Mini guide to living off campus



Area Comparison






Non SU Homes Houses




Student Finance



Advice and Support


We've prepared a list of quick guides covering everything you need to know before you move to your off-campus home.

Many landlords or agents will ask you to provide a Guarantor. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent if for some reason the tenant cannot/does not, in most cases this would be a parent or someone similar (N.B. if you are under 18 this is almost always the case). In the most case landlords would prefer the Guarantor to be a UK resident who owns property.


If, as a tenant, you are liable to pay any debts to the landlord (i.e. unpaid rent, bills, damage costs) then the Guarantor is also liable and if you don't pay the landlord will look to claim these costs from your Guarantor. If you are a joint tenant, your guarantor can be pursued for any debts from any tenant in the property -just as the tenants are jointly and severally liable, so are the guarantors. This can seem unfair, especially, if you have paid your share and it is another tenant who hasn't. The only way to avoid this would be if your guarantor signs a written agreement with the landlord confirming their liability is limited to a specified portion of the rent (or damage) but many landlords will not agree to this.


This is often the case for International or EU students who do not have family or relatives based in the UK. There are a couple of options that could be considered:

  • Paying rent in advance
    - If you cannot provide a Guarantor your landlord may ask you to pay in advance (often for six months or in some cases for the full period of the tenancy). Be wary of doing this. If you have no other choice ensure you get a receipt for all money paid and keep this safe along with your tenancy agreement.
  • University Guarantor Scheme
    - The University of Essex has partnered with the Your Guarantor scheme for International and EU students. Your Guarantor acts as a UK rent guarantor for students renting in the Private Sector with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. The scheme is open to both Undergraduate and Postgraduate students. For further details check this link.
  • Commercial Organisations
    - Companies such as 'Housing Hand' offer guarantor schemes for a fee. Some of these companies require a co-signer in addition to the fee so always check the criteria before signing up or paying any fees.

Where there is a tenancy of any kind (even if it is a verbal agreement), both the Landlord and the Tenant have certain rights and responsibilities as defined by law. The contract you sign should not transfer any of the landlord's responsibilities on to the tenant; if it does these terms may have no legal effect. You should seek advice before signing your contract if you feel this has occurred. Many of the following terms will be written into your agreement if you have one. However they are also written in law and can be legally enforced whether they are stated in your contract or not.


The landlords rights are:
  • To expect the tenant to pay the rent on time
  • To take legal action against the tenant if damage is done to the property.
  • To inspect the property from time to time to see if repairs are needed. Advance notice (in writing) must be given to the tenant.
  • To end the tenancy by following the correct legal procedures, including applying to court.
The Landlord should:
  • Allow the tenant to have 'quiet enjoyment' of the property. This includes freedom from harassment.
  • Give the tenant some sort of written receipt if the tenant asks for it. If the rent is paid weekly there must be a rent book.
  • Carry out certain repairs in compliance with section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
  • Provide relevant Gas Safety certific??tes for any gas appliances in the property.
The Landlord should not:
  • Enter the tenant's part of the property without the tenant's agreement, or without the tenant knowing.
  • Evict the tenant, except by following the correct legal procedures and applying to court.


The Landlord's rights are:
  • To expect the tenant to pay the rent on time.
  • To evict the tenant by giving reasonable notice without the need of a court order.
The Landlord should: 
  • Give the tenant some sort of written receipt if the tenant asks for it. If the rent is paid weekly there must be a rent book.
  • Carry out certain repairs in compliance with section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
  • Provide valid Gas Safety certificates for any Gas appliances in the property.
The Landlord should not: 
  • Use threatening behaviour or violence while evicting the tenant.

A deposit is a sum of money paid by the tenant to be held by the landlord as security in case of damage or rent arrears. In June 2019, the new Tenant Fees Act was introduced. This act outlines the maximum amounts that can be charged for a deposit for any agreement created after 01 June 2019. For most student tenancies, this will be limited to the equivalent of 5 weeks rent. Please contact SU Advice for further advice.


Depending on the type of tenancy you sign up for, your landlord may be required by law to ??rotect your deposit, using a government authorised protection scheme. Assured Short-hold Tenancies (AST's) are the most common type of tenancy and all AST's require the landlord to protect your deposit in one of three protection schemes:

These schemes have been set up to ensure your deposit will be protected so that you will get all or part of your deposit back (when you are entitled to it) and to help resolve any disputes between you and your Landlord or Agent.

If you live in the property with your landlord, or your tenancy is not an Assured Shorthold tenancy, then your deposit does not have to be protected by law. However, it is still good practice to do so and you could ask your landlord about this.

Once your deposit has been paid to the Landlord or Agent they are required to put your deposit into a protection scheme within 30 days. The Landlord or Agent should give you details about how your deposit is being protected within 30 days. They should inform you of the contact details of the deposit scheme, the contact details of the Landlord or Agent, how to apply for the release of the deposit, the purpose of the deposit and what to do if there is a dispute over the deposit. If none of these details is supplied contact the Landlord or Agent and ask for details about how your deposit is being protected.


The deposit (or part of the deposit) can be kept by the Landlord if the tenant:
  • Leaves the property owing rent
  • Causes damage to the property or its contents
  • Does not pay their bills

The landlord should not with-hold the deposit because you did something they didn't approve of or to pay for general wear and tear. The landlord should only keep the amount of deposit that they can prove they have lost. The landlord should be able to provide receipts as proof and any replacements purchased should be like for like (i.e. they should not purchase a chair worth £ 100 if the original damaged chair was only £80).

When a landlord lets a house, flat or even just a room to a tenant, both parties are entering into a legally binding agreement and have rights and obligations towards each other. Many of the following parts will be written into your agreement if you have one. However they are also written in law and can be legally enforced whether they are stated in your contract or not. Excluded Occupiers (those who live with their landlord) will not be subject to the same legal rights. You should also be aware that as a student, you are expected to be a representative of the University and riot to bring the University into disrepute. If the University receives complaints about you from landlords or local tenants, this could be considered a breach of the University Student Conduct regulations and you may find yourself being asked to meet with the Proctor.


The tenant's rights:
  • To be allowed 'quiet enjoyment'; of the property, including freedom from harassment.
  • To take legal action against the landlord if the landlord tries to stop the tenant having 'quiet enjoyment'.
  • To be put through the correct legal procedure by the landlord, including going to court, if the landlord wants to evict the tenant.
  • To use legal procedures to make the landlord do repairs which the landlord is responsible for.
The tenant should:
  • Pay rent on time.
  • Use the property in a reasonable way- e.g. not cause damage or noise. 
  • Behave in a 'tenant-like' manner- e.g. doing the everyday things to keep the property in good order, such as replacing a fuse, turning off the water if you are away from the property for long period of time, leaving the central heating on for a few hours each day if you leave the property for a long period of time etc. 
  • Allow the landlord to inspect the property from time to time to see if repairs need doing. These visits must be arranged in advance and appropriate notice provided by the landlord. (usually a minimum 24 hours) 
  • Allow the landlord and/or workmen to enter the house and carry out repairs as necessary - again appropriate notice should be provided in writing unless in the case of an emergency. 
The tenant should not:
  • Damage the property or furniture.
  • Cause nuisance to neighbours.
  • Sublet or pass on the tenancy unless agreed by the landlord.


Excluded occupiers have very few tenancy rights in comparison to other tenants. Your only right is to stay until your landlord asksyou to go or for as long as your agreement states.

The tenant should:
  • Pay rent on time
  • Use property in a reasonable way-e.g. not cause damage or noise.
  • Behave in a 'tenant-like' manner-e.g. doing the everyday things to keep the property in good order, such as replacing a fuse, turning off the water if you are away from the property for long period of time, leaving the central heating on for a few hours each day if you leave the property for a long period of time etc.
  • Serve valid notice (in-line with anything written in the agreement) when they wish to leave the property.
  • Contact the landlord if the accommodation requires repairs.
The tenant should not:
  • Damage the property or furniture.
  • Cause nuisance to neighbours.
  • Sublet or pass on the tenancy unless agreed by the landlord.

Your tenancy agreement will outline any additional rights or responsibilities the landlord believes are necessary. This could include clauses regarding the use of blue-tack on the wall, responsibility for cleaning carpets/curtains/upholstery at the end of the tenancy, responsibility for maintaining any garden areas etc. Additional rights can be awarded by the landlord or letting agency if they are written into the agreement.'however, rights awarded by law cannot be removed or reduced. Furthermore, landlords cannot add or transfer responsibilities on to the tenant that the law states must be the responsibility of a landlord. Agreements where this has been attempted may be deemed unfair and could be challenged -you should seek advice before signing any tenancy agreement to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities.

Finding a decent house for the right number of people at a reasonable rent is not always easy, and the private sector in Colchester is no exception.


Most students start thinking about finding a house towards the end of the Autumn -term and then start looking during the Spring term. You don't need to rush into choosing your house and should allow time to view a few different houses before making your final decisions. Bear in mind that loads of students will be looking at the same time as you, so houses will go quickly. You shouldn't be pressured to sign an agreement until you've had an opportunity to read it first. SU Advice is happy to check your agreement with you before you sign it and to explain what the agreement means if you've got any questions.

Houses advertised at this time will need a deposit to be paid when you sign up and you might have to pay rent through the summer. It's important not to panic and rush into something you can't afford.


Choosing to live with is an important decision. The obvious choice is a person you like, but remember that liking someone you see socially is not the same as liking someone who is in your house all the time. Think about common interests and life styles; are you smokers or non smokers/ quiet or noisy/ late night people or early risers? These differences may seem minor before you move in, but can very quickly lead to disputes between tenants. Remember if you do fall out with your housemates you may not be able to get out of your contract early and may be stuck living with them for the remainder of you agreement.


  • SU Homes
    - The Students' Union offers a free service to students which aims to find housing of an excellent standard with reputable landlords. Unlike high street agencies there will be no administration fee for finding you a property.
  • Accommodation/Letting Agencies
    - There are a number of Letting Agencies in Colchester which rent houses to students. Some are definitely more reputable than others; however we do not recommend any of them. They can be a useful way of finding accommodation but they may charge you for their services. It is not unusual !o be charged £95+ per student for contracts and administration. Letting Agencies are not allowed by law to charge you simply for putting your name on their books. Neither can they ??harge you for supplying a list of names and addresses of vacancies. The basic rule is that they can only charge you for actually finding you accommodation which you accept. Always ask what non-optional charges there will be before agreeing to use the agency. If you think you are being charged illegally please contact SU Advice for help.

    If you do decide to use a Letting Agency other than SU Homes it is best to use an agency which is a member of a voluntary self-regulating trade body as they will require the agency to have complaints procedures and money protection arrangements. This gives you better protection should the agency go out of business. The main trade bodies are:

    • Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
    • National Association of Estates Agents (NAEA)
    • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
    • UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
  • Other Sources
    - These include local newspapers (e.g. Evening Gazette or Essex County Standard), advertisements in Newsagents, word of mouth and notice boards around campus.


It's important to consider what it is you are looking for in a property before you start your search. If you are looking as a group it is important to be clear on the needs of each individual (e.g. if a student has a car will you need a driveway /garage, can everyone afford the same amount of rent, do you all want a garden etc).

Often a compromise will need to be reached as finding a house that meets everyone's requirements is unlikely. You should have an idea of what your budget is for your rent and factor in additional bills and living costs that you may incur. Some rent prices may include certain bills so always ask what the rent will cover.

We recommend viewing a few properties before making your mind up - this will help you to make a comparison and decide what property is best for you all. We advise that you always go with your whole group to view to help with decision making and so that everyone is happy with the house you choose.

A tenancy agreement is a contract between the tenant and the landlord. It is important that you fully understand the document before you agree to sign it. Don't feel pressured to sign an agreement immediately. It should be possible to take the agreement away with you in 
order to read through it and if you wish, get it checked by SU Advice before you sign. 


The type of agreement you have will depend mainly on:

  • The date you moved in
  • Who you live with (i.e. whether you live with the landlord)
  • Who your landlord is (private landlords, University etc)
  • the type of housing you live in (for example if services are provided by the landlord)

If you pay rent to a private landlord you will either have a tenancy or a licence. Both of these can be either written or verbal. An agreement should tell you the type of tenancy you have, however, just because the landlord or letting agency says you have that type of agreement, the law may suggest otherwise. An agreement can give you additional rights, but it cannot take away from any rights that the law gives you. These rights will depend on the type of tenancy or licence you have.

Different types of tenancies grant both landlords and tenants different rights and protections from eviction, the two most common private sector tenancies are:

  • Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)
    - Most students will have an AST if the tenancy began on or after 28 February 1997 and you do not live with your landlord. This is the most common type of tenancy when renting from a private landlord or letting agency.
  • Resident Landlord (also known as an Excluded Occupier or lodger agreement)
    - excluded occupiers share their accommodation with a resident landlord.
If you have any doubts about what type of agreement you have, SU Advice can help you to find this out.


Generally speaking, if all tenants have signed the same agreement for use of the whole property, it is likely that a joint agreement is in place. This means that all the tenants are equally responsible as occupants of the property and are equally liable for the rent and repairs/damages. This can have serious consequences for example, if one tenant doesn't pay their rent all the tenants would be liable even if it was only one student who had not paid.
You may be an Individual tenant if each member of the group has signed their own individual contract for a room in the property with access to shared facilities. This would limit the joint liability of the tenants.


Most tenancies will be for a fixed period of time -usually 12 months. This means that upon agreeing a tenancy, you are agreeing to rent for the full period of the fixed term. Whilst some tenancy agreements may offer an 'Early termination' clause, this is not a legal requirement and if you try to leave the tenancy before the end of the fixed period, you are likely to still be liable for the payment of rent up to the end of the agreed term.

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 came into force on 1st June 2019. The Act outlines the fees (and limitations) on what landlords and agents can charge tenants in relation to Assured Shorthold tenancy agreements, tenancies of student accommodation and licences to occupy housing in the private sector in England. You can use this tenancy checker to find out what type of tenancy you have.


Rent, utility bills, council tax (if applicable) and TV licence These are all payments that the landlord/agent can expect you to pay as standard
A refundable holding deposit This is a fee that is charged to reserve a property - this must be capped at one weeks' rent
A refundable tenancy deposit This is a security deposit that can be used by the Landlord/Agent to safeguard against damage/unpaid rent or bills during the tenancy. Unless your annual rent is in excess of £50,000, the deposit must be capped at 5 weeks rent
Fees for changes to the tenancy agreement (at tenant's request) If the tenancy agreement is changed at your request, a maximum of £50 (Inc. VAT) per variation can be charged
Fees to replace a tenant (at tenant's request) If the replacement is at your request, £50 (Inc. VAT) can be charged per replacement tenant (or higher if there are additional reasonable costs)
Terminating the tenancy early (at the tenant's request) If the tenancy is terminated early at your request, you would be liable to pay the landlords costs for re-letting the property as well as all rent due up until the date the replacement tenancy is put in place. These costs should be no more than the maximum amount of rent outstanding on the tenancy. Please note, the landlord is not obligated to agree to end a tenancy early unless there is a specific clause in the tenancy agreement allowing this
Late payment of rent fees If the rent is more than 14 days in arrears, then an interest at 3% above the Bank of England Base Rate can be applied from the rent due date until paid
Lost keys/security devices You are liable for the actual cost of replacing lost keys/security devices. If the loss results in the need to change the locks, the actual costs incurred for a lock smith, lock and all required replacement keys will be charged to you. If extra costs are incurred then a charge of £15/hr (inc. VAT) can be applied for the time taken to replace


Viewing fees You cannot be charged fees for viewing properties - this is considered a standard part of the tenancy process
Tenancy Setup fees (including admin fees and check-in fees) You cannot be charged for time/admin or setup fees. It is the landlord's responsibility to pay for fees associated with the set-up of a tenancy
Referencing fees/Credit Checks/Guarantor fees Again these are considered part of the fee that the landlord should be responsible for as part of the process of setting up a tenancy.
Inventory charges You should not be charged for any fees associated with an inventory check. It is not a legal requirement for an inventory check to be taken, but it can be very helpful to have one if at the end of a tenancy there is a dispute over the return of the deposit. If the landlord does not offer an inventory, you may wish to pay for your own inventory check to be carried out.
Right to rent fees The landlord/agent must carry out a ‘Right to Rent’ check but you should not be charged any fees in relation to this check. If a holding fee has been taken and you fail a ‘Right to Rent’ check the landlord can retain the holding fee.
Saturday moving fees You cannot be charged for extra fees for checking-in/out of a property outside usual business hours. However, the landlord/agent should agree to you moving outside of business hours, particularly if they are required to be present at the property. If they offer an alternative time (which is not unreasonable and would not incur a fee) but you still request a weekend/evening check in/out then they may charge you.
Check-out fees/End of tenancy fees, renewal of agreement You cannot be charged for any services related to the termination of your agreement (unless this is as a result of your request to leave the agreement early (see above))

If you are being charged other fees, this is likely to be unlawful and you may be able to take action against your landlord or agent.


This will depend on when you entered into the tenancy agreement. Although the act came into force June 2019, it is being introduced in stages. It is important to check which of the following categories you fall into so that you can determine if you have been incorrectly charged any fees.

Stage 1:

Any new tenancy agreement entered into on or after 01 June 2019 will be subject to the new fees act and so you cannot be lawfully charged for anything other than what is listed above. If you entered a tenancy agreement prior to 01 June 2019, your Landlord/agent can still continue to charge fees as listed in any existing tenancy agreement up until 31 May 2020.

Stage 2:

From 01 June 2020 the act will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies, tenancies of student accommodation and licences to occupy housing in the private sector in England. This means that after this date landlords and agents will not be able to charge any fee (apart from the fees allowed as listed in the first table above). This means that even if you entered the tenancy agreement prior to 01 June 2019, after 01 June 2020, the term of your contract requiring that fee will no longer be binding and should not be charged. If you do accidently pay the fee, you should request this to be returned immediately and it should be returned within 28 days


If you believe you are being charged fees that are prohibited under the Tenant Fees Act 2019, you can report the landlord or agent. In the first instance you should contact your local Trading Standards office, or local council authorities. They can determine whether an unlawful fee has been charged and where appropriate can issue financial penalties for breaches of the Tenant Fee Act. You can find details of your local trading standards authority here.

If you have paid an unlawful fee and the landlord refuses to refund your money, there are also further options that can be pursued through the First-tier Tribunal. The First-tier tribunal is a legal process and you should consider seeking further advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or a lawyer before starting the process.

If the issue is with a letting agency, you can apply to the relevant Redress Scheme. This is an impartial complaints resolution service which allows for complaints to be made against a letting agency, if the agency has not satisfactorily resolved a complaint through their internal procedures. Every letting agency must belong to a Government- Approved Redress Scheme and should have information about which of the 2 schemes they belong to in their offices and on their websites.

SU Advice can provide support and information about each of these options – please feel free to contact us if you would like to book an appointment with an adviser. Additionally, the Government have produced a really helpful guide for tenants which provides lots more information and is available here.