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Living off-campus

A living room with clutter and plants everywhere.

Moving into a place of your own can be very exciting. After all, there is nothing quite like getting the keys to your first house. But taking the leap into private renting is a big deal. Follow this advice and you will increase your odds of having a positive experience. 

Choose wisely

Plymouth has many student accommodation providers, so do some research on what's out there and ask other students about their experiences. Choosing where to move is particularly important as the location of your new home will effect your whole life. Also, depending on who you’re moving in with, what your requirements are, and how flexible you are willing to be, there might not be much choice. 

Most student houses are rather basic, with very variable room sizes and minimal furnishings – so compromise and keeping an open mind is important. That being said, always shop around and probably don't sign a contract for the first thing you see. To ensure your property makes the grade look for the ANUK Accreditation for purpose built student accommodation or a HMO license for house shares.

When to start

Give yourself time to decide if you are going to share, and who with, before you start looking.

Don’t rush

Private accommodation isn’t as flexible as student halls and you cannot up and leave if your living situation no longer suits you or you have a falling out with someone. Also, unlike in University run halls, your landlord cannot and will not mediate personal disputes.

Try to move in with people you know you will get along with, ideally with similar routines and tolerance levels.

What to look for

Bathroom/Shower/Toilet Facilities

As a minimum: 

  • Up to 4 tenants = 1 bathroom with a bath/shower and toilet
  • 5 tenants = as above, plus a separate toilet and sink
  • 5+ tenants = as above, plus a sink in each room
  • Should never be more than a floor away from each room
  • Cannot be in kitchen areas, nor can they open directly into a kitchen area
  • External WC’s don't count


Your room must be furnished as a bedroom/study. It should include:

  • worktable/desk and desk chair
  • easy chair [space allowing]
  • wardrobe and drawer space
  • bed
  • bedside table
  • shelving
  • waste bin
  • mirror
  • It must be carpeted and curtained and have an acceptable form of heating

Common Rooms

If possible rent a house with a lounge/communal area, it will improve your time in the property enormously. If your property has a communal area it must be suitably carpeted and curtained and have an acceptable form of heating. 

Kitchen and Cooking Facilities

Approved standard size gas or electric appliances must be provided. ​​​​​​​A fridge/freezer, pots, pans, cutlery, crockery, kettle and waste bin are standard items to expect in a shared property. ​​​​​​​Each tenant should have food storage space, preferably wall mounted [space below a sink is not acceptable].


All furniture provided in a shared property should be safe and fit for purpose. Upholstered furniture must comply with flammability regulations and should have a label stating this.

Fire Safety

Fire extinguishers and fire blankets must be provided as appropriate to the type and size of property. ​​​​​​​Smoke detectors/alarms must be fitted and should be mains powered.

Top Tips

  • Think seriously about who you want to live with
  • Never view a perspective property alone, and if possible all perspective tenants should attend
  • Insist on seeing all areas of the property
  • Do not be rushed into agreeing to anything
  • Do not accept a house if you have ANY DOUBTS
  • Be clear on what the rent includes i.e. gas, electricity, WiFi etc.
  • Get clear confirmation of any payment expected in advance
  • Check there are no hidden extra fees or stipulations
  • Be united as a group when making final decisions
  • Always get an Agreement in writing before paying any money
  • Always discuss any concerns before accepting a property
  • Ask all your questions before signing any Agreement
  • NEVER sign an Agreement for property you have not viewed, that is “being purchased” or is “being done up”
  • Be clear on your obligations and the obligations of your landlord/agent
  • Confirm the tenancy duration in any Agreement is satisfactory
  • Understand your rent liability. Most tenancies are fixed so if you vacate the premises early you will still owe rent

The Official Stuff

Shared Accommodation

A student house share is likely to be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), which means they are required to have a license from Plymouth City Council. To be classed as an HMO the property will have at least three tenants, from more than one household, sharing a toilet, bathroom and kitchen facilities. A HMO license will normally last for 5 years and will ensure:

  • ​​​​​​​the property is suitable for occupation by the number of people proposed to live in it
  • the licence holder is a fit and proper person
  • the licence holder is the appropriate person to hold the licence
  • the manager, if there is one, is a fit and proper person
  • the management arrangements are satisfactory, competent and the financial and management structures are suitable
  • the landlords electrical applications and furniture are safe
  • where gas is supplied there is a current gas safety certificate
  • there are operational smoke alarms on each floor of the building
  • all tenants have a written “statement of terms of tenancy”

Statement of Terms of Tenancy (Agreement/Contract)

This is an essential and very important document. Do not sign it until you have read it individually and collectively as prospective tenants and you all understand every part, including the minutia of your liabilities and responsibilities. If in any doubt seek assistance.
Before you sign anything ask if there is a charge and, if so, what the charge will be and what it is for. 


You will be asked to pay a deposit when you sign your Agreement. The amount can vary considerably from one week to several months’ rent in advance. Always obtain a receipt for your deposit and make sure you know precisely what the deposit covers.

​​​​​​​Legally your landlord/agent has to place your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, within fourteen days of receiving it. You should  be given the following details:

  • The contact of the tenancy deposit scheme
  • The contact details of the landlord/agent
  • How to apply for the release of the deposit
  • Information explaining the purpose of the deposit
  • What to do is there is a dispute about the deposit
  • You have a responsibility to return the property in the same condition that is was let to you, allowing for fair wear and tear.

Right to rent

Your landlord will have to check that you are eligible to rent a property in the UK. You will need to show them some combination of the following documents and allow the landlord to take copies, prior to the tenancy starting.

Acceptable Documents

One of the following documents:

  • UK passport
  • EEA/Swiss national passport
  • Registration Certificate or document certifying permanent residence of EEA/Swiss national
  • EEA/Swiss family member Permanent Residence card
  • Biometric Residence Permit with unlimited leave
  • Passport or travel document with unlimited leave
  • UK immigration status document endorsed with unlimited leave
  • A certificate of naturalisation or registration as a British Citizen
  • A valid passport endorsed with a time-limited period
  • Biometric immigration document with permission to stay for time-limited period
  • Non-EEA national residence card
  • UK immigration status document with a time-limited endorsement from the Home Office

OR any two of the following documents:

  • UK birth or adoption certificate
  • Full or provisional UK driving licence
  • A letter from HM Prison Service
  • A letter from a UK Government Department or Local Authority
  • A letter from National Offender Management Service
  • Evidence of current or previous service in UK armed forces
  • A letter from a police force confirming that your ID documents have been reported stolen
  • A letter from a private rented sector access scheme
  • A letter of attestation from an employer
  • A letter from a UK further or higher education institution
  • A letter of attestation from a UK passport holder working in an acceptable profession
  • Benefits paperwork