Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy

Student accommodation guide #2: private accommodation

Got your Clearing place, but missed out on a room in halls? If you're thinking about private accommodation, here's what you need to know, including the pros and cons.

We explain more about all the living options available to you in our student accommodation guide

Missed out on university accommodation?

If you tried and failed to bag a place in student halls, you’re not the only one – more than one in 10 (13%) of the students we spoke to last year who went through Clearing said they ended up not getting university accommodation.

Don’t panic too much if you missed out – here’s how to secure a rental property…

Use your university housing office

Your university housing office isn’t there just to place you in university managed accommodation – it can support you with finding a private-rented property, too. Here are a few examples of how it can help: 
  • Universities usually have approved lists of landlords and student-friendly lettings agents.
  • Get tips on what to look out for when you view properties and things you need to know before signing a tenancy agreement.
  • Some practical ways to meet other students who are house-hunting – for example, through dedicated Facebook groups or events.
I found a privately rented room via the StudentPad link my university gave me. I didn't want to be responsible for a whole house with new people I've never met in a city I've never lived in, so I opted to stay in a house where my landlady lived herself with her husband. There were another two students in the house, but as my bills were included in the rent and with my landlady living in the same house, if anything went wrong I could easily get it fixed.  First Year Biological Sciences Student | Anglia Ruskin University

Choosing private accommodation: need-to-knows 

Here are the pros and cons to weigh up before going down the private-rented route… 


  • Can be a cheaper option: university-managed accommodation is often more expensive
  • Independence: you decide where and with whom you’re living
  • Flexibility: you’ve got more choice on the area and type of accommodation you’d like. 


  • Managing bills: you'll need to factor bills in over and above your rent
  • More to organise: you'll be dealing direct with a landlord or letting agent
  • Away from the action: you may find yourself outside the main campus
  • Joint contracts: you may be asked to sign a joint contract. Be aware that this means you could be chased if someone else doesn't pay the rent!
I didn’t live in halls first year, but found a nice private flat with a spare room close to my uni through Gumtree. My room was large, spacious, and had everything I needed. The landlord sometimes needed a bit of chasing up to fix anything, but otherwise I loved it. Fourth Year Medicine Student | University Of Bristol

Word of warning: do your research (and use your university housing office!) before you start looking to make sure you avoid some of the common landlord and letting agent pitfalls (see tips on tenants rights over on Which?'s main website).

Don't feel pressured to sign up to something you're not comfortable with – many unis or students' unions offer a contract checking service, to ensure you're not being ripped off or taken advantage of.

Typical costs: private accommodation vs. halls

Good news  the NUS Homes Fit for Study report found that private accommodation was generally a significantly cheaper option than university-managed accommodation, with average rents of £366 per month (or £360 with a live-in landlord), compared to £426 per month.

Bear in mind, though, that private accommodation contracts tend to cover the entire year rather than just university term time – so you may be paying rent for a period while you’re not actually living there.

Tip: Don't disregard the cheaper houses – do you really need all-modern facilities or your own ensuite bathroom? 


Search Which? University

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university

Expert tips for uni - straight to your inbox
Free to students, teachers and parents
Sign me up