The Sheffield student housing market
Around November each year in Sheffield, local letting agents will start marketing properties for the next academic year and the annual house hunting season begins. There really is no need to start house hunting this early and it is possible to find accommodation of a good standard and close to the University whenever you choose to start house hunting.
Most shared houses are for groups of four or five and splitting into groups of this size will offer you the widest choice of properties and could also be better for your budget. There is also a good supply throughout the year. The supply of larger houses is more restricted so if you are in a group of six or more you may find it necessary to start house hunting before Christmas. If you are a large group it would be worth considering splitting into two smaller groups and you could even find houses on the same street or flats in the same block. Students with specific housing needs, such as students with children who want to live near particular schools, or students with a disability who might need a particular type of property, may also find it beneficial to start house hunting earlier.
Self-contained accommodation, such as one bedroom flats in the city centre, can be advertised much nearer to the contract start date. There has been large-scale development of purpose built student accommodation in the city centre over recent years and there is a surplus of studio apartments. If you are a single person looking for a room in shared houses you can wait until next summer to find a room as there are always spare rooms available in shared properties.
Take your time to sign. There is plenty of student housing available throughout the year so please don’t start house hunting until you have been to the Smartmove Housing Fair on Monday 20th November 11am -3pm in the Students’ Union.
Look out for SNUG certified properties and ask landlords if their properties meet the SNUG standard, if they do the SNUG logo should be advertised on their websites. This is a student accommodation standard run by Sheffield City Council in partnership with both Universities and Students’ Unions in the city. Properties which are part of this scheme will have been inspected and assessed for fire, gas and electrical safety, security and amenity standards, repairs and maintenance. The landlord will also have to abide by a strict code of management.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOS) and licensing
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and licensing Properties with at least three storeys which are occupied by at least five people must be licensed by the council. The properties will have to meet stringent safety and amenity standards to be issued with a licence and landlords can be fined if they let a property without a licence. If you are thinking of signing for a property which meets these criteria you can check to see if it is licensed at www.sheffield.gov.uk/hmo If the property does not have a licence, be cautious about signing a contract as it may mean the property and/or landlord is not of a good standard. The council welcomes notification of any houses not on the list. Telephone or Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most landlords will now advertise online. It is easy to find properties by searching using key words such as ‘student’, ‘accommodation’ and ‘Sheffield’. Remember that larger agents are likely to appear high up on search engines, these can be a more expensive option in terms of administration fees, so look at properties from a range of providers. There may be some benefits of going to a landlord directly, such as lower fees and sometimes rent levels.
Do not send money to a landlord/agent before you have viewed an actual property and you are sure it is a genuine letting. There have been scams involving bogus properties for let on some website forums.
There are many lettings agents in Sheffield who target the student housing market. Many have offices close to the University, for example in Broomhill and Ecclesall Road, or they can be found via a quick search online. An agent may simply arrange the initial letting or provide a full tenancy management service. Many students find properties via letting agents.
From 1st October 2014 letting agents must be members of one of the following redress schemes (Be aware this does not apply to landlords who let and manage ONLY their own properties):
- The Property Ombudsman.
- Ombudsman Services Property.
- The Property Redress Scheme
Complain if you have a problem with a member agent. All lettings agents should display a logo of the scheme that they belong to in their office and on their website. They should also provide you with details of the scheme when you enter into any tenancy agreement and you can check directly with the scheme to find out if an agent is a member.
Do not use a letting agent who is not a member of one of these schemes.
Be aware that agents often charge fees for things like administration and credit reference checks, this is especially true of the larger city centre agencies. The fees are sometimes high and may be non-refundable if you change your mind about the accommodation. Make sure that you know what fees are payable from the start. New laws mean that all fees must be clearly set out on the agency’s website and should only be charged after you apply to take a specific property.
Do not pay any money to an agent unless you are really sure you want the property and can meet the terms of the contract. Ask from the start what fees will be payable and get a written receipt for all monies paid.
Some agents will require students to provide UK based guarantors. If you can’t provide this, for example if you are an international student, you may be asked to pay large advance rent payments. There are Guarantor Schemes such as housinghand.co.uk. For a fee such companies will act as your rent guarantor. The University also has a Guarantor Scheme (sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/finance/ags) for second and third year students who live in properties which are registered with Smartmove Sheffield.
It is possible to find accommodation in Sheffield without paying agent’s fees or having to provide a guarantor. If an agent is demanding high upfront fees or huge advance rent payments, consider finding another landlord/agent. Many landlords don’t charge fees at all.
Keep in mind the fact that agents are primarily a business and their main purpose is to act on behalf of the landlord/owner of the property, not you as a tenant. There are of course both good and bad agents, as there are landlords.
Check out online reviews and/or bring the contract to the Student Advice Centre for checking. The housing advisers have a good knowledge of local landlords and agents!
You may be asked to provide documents proving your immigration status due to the introduction of Right To Rent Checks when renting in the private sector, further information about this can be found at Right to Rent. If you have problems in relation to Right to Rent, please contact the Student Advice Centre. Purpose built student residences and university owned accommodation are exempt from RTR checks. You can also request a Right to Rent nomination letter from the University (via SSiD) to give to a private landlord. This means that the landlord does not need to carry out further RTR checks as the property will be exempt.
It is illegal for a landlord or agent to discriminate against you on the grounds of race, colour, gender or sexual orientation. If you believe this has occurred please contact the Student Advice Centre as soon as you can.
Here in Sheffield we have an oversupply of student housing, so it’s far better to take your time and be sure you’re making a good choice for your next Sheffield home. I didn’t sign for my house this year until April, and I couldn’t be happier with it!
Before you start house-hunting, check out our Housing Information Fair in November. Here you can find out loads of useful information on your rights as a tenant, key things to look out for when viewing properties, and the SNUG scheme here in Sheffield. This will help you spot any dodgy landlords, and make sure that you’re getting the best value for money.
Really get to know your potential housemates before signing up to live with them, and make sure you agree on a budget for rent and bills that are affordable for everyone, as well as day-to-day things such as cleaning and hosting pre-drinks or parties.
There's load of support available to help you find your next home on these pages. The Student Advice Centre can check your contract before you sign and advise you on any housing issues.
I hope you have the best year, and when it comes to housing, remember - don’t sign until you’re sure, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and know that you’re in control!
Holly, SU Welfare Officer
The Welfare Committee is a group run by and for students that is dedicated to improving student welfare. Housing is an area that Welfare Committee does lots of work on, running events, campaigns, and providing information. If you’re a Sheffield student then you are welcome to join the committee or help out with their work!
Student Housing Ambassadors are Students’ Union (SU) student staff that work in the Student Advice Centre. We support projects in relation to the SU’s strategic work on housing:
- Reaching out to students in the wider community to communicate key messages and campaigns about housing.
- Collecting student experiences, views and questions about housing to report back the SU.
- Providing general support to the Welfare Coordinator and Advisers based within the Student Advice Centre (SAC)
What is the aim of our work?
To improve the quality of the student housing experience for students at the University of Sheffield. More specifically, we want to ensure that the SU is aware of and providing support for current student housing issues.
We want to better understand and have a solid case for proposals we put forward to the SU in how they can better support your student experience regarding housing. Help us to help you by keeping an eye out for us when we come door knocking in student areas and filling out our survey when it’s released!
What counts as a student housing issue?
- An issue is anything that negatively impacts your student housing experience.
- These come in all shapes and sizes, from ‘minor’ to ‘extreme’ cases.
- Anything from not getting on well with your housemates or a damp issue, through to having landlord disputes and problems with your deposit.
- We want to ensure everything is tackled and supported by the SU, whether it be not knowing how to handle maintenance issues through to what to do if you’re having problems in meeting your rent this month.
- Some key campaigns that the union has already run include trying to encourage pushing back the time at which students sign housing contracts to later in the year. This was to try and stop students signing with housemates they didn’t really know yet and getting into awkward situations by the end of the year.
- We still want to work on things like this, but we also want to identify other campaigns that need to be started to support Sheffield students. But we can’t do this without information from you and knowing what the real student problems actually are!
Who are we?
We are students currently studying at the University of Sheffield.
If you see us around Sheffield in our t-shirts, please take the time to talk to us about your student housing experiences here in Sheffield. We want you to have the best student experience you can, and we believe student housing plays a massive role in that!
What can you expect from us?
- Why? We want to get some conversation going about your experience as a student in the Sheffield housing market.
- We’ll be walking around typical student housing areas in the coming weeks! We will be wearing Student Advice Centre t-shirts, so you can be sure we are the Student Housing Ambassadors.
- We won’t take up more than 10 minutes of your time. We really want to try and see as many students as possible to get a broad view on what’s going on. We will be grateful for any time you (and/or your housemates!) can spare.
- We have worked hard to make sure the survey is as quick and easy to fill out as possible.
- It has been designed so that we can collect all the information we need to improve your student housing experience in Sheffield.
- The more people that fill out this survey, the more of a case we have to push forward to ensure the SU is supporting you with your real problems, and not just with what they think the problems are!
- The survey will be released soon. We will send round an update when it is - please keep an eye out!
Why? We want to use this survey to:
- Understand the current student housing experience.
- So that we can push for there to be more support that the students actually need!
What we will do with the door knocking and survey results?
We will use the information to:
- Support the SU to understand the current student housing issues.
- Improve the quality of the student housing experience for University students.
- You don’t have to answer questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering.
- Everything is completely private and confidential.
- Ask us any questions you might have for clarification, or who we are, what we are doing, etc. - we won’t be offended and want you to feel comfortable!
- Anything and everything you can tell us to help us support you is a big help.
Who to live with
The SU Welfare Committee hold “Housemate Finder” events during the year, where you can go either as an individual or as part of a larger group to meet people to live with next year. It is a friendly, low pressure environment, and Welfare Committee run different activities to help break the ice. You can go if you haven’t found a house yet, have found a house but need somebody to buddy up, or if you have a spare room for the next year. To find out when the next Housemate Finder is, make sure to visit Welfare Committee on Facebook.
Friendships and personal circumstances can change over the course of a year, so take your time in deciding who to live with. If you like a quiet night in and lots of sleep, think twice about sharing with someone who parties a lot and stays up late!
Sharing can be great fun but it can also sometimes bring out people’s worst habits. Small disputes over things like not washing up can cause friction. One way to avoid these types of problems is to agree some ground-rules on things like guests, partners, cleaning, sharing food and paying bills before you commit to a contract.
Good communication between housemates and a willingness to compromise will help you deal with any potential disputes.
Don’t panic if you haven’t found someone to share with. Single rooms are available in larger purpose built student accommodation blocks or you can find a room advertised in a shared house with other students. Look out for events in the Students’ Union such as housemate finder sessions for house sharers usually held in February and May. You can also look for housemates on the Studentpad Message Board. It’s never too late to find a housemate!
Make sure you are completely happy with your potential housemates before you sign a contract. Don’t feel pressurised into signing a contract for next year with people that you may have only known for a couple of months, as relationships and personal circumstances can change. Getting out of a contract can be tricky and you will not normally be released from a contract unless you have found a suitable replacement tenant. If you find yourself in this position, you can get advice from the Student Advice Centre.
Welfare Committee have created leaflets with tips and suggestions for finding housemates you’ll love living with. You can access them here:
Finding the people to share with is as important as finding the right property, take your time in deciding who to live with.
Viewing and choosing a property