What types of accomodation are there?
Accommodation falls into several categories, although there is often some blurring of the boundaries, particularly when referring to a bedsit or studio apartment. In general, the following terms are used (starting with the cheapest options):
- Flat or house share: Own bedroom but other facilities (living room, kitchen, bathroom) shared with other people.
- Bedsit: Bedroom and living room combined. Normally smaller than a studio flat and often has cooking facilities either within the room, or as a separate shared facility. Often has shared bathroom.
- Studio flat: Bedroom and living room combined. Often there is a separate kitchen. Should be self-contained (i.e. not sharing facilities with anyone).
- Flat/Apartment: Self contained accommodation, with a separate living room and at least one bedroom. Often on only one level and part of a larger building.
- Maisonette: Apartment/flat on two levels with internal stairs.
- Bungalow: House with only one level.
- Terraced house: House attached to two other houses, often in a row of similar houses.
- Semi-detached house: House sharing one wall with another house.
- Detached house: House standing alone.
Where can I search for accomodation?
There are plenty of online search engines for finding private rental accommodation in the UK. You could try the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), which allows you to search for property type and price within a particular area. If you do not want to rent through an agency, you could search the local papers for housing advertisements and rent directly from the owner. If you will be moving to Scotland you could also contact the Relocation Advisory Service , a free service for people looking to move to Scotland
UK studentlife.com also has useful information about finding somewhere to live in the UK.
Many universities offer accommodation to international students (including PhD students) at a reasonable rate. Some may also be able to arrange accommodation for international researchers.
Where can I find out about tenancy agreements and my rights as a tenant?
DirectGov has useful information for people who want to rent accommodation, including information on the different types of landlord and tenancy agreements, and advice on what to do if you have a problem with your landlord. Landlords are generally responsible for the maintenance and safety of the property, and if you would like to know what this includes, visit the DirectGov pages on rented accommodation.
What if I want to buy a house?
If you will stay for a substantial period of time in the UK it may make sense for you to buy a house. However, you should probably wait until you have settled in before you take this step, and get to know the area in which you would like to buy. Some of the things you should bear in mind are:
- Arranging a mortgage. This may be more difficult if you have a short-term grant or stipend instead of a regular salary.
- Saving up for a deposit. The deposit is normally around five to twenty one percent of the purchase price, but having a larger deposit could get you a better mortgage deal.
- Solicitor’s/conveyancer’s fees. These can vary according to the area and property.
- Surveyor’s fees. There is a basic valuation survey (around £300), which you will have to pay for, but you may also want a more complete structural survey and the costs of this vary.
- Stamp Duty Land Tax. This is a tax that you must pay if the property you buy is more than £125,000. It is currently 1% of the total purchase price for a property less than £250,000.
- Stamp duty is currently being waived until March 2012 for first time buyers purchasing a property worth less than £250,000.
DirectGov has more information on buying a home.
What type of costs will I have to pay?
The costs of accommodation and related costs vary greatly throughout the UK and often depend on your type of accommodation. Below is a short summary of the sorts of expenses that you may incur. Note that if you live in university accommodation, a lot of these costs will be included in your rent, and sometimes even food is included as well, so make sure you know exactly what you are paying for.
- Deposit. Normally one month’s rent and returnable at the end of the tenancy.
- Rent/Mortgage repayments. Rent and mortgage repayments are usually paid monthly and vary considerably depending on the type of accommodation and where you live. In general, accommodation in London is the most expensive in the UK. Expect to pay between £600 and £1000 per month for a furnished, self-contained, one bedroom flat in London: elsewhere in the UK prices are often much cheaper. It is a good idea to check whether bills and council tax are included in the rental price.
- Furniture. Some rental accommodation is furnished or part furnished (usually this includes kitchen apparatus), but if it is not you will need to buy your own furniture. Cheap, often good quality, second-hand goods can be bought from charity shops, which sometimes have associated furniture warehouses.
- Council tax. The amount of council tax you will have to pay depends on where you live and the property that you live in. Council tax rates vary widely, even within cities: for example in London in 2005/2006, the average council tax for a ‘Band D’ property ranged from around £400 per year, to more than £1000 per year. You can check the council tax for specific local authorities by visiting DirectGovYou may be entitled to a reduction in council tax, for example if you have a low income, and you can find out more about this, and council tax in general, at DirectGovIn Northern Ireland, instead of council tax, a rates system is in place, and you can find out more about this on the Land and Property Services Website
- Insurance. The average annual premiums for buildings insurance (to cover the structure of the house) and contents insurance (to cover the contents; your furniture, personal possessions etc) are around £150 and £100, respectively. However, prices vary depending on the provider and where you are in the country. If you live in private rented accommodation the buildings insurance is usually covered by the landlord but you will probably have to take out your own contents insurance. Check with your landlord to find out exactly what you are covered for.
- Utility bills. Gas, electricity and water bills can soon mount up, particularly as prices for gas have recently been increased by many providers.
- Telephone. Telephone costs vary depending on the provider and your usage. Visit our communication section to find out about cheap ways to call abroad.
- Internet. Internet costs vary depending on the provider: a broadband connection currently costs around £10 - £20 per month, sometimes even with unlimited download allowance, and many providers now have packages which include telephone and digital television as well.
- Television licence. Everyone who has a television must get a television licence. A colour TV licence currently costs ₤142.50 per year and you can pay monthly or yearly. Find out more here