For a specified initial period (usually one year) you may be allocated campus or other educational institute provided accommodation. However, after you will commonly find you live off campus in private accommodation for your year two, three (or four, if applicable).
It should be remembered that your educational institute often serve (always the case with universities) as an accommodation/letting agency as well as providing its educational and other facilities, and occasionally – as in a number of UK universities cases in particulars relating to response to Covid 19 impacts – students may feel that their treatment is not fair or properly explained to them. For international students this can be much more clearly the case as they do not have the same grasp of technical (letting sector) English or familiarity with rights and responsibilities where for example tenancy rights and tenancy conditions are concerned.
In the case of Covid 19 some universities made regional and international news with stories emerging of international students stranded overseas still being required to pay for Halls of Residence accommodation they weren’t and couldn’t occupy. We understand that such cases, caused by perceived inflexibility of systems and prioritising getting an income source gathered, and with those enforcing such subsequently regretted practices simply lacking international students lived experience knowledge in regard to the inflexibility referred to.
However, this section of the information resource is primarily concerned with being aware of potential risks that international students can face (for the two main considerations described above, which Home/UK students do not face) in the private rented accommodation sector.
The UKNFS and OCHD have helped and continue to help on these when and where protections/safeguards in place from universities and colleges are revealed to be ineffective. This included in the summer of 2020 a case that saw an Indian, overseas nationals’ family traumatised by the experience of clear, substantial breaking of their tenant’s rights and an attempted forced illegal eviction – it also emerged the family had been subject to a number of sudden unannounced inspection visits by the landlord in question.
The educational institute in question had not been able to provide clear guidance at time of need to this family, which consequently turned to OCHD, with UKNFS joint intervention support. This in turn led to involving the local authority housing team that made strong, effective interventions concerning the letting agent and landlord. The combined effort was successful, but the family returned to India and it cannot be doubted its experiences tarnished its memory of England in the summer of 2020.
However, as a result of this and other cases, OCHD and the UKNFS also took the issues to the town’s Citizens Advice service, in turn initiating the collaborations that have contributed to creating this booklet/information resource at the CA’s and the local council’s housing section suggestion.
Such experiences are rare, but as the example shows, can and do happen. It is therefore important that international students renting accommodation study their Tenancy Agreement carefully and become familiar with their rights and their responsibilities as tenants, and involve native English-speaking trusted friends in reading through the agreement and discussing those rights and responsibilities.
In particular if they feel that they are being treated in an exploitative or oppressive way that they record all of their experiences, including dates and individuals involved in their experiences, and email these or make audio or video recordings if easier, and provide these to their student union welfare officer or the student welfare officer of their college, copying in trusted lecturer or teacher contacts for reference. They can also if they feel they are not being listened to, contact organisations such as OCHD and the UKNFS, Citizens Advice, and Dorset Race Equality Council, for support.
Accommodation however has greater importance on both potential hazards, and on great, positive opportunities. On these latter sections of this website concentrate on those friendship making and cultures sharing benefits. Regarding hazards, international students need to make sure that all those that they may share a flat with understand about their rights and responsibilities, including not only under tenancy agreements, but also on utility (electricity, water, etc.) services payment shared arrangements.
The UKNFS for example was made aware of a case of some years ago where an East Asian student at a university had through no fault of her own, a bad credit rating imposed on her because a flatmate in a flat share was subsequently revealed, after she herself had completed her studies and graduated, to have defaulted on payments. Because her name was associated with the payment issue, years later, she was being pursued even once back in her home country, for bad debts that she hadn’t incurred.
Please see the UK Government website for valuable information on Private Renting: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting
Tenants and Landlords information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/landlord-and-tenant-rights-and-responsibilities-in-the-private-rented-sector/landlord-and-tenant-rights-and-responsibilities-in-the-private-rented-sector
Letting agent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letting_agent
Landlord / Landlady: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/landlord
Rogue Landlords definition: https://www.tenancydepositscheme.com/government-defines-what-a-rogue-landlord-is/
Tenancy – Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assured_shorthold_tenancy
Tenancy Deposit Scheme: https://www.tenancydepositscheme.com/
Tenancy agreement: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/tenancy-agreements/ More Citizens advice through the above page:
- What is a tenancy agreement
- Express terms of tenancy agreements
- Implied terms of tenancy agreements
- What information and documents must the tenant receive
- Sham tenancy agreements
- Paying fees to a landlord
- Changing the tenancy agreement
- Ending a tenancy agreement
- Is the tenancy agreement ‘unfair’
- Discrimination in tenancy agreements
Right to privacy in rented accommodation: https://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk/advice_from_us/tenants-rights/
Check for the following on viewing, and certainly before signing a Tenancy Agreement:
Fire hazards (faulty electricity points or machinery): https://www.fireservice.co.uk/safety/
Water leaks (kitchens and bathrooms): https://www.emergencyplumber.uk.com/plumbing/most-common-water-leaks/
Condensation (linked to cooking, heating levels, and airing the room or flat): https://www.axa.co.uk/home-insurance/tips-and-guides/what-causes-condensation-and-how-to-stop-it/
Infestations (rats, fleas, cockroaches, etc.): https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/repairs-in-rented-housing/repairs-common-problems/repairs-infestations-of-pests-and-vermin/
Monthly Payments and How Much it Costs to Rent (Citizens Advice guide): https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/private-renting/how-much-it-costs-to-rent/
Utilities (what are utilities: electricity, water for cooking, bathing/showers, and also for the toilet):
Flat/room Inspections: https://www.city.ac.uk/accommodation/currently-in-halls/flat-inspection-and-cleaning
Flat shares (what are they: a common arrangement used by students): https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/flatshare
Choosing a location: you should consider proximity to local public transport, grocery shops, and most of all closeness to your place of study (college or university campus). You should also consider safety of the building/street/area, condition of the building/room, costs, and conditions of renting.
Halls of Residence, etc.
You should always be aware that whilst your university is the provider of your academic services, for the first year of your course it is also your Landlord: this means a room you are allocated in a hall of residence — https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hall-of-residence
Covid 19 experiences of payment for unoccupied rooms:
OCHD and the UKNFS learned in the heart of the 2020 Covid 19 crisis of cases where a number of UK universities (in their Halls of Residence ‘Landlord’ capacity) across England, were apparently charging (the criteria for this being we understood from students, not clearly provided, causing real confusion and inevitably distress as they dealt with their own Covid 19 related personal crises in their home countries and families) international students marooned in required to return to their home countries, for their unused, unoccupied Halls of Residence rooms.
This understandably appeared as unjust and exploitative to many international students having this experience, as such universities did not appear to apply or take into account Covid 19 related UK Government support in this area, or clearly explain and in a timely way to international students why in the national emergency, inflexibility was for such universities more important than customer care to those lacking the same degree of knowledge as UK Home Students on such an area where Landlord and Tenant rights and responsibilities were concerned.
Off campus – private sector accommodation:
Definition of reputable: ‘Reputable’ means in effect both safe to use and established with externally verified quality assurance credentials on the services they provide. However, we also in using the term ‘reputable.’
Word of mouth is crucial, but a poor substitute for clearly publicised, easy to access and understand approved lists of international student appropriate & friendly sources of regularly externally, independently monitored accommodation.
Who can competently, credibly guide on which Letting Agencies are ‘reputable’? The answer is that your university or language college will have lists of approved letting agents and landlords. Your local council’s housing section will also be able to advise, and especially Citizens Advice.
Independent direct community organisations such as the UK Nepal Friendship Society and One Community Hampshire and Dorset have established records of support, and work directly with students’ unions, local councils, and Citizens Advice.
This information resource is a result of this partnering work following cases where exploitation of international students was revealed when the latter turned to OCHD and the UKNFS for support when others were not aware of what was taking place, which essentially of an exploitative nature, and included not permitted unannounced visits to the property with major invasion of privacy experiences by the student and their family. As a result of the intervention the letting agent and landlord were formally warned.