You may wish to come to Portsmouth for a short visit before you move here. There are many places that offer short-stay accommodation. The Portsmouth Visitor Information website provides accommodation information for visitors.
On the basis of a short-term rental (or ‘short let’), a property can be rented out on a weekly or monthly basis, normally for no longer than three months. Finding a property to rent for less than six months can be difficult as many landlords let out their properties for a minimum of six months.
Long-term accommodation & choosing the right type of accommodation
You can rent or buy a house, flat, or a bedsit/studio apartment. Shared accommodation (i.e. renting with other people) is also often a popular choice as a temporary arrangement, as it can be one of the most cost-efficient ways to rent.
Rented properties are either available with furniture and appliances (‘furnished’) or without (‘unfurnished’). Sometimes a property may be advertised as ‘semi-furnished’. In this case you should enquire which of the furniture and appliances are included.
If you rent accommodation you will enter into a contract with a landlord (usually through an estate agent - see 'Finding a property' section below), known as a tenancy agreement. This agreement sets out the basic terms of the rental, such as the amount of rent, the length of the tenancy and other mutual rights and responsibilities between you and your landlord. You may also have to pay an initial deposit in case you break or damage anything within the property.
Depending on the arrangement, you may also be liable for payments for utility bills, such as gas, electricity, water, telephone and internet bills and council tax (see section 'Costs of rented accommodation' below).
A long-term rental (or ‘long let’) is a rental of a property for more than six months.
In the UK, a tenancy is usually agreed for a fixed period of time, with the opportunity to renew your agreement after this period expires. Your rental will normally be an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ for a fixed term typically lasting six or 12 months. Only very rarely will a longer term be agreed, and almost never will a tenancy agreement be arranged for longer than three years.
If you wish to stay beyond the fixed-term period, you may either agree with your landlord to renew the tenancy for another fixed term (in this case you may have to pay renewal fees and your landlord may increase your rent) or you may stay without making a new contract (in this case the landlord may not increase your rent but can end the tenancy by giving you two months' notice).
It is advisable to familiarise yourself with the tenants’ rights in the UK, as these may be significantly different from those in your home country.
You should sign your tenancy agreement before you move into the property and you should check it very carefully before signing it. Do not sign the tenancy agreement if you do not fully agree with its terms or if you do not fully understand it. If you are in doubt you may get advice in person from the Citizens Advice Bureau, who have branches throughout the UK. The 'Advice for You' section of their website gives contact information. You can also visit the UK Citizens Advice Bureau website for general advice.
A landlord may also ask you to sign an inventory, which is a list of all the items found in the property (furniture, kitchen items, etc). Check that it is correct and that any existing damage to these items is included in the document before you sign it. Make sure you get a copy of the document. If your landlord does not provide an inventory it is advisable that you make one yourself and send a copy to the landlord. This can prevent later disputes about the contents of the property.
Costs of rented accommodation
For rental properties you will have to pay rent according to the payment terms in your tenancy agreement.
In most cases you will be required to pay your rent at the beginning of the month to cover the month ahead. This is often referred to as ‘rent in advance’. It means that, when taking on a new tenancy, you have to pay the rent for the first month upfront. You will normally have to make this payment together with your deposit (see below). You will therefore normally need to have sufficient funds to pay at least two months’ rent before moving into the property.
Estate/letting agent fees
Estate agents will usually charge a fee for their services to the landlord of a let property. Estate agencies may also charge tenants certain fees for specific services, such as credit checks, references and administration. However, they are not allowed to charge you for simply registering with them or for showing you lists of properties available for sale or rent.
It is standard practice in the UK to pay a deposit to the landlord in advance of moving into your rented accommodation. This is normally equivalent to one or two months’ rent, but the exact amount may vary. Make sure you get a receipt for any deposit or fees you have paid.
The landlord will refund the deposit after you move out, if no damage has been caused by you to the property or its contents. Your landlord must not make deductions from the deposit for fair ‘wear and tear’ throughout the tenancy. This means the normal deterioration of fixtures, fittings and items provided through normal use.
It is advisable to keep a written record of all the rent payments that you make. If you have problems with your landlord, you can get advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible.
Your landlord is under a legal requirement to put your deposit into one of the Government-backed Tenancy Deposit Schemes. This ensures that your deposit will be protected if your landlord refuses to refund it without a good reason or makes unreasonable deductions. Every scheme provides a free dispute resolution service. If you disagree with your landlord about how much of the deposit should be returned the dispute resolution service will resolve the matter and refund the appropriate amount of your deposit.
Buying a house or flat can be a lengthy and complex process in the UK. The entire process on average can take three to six months (or longer) to complete and involves significant costs on top of the purchase price of the property.
It is highly advisable to seek independent legal and financial advice if you are considering buying a property in the UK.
Choosing the right area for you- (including public transport/medical facilities and schools)
The area you wish to live in will depend on your personal preferences and circumstances. You may wish to take into consideration the following:
- Commuting time (how long it will take you to reach your place of work)
- Public transport links
- Car parking facilities
- Your proximity to hospitals and any other services that are important to you
- The relative expense of renting or buying in different areas of the city, or in areas further afield.
Your colleagues may also be able to offer useful information and advice on the areas of Portsmouth, and other matters such as schools, childcare, cost of living, public transport, commuting times, shops and other facilities.
There are other websites that provide similar information, for example UK Local Area.
Finding a property
There are a number of ways to find suitable accommodation. In most cases the services of an estate agent (see below) may be needed.
The University’s Student Housing service currently only provides accommodation for students. However, its website contains a lot of useful links and information about finding accommodation in Portsmouth.
Additionally, you may find the links below useful:
- The Portsmouth News (the local newspaper) hosts information about available properties.
- Once you are at the University, The Noticeboard often has accommodation advertised by members of the University.
Generally, properties will be advertised by an estate agent. This is a registered person or company that arranges the selling, renting or management of properties. Estate agents act on behalf of, and are paid by the seller or the landlord. Agents who specialise in renting are sometimes called 'letting agents'. Letting agents act as intermediaries. They deal with administration, rent, contracts and property repairs. You might never meet the person who actually owns your property. This is standard practice in the UK.
Council Tax and utilities
Council Tax is a system of local taxation collected by local authorities and is used to pay for local services such as street lighting, road maintenance, rubbish collection and some education and social services.
The amount of Council Tax that you have to pay will depend on the type of property you live in and on the area. In Portsmouth, this is defined by Portsmouth City Council.
Most individuals will have to pay Council Tax on the property they live in, although some individuals may qualify for a discount, or they may be exempt from paying altogether. Council Tax has to be paid directly to the Council.
Utility bills (gas, electricity and water)
In the UK, the tenant is normally liable for utility bill payments. The costs for gas, electricity and water may differ between providers.
Arranging utility services: You can use price comparison websites to help you decide on a provider. However, you may be restricted in the choice of providers available in your area. Some of the popular price comparison websites include; Uswitch, Gocompare.com, MoneySuperMarket.
Check with your landlord whether the property is currently being supplied with electricity, gas and water. If not, you should make supply agreements with the providers before moving into the property.
Paying for utility services: When you move into the property check and write down the gas, electricity and water meter readings. You should also do this when you leave a property.
You will usually receive a bill every three months, although you can also pay for your bills by monthly direct debit, straight from your bank account. Make sure you take a reading regularly (e.g. monthly) and alert your providers when you move out to ensure you do not overpay.
In the UK, you will often be required to show a recent utility bill as proof of residence. If you buy or rent a property together with a partner it is advisable, where possible, to sign up to providers under both of your names.
Telephone and internet
If you rent a property you will normally be required to pay for telephone bills and for an internet connection.
There may be an existing telephone line in your property. To activate an existing telephone line or to arrange for one to be installed, you will need to contact a telephone provider, such as BT, Virgin Media or TalkTalk.
Disclaimer: Please note that the University does not endorse any of the external websites listed above, or elsewhere in this guidance.