: While still in the US or once I'm in the UK?
If you’ve elected to live in independent housing, you may of course choose when to begin looking for a flat. However, we strongly recommend you wait until you are here in London to start your search in earnest. Here are some of the reasons why:
• You need to be sure of your flat mates and their budget before you choose a flat.
• A lot of student flats come onto the market right before you arrive.
• Seeing is believing! There is no substitute for viewing a flat and having face to face negotiation.
• The standard London lease is for six months- you will be looking for what the industry calls a 'short let.'
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The Housing List: Why isn't it available ahead of time?
At the end of each semester we process the results of online housing questionnaires to make sure we have an accurate picture of the services the various Letting Agents provide and how our students rate them. Also, the housing market in London turns over very quickly, so many Agents will not know ahead of time what properties they will have on their books when you arrive. As a result, the Housing List is not finalized until a few days before students arrive so we can make sure that the listings are bang up to date; there's nothing more frustrating than making calls about flats that are no longer available.
Some of the Agents on the list are independent operators: middlemen who help students find some terrific flats, yet they don't have websites. Similarly we sometimes get last minute calls from private landlords who much prefer to meet their prospective tenants rather than negotiate online.
One thing is certain, by waiting until you arrive and by using the Housing List and all the local help we provide during Orientation week, you stand a much better chance not only of finding a bargain, but finding an accommodation that meets all your needs in terms of price, facilities and location.
Please don't assume you will be able to shop around the High Street Estate Agents as they generally don't cater to the student market, nor do they offer leases under 6 months duration.
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Either students or recent graduates of British universities, our Student Guides will do their best to get everyone oriented and settled in their new surroundings as quickly as possible. They are an indispensable part of Arrival and Orientation week at SU London. As Londoners they understand the business of flat-hunting and will be your very best resource. From the moment you arrive at the airport (group flight only) they'll be instantly recognizable in their bright orange T-shirts. They'll happily help you set-up housing appointments, show you how to navigate London's public transport system and if you'd like them to accompany you to viewings for advice they'll do that too (and maybe even to help barter with landlords!).
Besides the vital role the Student Guides play in the housing process, they're also there to answer your questions: to give advice on neighborhoods, shopping, eating, nightlife and communications. A great resource for those crucial first days in London, we encourage you to take advantage of our Student Guides as much as possible.
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Students come to SU London from lots of different American universities. Don't be alarmed if you're coming to London without knowing many people – there’ll be plenty of new friends waiting for you here! The Student Life team and Student Guides will be doing their very best to smooth your path through the housing process, so there's no need for you ever to feel alone. We'll provide opportunities to meet potential flatmates on arrivals day and during events throughout the week.
On the day you arrive, Faraday House will be open for students to use the Student Lounge as a 'drop in' center. You'll be mixing with other new arrivals at Orientation events, including an arrival lunch that day and the Meet and Greet party the next evening. There's also a Facebook group called SU Abroad London - Spring 2013 which is a great way to establish links with possible roommates.
If you have roommates lined up already then you'll hit the ground running, but be flexible to have your numbers shift depending on what you find. As a general rule, you will be sharing bedrooms in doubles or triples and we find that larger groups (four to eight students) have an easier time finding a flat than smaller ones.
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What can I do before I arrive?
Research London’s neighborhoods
We realize that many of you are itching to get started and the very first thing you should do is get to know the city. Spend some time on the Visit London website, thinking about neighborhoods and what is important to you – being close to school or somewhere with a vibrant weekend nightlife, being in the middle of the city or close to a park, etc. If you make a list of what you want to see and do and think about the trips you plan to take, you'll quickly realize how little time you'll be spending in your flat. You're only in London for a few short months!
In addition to thinking about what a particular neighborhood can offer culturally, be mindful of its location in relation to SU London’s center at Faraday House and other amenities of the city you may want to enjoy. Take some time to visit London’s public transportation website to learn about your desired neighborhoods’ proximity to bus routes and Tube lines. We also recommend using WalkIt.com to gauge walking – sometimes the best way to see a new city is to use your own two feet!
Start thinking about accommodations
If you've already got a group of flat mates organized, or if you know that you intend to live on your own, then we can give you a few suggestions to help you do some research. But we still strongly recommend that you don't commit to anything before you arrive and see the flat in person. Even if you have a firm recommendation from friends about a specific flat they rented during their semester in London, remember conditions can change quickly and you might be in for a disappointment.
SU London is here to fully support your housing search, but be aware that in the end a lease is a binding document, a contract between you and the landlord. Once any deposit has been put down, it will not be returned. You can't change your mind once you've signed on the line.
Please be aware and vigilant – if you have entered into a housing agreement and you are being asked for a rental deposit by anyone who is not your housing provider use extreme caution! Scammers often use “Western Union” and deceptively-well crafted websites to separate you from your money. If you really want to settle your independent housing before you arrive in the UK, you must be prepared to send a great deal of money overseas and to deal with the consequences.
Over the years we have cultivated good relationships with a few agencies who enjoy working with us and unofficially 'earmark' flats for our students. If you wish to contact them by email, you might be able to set up appointments for when you arrive. Remember, though, that the cheaper options won't typically be available until just before you arrive.
• Duncan McGlashan has had consistently good feedback from our students and has a number of flats housing 5-6 students. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Euracom has been providing student accommodations for many years and feedback is also very good. As well as student housing, they also provide luxury flats if you'd prefer something a little smarter. You can visit the Euracom website or email email@example.com.
• Anglo American Educational Services is another student housing specialist and manages the Gazzano building, our current pre-arranged housing. The folks at Anglo American have recently made two rental listings known to us, Ability Towers (PDF 260KB) in Islington and The Hawley Building (PDF 290KB) in Camden. Anglo is keen to fill these flats ASAP & we can definitely vouch for the company -- so check out these and other options on www.angloamerican.uk.com.
• Also, although Foundation for International Education (FIE) principally provides housing for its own students, they currently have some availability in one of their newly refurbished building in South Kensington. You can see details of their Queen’s Gate residence here (PDF 345KB) and should you wish to enquire further, please contact John Janoudi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Last year several of our students lived in FIE housing and they were very happy with both the location and the facilities.
• We also have details of a number of new housing providers for whom as yet we have no feedback but whose property portfolio is impressive. Nido Student Living has just opened a state-of-the-art student residence in Spitalfields, one of London’s trendiest central areas. They are currently offering 5% discount on 2 bedroom studios and 4 person flatshares to SU London students. Note however that Nido accommodation is considerably more expensive than average, but it is nonetheless a first class residence with terrific facilities and breathtaking views of London’s most iconic buildings.
Please note that all of the accommodation listed above are over the housing allowance and for that reason amongst others, we encourage students to wait until they arrive to find their housing. A lot of the agents whose property we will list in the Housing List don’t have their own website and they may not know in advance what properties they will have available. If you’re keen to keep to the housing allowance or under, please be patient, attend the Housing meeting and with persistence you should be able to find something to suit your budget.
To get a sense of what finding property in London will entail before you arrive, you might like to check out a popular London listings website called Gumtree. A few of the more adventurous students have in the past found housing through Gumtree but please tread carefully. Nothing beats face to face negotiation and unless you know the city intimately already, you could end up living in an area that really isn't to your taste, and with people who aren't on the same schedule as an American student. Also, please be aware that as full-time students you may be exempted from paying residential Council Tax, but if you live with non-students, you will be liable to pay.
During your semester in London you'll become very familiar with Time Out, London's leading weekly listings magazine and website. Time Out also offers a flat share service on http://flatshare.timeout.com/index.php. Very often the properties advertised are out of the center of London and consequently less expensive. But if you're unfamiliar with the geography of the city, as with Gumtree, please exercise caution. On the plus side, it's a good website with clear photographs and descriptions so if you're anxious to have your own room and live with British people, you might just find what you need. But again you have to remember that unless all members of the household are full-time students you will be required to pay Council Tax on top of your rent. And again, never send money ahead by Western Union, it’s so often used - most convincingly - by scammers.
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Rental Deposits - Info for Independently Housed Students
When you sign your rental agreement with your landlord, you are also required to put down a refundable deposit. A deposit amount is typically one month’s rent, but this can vary by contract. Imagine if you are paying around £170 per week in rent, that would mean a £700 deposit, which is around $1,000 in the current exchange rate. This deposit is returned at the conclusion of your lease and only after an inspection of your vacated flat. If any damages to the property are found, you may be held liable and your deposit money will be used to pay for the damages.
Some of the landlords with whom SU London has relationships operate under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, put in place by the Housing Act of 2004 to protect the interests of the tenants, not the landlords. Under the scheme, your deposit is held by a third party, and if there are charges that you don’t agree with -- that third party deposit agency will make an independent ruling. Check below to see if your tenancy agreement falls under the conditions of the scheme, and either way -- talk to your landlord about their policies regarding deposits.
If ever there was a case of deposit money not being returned, we would absolutely follow up. However, you should be assured that it has been many, many years since this has happened.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, if you pay a deposit it is likely that the landlord will need to protect it using a government authorized scheme. Prior to the introduction of this legislation, around one-fifth of tenants' deposits were never paid back. This scheme reduces widespread abuse.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies (the type of rental contract that some SU London students sign) are covered by this legislation, which means that most students living in private sector accommodation will have their deposits protected. However, there are some exceptions.
The following are the three most common examples of when the legislation will not apply:
• The rent on the property is in excess of £25,000 per annum (for example: five of you paying £97 or more per week).
• You are sharing accommodation with your landlord in their home as a lodger.
• The landlord lives in another flat in the same building as you (unless it is a purpose-built block of flats).
If your housing does not fall into the above categories, then the landlord must protect it in a scheme. Make sure you ask your landlord about it. The scheme should ensure that your tenancy deposit is protected so that:
• You get all or part of your deposit back, when you are entitled to it.
• Any disputes between you and your landlord or agent will be easier to resolve.
At the beginning of a new tenancy agreement, pay your deposit to your landlord or agent as usual. Within 14 days, the landlord or agent is required to give you details about how your deposit is protected, including:
• The contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme.
• The contact details of the landlord or agent.
• How to apply for the release of the deposit.
• Information explaining the purpose of the deposit.
• What to do if there is a dispute about the deposit.
If you don’t get this information, ask your landlord or agent the simple question – ‘how is my deposit protected?’ Even if your deposit is not covered by the tenancy deposit scheme, your rental contract should have precise information about your deposit and your rights to get it back.
Safeguarding your deposit
You have a responsibility to return the property in the same condition that it was let to you, though this allows for fair wear and tear. It is a good idea to make sure that when you sign your tenancy agreement, you:
• Keep a detailed list of contents (such as furniture and fittings).
• Record the condition of the property and its contents (photographs are a good idea).
• Check the circumstances in which your landlord or agent could have a claim on your deposit.
Who are the organizations running the schemes?
The three Tenancy Deposit Schemes are:
Tenancy Deposit Solutions Ltd
+44 (0)844 980 0290
The Tenancy Deposit Scheme
+44 (0)845 226 7837
The Deposit Protection Service
+44 (0)870 707 1707
If your deposit is covered under the tenancy deposit scheme, ask your landlord which scheme is protecting your deposit.
What should you do if your landlord or agent hasn’t protected your deposit?
You can apply to your local county court. The court can order the landlord or agent to either repay the deposit to you or protect it in a scheme. If your landlord or agent has not protected your deposit, they will be ordered to repay three times the amount of the deposit to you.
If you do not qualify under the scheme, your landlord should still spell out in precise language their policies regarding deposits. Before signing any rental agreement, review this information and bring any concerns you have to your potential landlord.
At the end of the tenancy, check whether you are leaving the property and its contents in the same condition as your move-in time – allowing for fair wear and tear – and check that you have paid your rent and any other expenses. Please note that you cannot, under any circumstances, use your deposit money to pay your rent. Then agree with your landlord or agent how much of the deposit should be returned to you. Within 14 days, you should have received the agreed amount of the deposit.
Even if you are dissatisfied with your landlord, it is never an option to forgo your rental payments. If you leave the UK with unpaid rent, it is our responsibility to take action, and your landlord has the legal right to prosecute you for breach of contract.
For those covered under a tenancy deposit scheme, when you move out, if you and your landlord or agent can’t agree how much of your deposit should be returned, there will be a free service offered by the scheme protecting your deposit to help resolve your dispute. Check the information your landlord or agent gave you at the beginning of your tenancy for details. Your landlord cannot give notice that he is repossessing the property at the end of the tenancy until he has protected the deposit and told you how it is protected.
Most students find if helpful to know that Anglo American, our pre-arranged housing provider, doesn’t return deposits until long after students return to the States. While you may not find this ideal, it is the norm.
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We know that oftentimes the best housing advice you can receive is from fellow students who have gone through the same process. Below, you’ll find a few students’ first-hand experiences finding housing in London:
Student Pamela Galbato wrote the following for students looking for Independent Housing:
Housing is probably what students are most anxious to take care of when they arrive in London. Some may try to avoid this anxiety by arranging living arrangements ahead of time, but I would advise against that. There were so many flats that sounded perfect on paper, but upon viewing them, we realized they were not for us. It's really important not to jump into anything too quickly, and to keep your options open. My five roommates and I looked at about a dozen flats. We found several we liked, but waited until we exhausted all of our options to make the final decision- we even explored flats through some real estate agents the school didn't suggest, but these were for the most part too costly. The flat we settled on was on Park Rd. near Baker St. right across from Regents Park. The location wasn't the closest to school we could have done, but it was good enough and was the nicest and largest flat we found. The price was over the housing allowance, but by pointing out everything that was wrong with the apartment we were able to negotiate it down to the housing allowance. Chances are the real estate agents are just as eager as you are, so it is definitely beneficial to negotiate.
Some other suggestions I have include getting a feel for the area a flat is in. Walk around a bit, have lunch or dinner at a local restaurant, see what's nearby (grocery stores etc.); also pay attention to the tube and bus stops. Practice going to school, and ask someone at Faraday their opinion of the location. Also, check out the area at night and make sure you are going to feel safe. When you are viewing an apartment asks lots of questions, and check things out. Make sure the lights and windows aren't broken, and see what's included in the apartment (bedding, towels, etc.) Internet is a huge pain, and I would strongly suggest finding an apartment that is fully equipped- ours wasn't, and it was a huge hassle.
When you are signing a lease it is even more important to ask lots of questions. Read the lease and make sure you understand all of the clauses, and use the questions Faraday supplies you with. Our real estate agent was annoyed that we had so many questions, but that just meant we were asking the right ones! Be assertive, because you don't want to end up owing lots of money in the end. Also, anything that can't be added into the contract that you agree upon, should go in a separate signed letter from the real estate agent. An example of this is, one year students got charged for marks left behind from hanging up pictures with tape. I asked our real estate agent how he would want us to hang things up, and had him write it in a signed letter so if marks were made we wouldn't be held liable. Another example of this would be making sure it was agreed you'd get your security deposit back before you leave London. This is something Faraday usually goes over, but basically you want to be done with anything involving housing before you leave.
The truth is, it's a lengthy process, but it is exciting, and if you do it right, you will eliminate future frustrations and problems.
And student Jen McCaffrey adds the following:
I was so nervous to find my own housing in London but I honestly think it was the best decision I could have ever made! I knew I was going to be rooming with one of my best friends but we figured we would need at least two other people to room with. We ended up finding five other girls to room with at the housing orientation the morning after we arrived. Also at the Housing Orientation we met an SU student guide named Lewis who was so helpful! He took us to various different flats, giving us advice and suggestions. After much deliberation we chose a flat on the Edgware Road, about 25 minutes from school and I’m so glad that we did. Edgware Road is a very ethnic neighborhood with numerous hookah bars and Middle Eastern grocery stores. While I was skeptical at first because I was not used to the area, it definitely grew on me to the point where I didn’t want to leave the flat my last day. We spent the whole first day flat searching before making a decision, signed the next morning and moved in the following day.
I think the key to the whole housing search was to BE FLEXIBLE. You have to understand that not everything is going to be perfect; you are most likely going to be living with at least a few people you don’t know and not in an area that reminds you of Notting Hill or Love Actually or whatever you picture London to be like in the movies.
You should ask someone at Faraday about the location of your flat in relation to school and don’t be afraid of the buses! I took the #98 bus down Oxford Street (which reminded me of NYC and downtown Manhattan because it was very busy and touristy) everyday to school. I can honestly say it was one of my favorite parts about London because I could just sit back and relax, watching all that was going on in the city. If I had lived five minutes away from Faraday I would have definitely missed out on this opportunity. Not only did it give me a sense of the city and help me navigate my way around easier, it also gave me a chance to discover things that I might want to do or places that I might want to go with friends.
Living in my own flat in London made it feel as though I was taking full advantage of my time there and exploring the city more. It’s a little bit stressful in the beginning but it is definitely worth it in the end and I’m so glad I made the choice that I did!
Finally, student Megan Woods states about independent housing:
I decided to go with independent housing because I knew I wanted to "LIVE LONDON" and experience an area of London different from Faraday House and the Holborn area. I went on the prequel trip to Ireland (HIGHLY recommended) and met one of my future roommates. Between my friends and hers we started looking for a flat for 8 girls. I admit that it was little stressful at first to get to London and not know where I was going to be living, while also trying to combine 8 different opinions and agree on a place, but after a day of looking at flats with one of our student guides we found a place that was under the housing allowance and could fit all 8 of us.
Our flat had wooden floors, 4 bedrooms, and a really big living room. It was really all we needed and we were comfortable! The thing is, you don't really spend that much time in your flat. It is not necessarily going to be squeaky clean, you may need to replace some light bulbs and you will probably be drying your laundry on heaters and chairs but you have to have the mentality of a being a college student that just needs the necessities.
I would highly recommend doing independent housing if you want to get the most out of your experience. I would choose a flat that is a tube/bus ride away from Faraday House so you are forced to see more of what's around and explore after classes. The SU London staff understands that it can be stressful not to know where you're living before you get to London but they provide a nice list of landlords and do their best to ensure you feel welcomed and comfortable.
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Interested in Pre-Arranged?
Our pre-arranged housing is located in the award-winning Gazzano Building in Clerkenwell, a popular neighborhood in central London.
For more information on pre-arranged housing, contact Charine John at SU London.
For more info on independent housing
Contact Linda Harkness at SU London for more information on the independent housing process.