Yesterday we chatted about making the decision to study in London, the wonderful opportunities that study abroad brings and how living in London as a student is amazingly diverse and rewarding.
Today though, I’d like to focus on what it’s like to be moving to London as a post-graduate student. There are literally thousands of post-grad, mostly MBA, students in London, many of whom may have a decade or more of work experience under their belts. In real numbers, there are over 32,000 international higher degree students in the UK at any one time. Can anyone say “Housing shortage?!”
London student accommodation is varied to say the very least. Of course, one can stay in residence (Halls), that is at the university, (usually for first-year students), one can stay in student ‘digs’, which is shared accommodation or one can privately rent a flat close to the university. The reason that I’m focusing on MBA students is for the particular reason that much higher degree business students are moving to London with their families, they may well own property in their country of origin and yet, when applying for a lease or trying to rent a home in London, will be treated like any other student – More checks and balances, more paperwork and more hassle.
We work closely with a number of London universities and their accommodation offices, which should be your first port of call – even if you’re reaching out to them from abroad. You must get proof of the fact that you’re studying at the institution and a Council Tax Exemption Certificate which you’ll present to your Local Authority after you move in. At LR, our Settling-In Service takes care of details like this for you. Students are exempt from paying Council Tax (bonus!) but it’s a bit of a process to get right.
Make sure you prepare your paperwork to rent a flat in London before you arrive, and, if you’re going through the rental process privately, make sure that you don’t get stuck with extra costs like a referencing fee – usually charged by the letting agent and levied before you even get to look at properties in some cases. Not a scare tactic – but it’s important to note that there is no compulsory body governing Lettings Agents, though there are a number of professional organizations that oversee their members. Perhaps ‘Caveat Emptor’ is the best way of expressing this point.
The biggest issue facing post-grad student rentals in London though, in our experience, is the ‘Break Clause’. Even if you’re studying in London for a couple of years, you’re going to want to negotiate the ‘Break Clause in your favor. You may want to break your lease over the summer months, and do not want to have to go through any legal hassles if you’ve signed an iron-clad 12-month contract. A good break clause would two months notice (from either party) after six months of the commencement of the lease. The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) Agreement is the default standard for most types of tenancy, but if you have someone negotiating for you, you can ensure that the lease agreement works in your favor.
When you say “I’m a student!” many landlords and Lettings Agents reach for the ‘Dilapidation Deposit’ clause. Which seems a little unfair of you’ve been out of school for over a decade and are not intending on living-like-a-student! The property market in London tends to treat students as a collective rather than judging each application on a personal level.
Another important point to note, especially if you’re a student from the US moving to London: there is no MLS in the UK, you can’t see a range of properties from different agents and then make a decision. Each agent will only show you their own group of properties and usually work in a specific area. At LR we only work for individuals and have access to ALL the properties in London based on your needs. We don’t treat our clients the same, because they’re not. Each person has different needs and requirements when relocating internationally, and this is especially true for international students.