FINDING YOUR DURHAM ACCOMMODATION
We’ve created a new housing guide with all the details you’ll need to live outside of college! Feel free to download it using the link below.
ACCOMMODATION IN DURHAM
Most undergraduate students live in college accommodation their first year, and can then choose to live in or find private accommodation in subsequent years.
Approximately one-thirds of postgraduate students live in college accommodation out of which one-year master students may choose to spend their first year living out of college entirely and PhD students sometimes choose to live out of college after their first year staying in college.
Ustinov College, being a postgraduate-specific college, has the highest number of students who live out of college. Reasons for living out vary for each individual, with some deciding to share accommodation with friends, while some prefer to stay closer to their work-place or other locations.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS FOR LIVING OUT OF COLLEGE?
Durham City has a variety of flats, houses, rooms in owners’ homes and purpose-built student accommodation sites spread across the city and surrounding areas. There is no shortage of accommodation in the area so we strongly advise you to take your time to find accommodation and not rush in to anything. If you are planning on living outside of college privately you have the following options:
- Private landlords: You can look at renting directly from a landlord or agents of these landlords. With different varieties of properties available, you can choose to live in a one-bedroom house or share one big house with up to 10 students sharing the property with you. Sometimes, these properties come with one kitchen and multiple bathrooms – you may however have your own bathroom too – depending on different factors such as the property type, your agreement, your rent, etc.
Rents can vary enormously on the basis of closeness to the city centre, convenience in terms of bus/train station and thus, we strongly urge you to view several properties before deciding.
- Purpose Built Student Accommodations (PBSA’s) : These are essentially private halls of residence consisting entirely of student accommodations.
Generally, you will have an option of living in a studio apartment where you live alone in a room with attached bathroom and kitchen or living with other students while sharing facilities such as kitchen. Some PBSA’s offer en-suite living options as well where you have a bathroom attached with your room and share a big common kitchen with other students. They tend to not allow anyone except students but may allow a non-student partner to live in a dual-occupancy studio/larger studio room. These student accommodations are often run by private players, with wardens on site as well as social spaces for students. Each property has their specific policies and rules and their rents tend to be at the higher end of the market rate.
IS USTINOV STILL MY COLLEGE IF I DON’T LIVE THERE?
Students who ‘live-out’ remain, of course, members of their college and are encouraged to enjoy the privileges and responsibilities of membership of their College communities no less than those who ‘live-in’.
In addition to providing a base for social and recreational activities, college life is a critically important point of contact with the University on official academic matters, student support issues and a medium for emergency messages. It is therefore essential that Ustinov College be kept informed of each student’s correct term-time address and telephone numbers.
Ustinovians who live out are very well-represented through a Livers Out Representative who is an executive member of the GCR thus you can ensure that your voices are heard even when you are not living in college. All livers-out are encouraged to attend formals, balls, barbeques and other such events organised for Ustinovians! Furthermore, all Ustinovians, regardless of living arrangements, are eligible and invited to run for student representation roles within the GCR to help organise social events and support their college peers.
A brilliant way to get your voice heard and help other like-minded students is joining the amazing people at the GCR! Get involved!
Find out more here.
WHAT IF I AM BRINGING MY FAMILY?
Ustinov College is Durham University’s exclusive post-graduate college and while Ustinov has limited family accommodation, you can contact us to inform Ustinov of your plans as soon as possible to ensure we can tend to your accommodation needs.
Ustinov college residences are based on two different locations, Sheraton Park (closer to the Business School) and Dryburn Court (closer to the City Centre) and a detailed list of available accommodation for postgraduates looking for couple studios and multi bed-room flats can be found here.
If you bring your family to Durham and choose to rent privately, you will most likely need an entire house for your family as per your choice of convenient locations and facilities.
Additionally, the college provides very helpful and friendly support for postgraduates with families and a step-by-step Family Guide that can provide assistance to you, your partner and your children and help to settle into Durham. If you are bringing in your little ones who are school age, you can contact the local council to apply for a place for them in schools and more information about school admissions can be found here.
HOW DO I CHOOSE AN AREA WITHIN DURHAM?
The area map of Durham on the next page is indicative of the five main locations where student often choose to rent privately properties either through landlords or private student accommodations that are situated in different locations.
These areas are large in size and it is imperative that you do your research before zeroing in on your accommodation. Here are some tips that may come in handy:
- Durham is a very small city with many rental properties within walking distance of the city centre, libraries and different departments. Some areas in or near the city centre are extremely popular with undergraduate students and this is reflected in the rental prices.
- Travel time from your department is an extremely crucial factor while deciding where to live and to check veracity of the travel time, ensure that you take the full postcode of your property and check estimated travel time to and from your department, your choice of library through Google Maps. Beware of adverts that may give deceiving information.
- Along with travel time, it may be useful to choose your mode of transport as well. Information about walking time, distance, bus schedules is easily accessible on the internet. Additionally, Durham Students’ Union also runs a night bus providing a safe and secure way for lone students to get home in the evening so that is an option worth checking out.
- Make sure you find out the facilities and nearby amenities that will be available for you. Especially for areas that are further away from the city centre, ensure that your landlord/agency informs you about the nearest supermarkets, bus stations, cash points in addition to your own research.
- If you are prepared to choose other areas in and around Durham, you may find that you can save a substantial amount on your weekly rent. Many postgraduate students who live in private accommodation choose this option.
- While rented properties are often open for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in all areas of Durham, it may be worth noting that students often have different schedules, work load and contact hours with their departments. While the atmosphere of the house is not something you can choose beforehand, a lot of students prefer to have undergraduate or postgraduate flatmates only.
WHERE CAN I FIND AVAILABLE PROPERTIES?
- As a University, we aim to provide equal opportunities to all businesses and landlords thus we cannot advertise specific properties that are available for accommodation needs. However, available properties and room vacancies are advertised heavily on social media pages, groups and websites such as StuRents, Spareroom, etc.
- You can also find current students looking for flatmates/roommates to share their house with on various social platforms and groups such as Find Me A House/Housemate, Overheard at Durham, etc.
- Durham also has several estate agents that are reviewed regularly by students and help students look for viable options based on their needs, convenience and budgets.
- While looking for available properties, it is imperative to note that most of the properties that are closer to the city centre are rented out on a per-room basis and can be very expensive if you are considering living with a family in one house. In such a scenario, we suggest you contact landlords/agents and try to negotiate a price for renting the whole house.
DO I HAVE A RIGHT TO RENT PROPERTY?
- Often, international students are confused over their rights in the UK. Rest assured – if you have a right to live in the UK, you are entitled to the right to rent in the UK. Thus, your student visa gives you the right to rent property in the UK.
- Further, landlords are obligated to check that all the adults living in their properties in fact have the right to live in the UK and therefore, the ‘Right to Rent’. Thus, your landlord may ask for your IDs and other such documents for their records once initial negotiations are completed.
WHAT ABOUT SIGNING A CONTRACT?
- For almost all types of accommodations, you will be asked to sign a 12-month fixed term contract. It is very important for you to check that you are happy with all of its terms because there is no automatic right that can help you with ending these types of contracts earlier than the stipulated time.
- It is typical for under-graduates to sign a joint tenancy agreement wherein all tenants have a shared responsibility in terms of rent, up-keep of the property, etc. For post-graduates, it is more likely that a single contract comes your way which means that you are only responsible for your own rent.
- The Durham Student Union’s Advice Service offers a free service where you can get your contract and its clauses checked. You can ask questions regarding legal jargon and highlight any term that you may feel is unfair or too broad.
- Remember that since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, your landlord/agent can no longer charge you any up-front fees, aside from a list of permitted payments summarised here. If your landlord/agent tries to charge you any other fees, get in touch with the Durham SU Advice Service.
- Once you’ve found your property, you can drop in your contract to the Union reception, fill the form available here or get in touch with them through e-mail.
IS WALKING MY ONLY OPTION IN DURHAM?
- While most students prefer walking to and from their daily classes, often the uphill walks are tougher in the morning or if you’re running late. The walking option also differs on personal preference and how far you live from your class venue.
- Durham has a very safe and well-managed public transport links so if you are comfortable travelling in a bus, you could take advantage of the local Arriva Bus Scheme where you could get a student day pass for £1 upon showing your Durham Uni ID Card. This pass enables you to travel multiple times within the Durham City Boundary.
- Additional bus routes such as ‘Go Northeast’ can also suit your needs and timings and more information can be gathered through their timetables. The Scarlet Band S1 & S2 ‘Pink Bus’ service is also available for students and since it runs between Gilesgate and Hill Colleges, some PBSA’s offer free pass for their residents so it might be useful to keep an eye out for such PBSAs.
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- How do I find flatmates?
Students often find Facebook pages really helpful in finding similar-minded housemates. Specific to Durham, you can have a look at Find a Housemate Facebook page and while it is predominantly used by undergraduates, postgraduates have often found it a useful resource.
Other than social media portals and student portals, websites such as www.accommodationforstudents.com, www.sturents.com have regular message boards that advertise available rooms and properties looking for room-mates.
If you are signing up for a single room, you can also consult your landlord(s) and ask them to put you in touch with other students.
- Does the college recommend any private student accommodation?
Whilst we cannot recommend any particular agent, landlord or specific accommodation to you, Durham County Council runs a voluntary accreditation service for landlords and inspects whether their property is meeting specific conditions every three years.
Particularly, in terms of PBSAs, a simple google search will give you a detailed list of websites of all the private student accommodations and you can easily go through virtual room viewing videos and thus make an informed choice.
- What is a Guarantor?
You may be asked provide a guarantor who can be contacted in case you don’t pay your rent. If you cannot provide a guarantor, the landlord may require you to pay all the rent up-front or to enter a private guarantor scheme.
Many PBSAs require you to have a UK guarantor and this is often difficult for international students, so make sure to discuss this with the management before-hand and explain them your position as they are usually understanding.
- What does a ‘bills inclusive package’ mean?
Many landlords and PBSAs particularly offer a bills inclusive package which basically includes heating, hot water, internet and water rates all in your monthly rent. While this is definitely very convenient, it is almost always more expensive that the alternative.
This is because you will be paying the same rent for your bills every month regardless of how much or how less you use the resources or regardless of whether you are there or not. So, you should be careful choosing an inclusive package if you plan to spend certain months away from your house.
It will be useful to read and understand the fair usage policy that you can receive under the terms of your contract. Make sure to ask for more information from your landlord or the current tenants in can there is any confusion.
- The Ustinov College administration and the GCR (Graduate Common Room) website and its members are always a click away. Find us here.
- We are also active on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and WeChat for all our students. Look for our weekly newsletters sent to your Durham email account to stay in touch with regular updates and assistance.
- For any urgent assistance or doubt, you can get in touch with any of the GCR executive members and we shall ensure that you get the correct information and assistance as soon as possible.