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Student Accommodation

National Student Accommodation Survey 2018 – Results

UPDATE: View our 2024 National Student Accommodation Survey.

We've all heard horror stories about uni accommodation, but we can now reveal the realities of student living – from the sublime to the ridiculous.

National Student Accommodation Survey 2018

This year’s National Student Accommodation Survey received over 2,000 responses from students, giving us a ring-side seat in the UK student housing arena.

Here we reveal plenty of interesting insights, some more worrying than others... Two of the prominent themes this year are: costs are brutal and horrible housemates aren’t helping!

As always our findings are presented transparently, unflinching and as told by students.

What's student accommodation really like?

When it comes to student accommodation, most of you tend to either rent from private landlords (half) or live in university accommodation (a third).

1 in 10 of you plump for private halls (which charge slightly more than the going rate) while just 8% take the cheapest route and opt to stay at home.

Where do students live?

Wherever students choose to live, most get a reasonable deal on location: the average journey to campus takes just 20 minutes. Results do vary, of course! Unsurprisingly, those in London travel almost 10 minutes more than the average UK student.

Ultimately, however, more than a third of you reckon you’re not getting value for money. We’ll come back to that!

Here are just a few of your comments on the realities of student accommodation:

- The place looks like a prison.

- Good value for money, but still expensive even with a job and a student loan.

- Compared to many houses it's not bad but difficult living almost an hour away. Can't afford to take public transport so I walk, not that safe at night but living in town is too expensive.

- Lack of independence due to living with parents, but I can't afford rent in Brighton.

- Thankfully, my parents can afford to pay for everything, albeit sometimes with the help of my student loans.

- My flatmates treat the house poorly which makes living difficult. This is made worse by the location which is far away from both university and the majority of students.

- Boiler broke at the peak of winter so no heating, couldn't get hold of anyone because it was before New Year, took 5 days to get it fixed and they didn't provide alternative heating.

- Super friendly and respectful roommates, excellent accommodation all round.

Will you struggle to pay rent?

Shockingly, 44% of students struggle to keep up with the rent. Most worryingly, 45% say the cost of accommodation impacts mental health, while 31% find their studies are affected too.

In a nutshell? You guys are stressed out and not impressed. Remember that you don’t have to go it alone: a support strategy and extra funding can help!

How do rent payments effect students?

Our rent calculator makes it simple to see what you can afford.

But what are the stories behind the numbers? Here's what some students have to say about making ends meet:

- Rent, fees and food being expensive means at times I've had to not eat in order to pay my rent.

- My student loan covers the cost of my accommodation, which I paid upfront anyways.

- I had to pay £2,500 this term for my accommodation. Student finance only gave me £1,700.

- Student loan doesn't even come close to covering rent, so have to rely on parents for extra money which is really stressful. Have to spend very little on food each week so am not eating very well because of it.

- As well as the rent starting for new accommodation over the summer term I personally didn't have any student finance to help me cover the costs which just put me into even more debt.

How much does student accommodation cost?

How much do students spend on rent?

The UK national average for student rent swings in at a hefty £130.59/wk – that’s around £566/mth. The really bad news? The average Maintenance Loan payment comes in at just £138.85/wk, leaving next to nothing for all your other costs (like eating!) .

So it's perhaps no surprise that 83% of students would like to see rents capped according to what’s on offer in student funding.

How do rents vary around the UK?

The cost of rent varies massively depending on where you study. London remains the priciest place to find student digs, with average rents reaching £222/wk - that’s more than 1.5x the national average. Cheapest by a country mile is Northern Ireland, with an average rent of just £71/wk.

Student rent cost map

What do you get for your money?

If there’s a ray of sunshine in this year’s stats, it’s that student rents often come bundled with bills – 68% of have bagged inclusive deals. Worth bearing in mind next time you negotiate your rent!

What is included in student rent

Interestingly, broadband is increasingly a standard in student homes, with 52% of students saying it’s included in the rent. If there’s a warning, though, it’s that inclusive rents may not always save you money if you could grab cheaper bills on the side.

What about upfront costs?

The majority of students have letting or agency fees to pay on top of rent, coming in at an average of £208. These aren’t always transparent, however – 16% of you say fees weren’t clear when you signed your contract.

Coughing up for the deposit is still a bone of contention. Not only does the average deposit come in at £301, but 1 in 5 students struggle to get it back. Don’t let that be you!

Agencies and landlords seem to be a real issue for students, as these stories can testify:

- Were told that our deposit may not be returned in full at the end of the contract because certain things need repairing or sorting out. However, the house is getting ripped apart at the end of the year anyway – so why take our money?

- Poor internet connection (bills included deal)

- Photos and recruiters showed/assured a stocked kitchen but no basic tools (knives, pots & pans, cutlery/crockery) were provided at all.

- Inadequate help and understanding from the property agency is not good enough for how much we are paying for rent. We also feel that our deposit will be affected because we have had so many issues.

- Two friends decided to have a butter fight after a night out. Every wall, door, carpet, roof was covered in butter. They also smashed the flat screen TV. We all lost quite a bit of our deposit after that.

The biggest housing issues for students

Is student accommodation good value for money?

Considering the high cost of student accommodation, crummy conditions and long-term complaints are still way too common. Damp or lack of heating/hot water affects 1 in 3 students, while disruptive building work is a headache for 1 in 5.

The biggest surprise this year is that the number one issue for student renters is the people you live with: half of all of you have horrible housemates, and it can mean stress, sleepless nights and slanging matches!

The 10 biggest problems for student renters

  1. Noisy housemates (52%)
  2. Damp (38%)
  3. Housemates stealing food (37%)
  4. Lack of water/heating (34%)
  5. Disruptive building work (22%)
  6. Rodents & pests (18%)
  7. Inappropriate landlord visits (14%)
  8. Dangerous living conditions (8%)
  9. Break in or burglary (6%)
  10. Bed bugs (4%)

As if the stats weren't bad enough, some of the anecdotal evidence is truly worrying too:

- Housemate pooed on kitchen floor

- Constant lack of hot water, the shower broke and the landlord said he wouldn’t cover costs to fix it and we as tenants would have too.

- One of the tenants moved his girlfriend into the house in September. She lived in his bedroom for the first month without paying rent or contributing to bills. After two months of trying to get her to leave due to harassment and bullying issues, with help from the University, we involved the police.

- The second time we were robbed it was because my flatmates had left the back door wide open. Now every night I've got to do a quick security check to make sure everything is locked.

- Ridiculous amounts of mould, growing on every outside wall. Took ages for the landlord to do anything about it and I had to clean it myself.

- Housemates vandalizing my property and being charged for the uni to clear other people's mess. The residential assistant was no help whatsoever with any problem.

- Our oven spontaneously set on fire and it took 2 weeks to get in touch with anyone and another 3 weeks before the oven was replaced.

- The downstairs neighbours (who are also students) constantly complain about noise, even when we’re just cooking dinner/watching TV. They’ve took it to the council and so now we are worried about being kicked out.

Check out episode one of our podcast, No More Beans, for more student housing horror stories.

How long does it take to get problems sorted?

While it’s a huge improvement since 2017, 1 in 3 students are still left waiting up to a month for maintenance issues to be fixed – and 7% say problems are never fixed. Yikes.

I was trying to fix our washing machine and literally put my ass through the wall when I bent over.

Turns out there had been a massive mould issue, and the plasterboard inside the wall had gone black with mould … it was so bad that on the other side of the wall there were mushrooms growing in the bathroom, but landlady just assumed it was typical students.

Kelly, third-year student at the University of Portsmouth

Student accommodation issues

With some landlords taking their sweet time, the pressure is on parents to pitch in on advice, repairs or moral support: 43% of students ask for help from home. Friends, the university’s accommodation service and online forums also crop up as SOS saviours, while some of you have taken issues to Citizen’s Advice or sought legal advice.

Where do students go for accommodation issue help?

Don’t want to get taken for a ride? Know your renters’ rights and stick to your guns! Housing charity Shelter can fill you in.

As we say, things are looking up in this department, but that doesn't mean that long-term problems are unheard of:

- I have little bugs (silverfish I think) in my room and bathroom but it's to be expected for student accommodation.

- Weird landlord. Won't fix things we desperately need but will come into the flat whenever to deliver things like a sofa which we don’t need. And will come in when we're not around.

- Didn’t have heating until mid-December. I live in the most expensive building and it took multiple reports and nearly 4 months to get sorted.

- Our landlady is very good so minimal problems.

- Being promised the house would go under renovation over the summer and then turning up on the day of moving in to find that nothing had been done … the house was filthy, pretty sure my mattress had bed bugs, and had carbon monoxide coming into my bedroom from the boiler flue being right next to my window.

What do the experts say?

Save the Student

Jake Butler, our student money expert, says:

STS social media job adviceThe fact that the maintenance loan barely covers students’ rent is shocking. Students are forced to get a job at the expense of their studies, or rely on their parents who may struggle to support them.

It’s quite clear that the sheer cost of just having a roof over their heads is putting a huge strain on students across the country, exacerbating mental health issues and the temptation to drop out of university.

Forget about tuition fees and high interest rates – now that the government are finally reviewing the student finance system, a fairer maintenance loan should be at the top of their agenda.

The National Association of Student Money Advisors (NASMA)

Wendy Bainham and Ani Bailey of NASMA comment:

Everyone deserves to live in accommodation that is safe, secure, and affordable. If these factors are not in place, financial and emotional stress can have a significant negative impact on students and their ability to focus on their studies and achieve their best outcomes.

The National Association of Money Advisers run a campaign each year to raise awareness of student issues, and this year the "Where I live" campaign being run in February as part of National Student Money Week was an opportunity to hold activities, information sessions and promote the support that money advisers offer.

Essential tools

It's not all doom and gloom! We spend our days trying to help students balance the books at uni, and if your accommodation is proving a drain on your resources, check out these essential tools:

About the survey

  • Want to know more about the survey, or need case studies, comments or quotes? We’re happy to help – just drop us a line
  • You’re welcome to reference or re-use data from the survey with credit and a link back to the site: "Source: The National Student Accommodation Survey 2018 /"
  • Survey polled 2,246 students in the UK between 1st – 14th February 2018.
Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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