Most students have to live on very little money and aren't entitled to housing benefit. Finding a suitable place you can afford can be difficult but will ensure that your time at university is more enjoyable.
If you have housing problems, contact an advice agency as soon as possible. The earlier you take action, the more likely it will be that things can be sorted out.
Finding out what's available
It's essential to check your options. Your university will have an accommodation office or student welfare officer who can help you find a place to live. You could also check noticeboards in the Students' Union for vacancies in shared houses, or place an advertisement saying what you are looking for.
Not all options are available in all areas, so you'll need to be realistic about what you are prepared to accept. The Studentpad website is a database of accommodation for students throughout Northern Ireland.
The Housing Executive has a legal duty to give housing advice and information on preventing homelessness to anyone who asks in Northern Ireland.
Halls of residence
The universities in Northern Ireland own halls of residence. You will usually only be able to stay in halls for your first year. You get your own room and share cooking, bathroom and toilet facilities with other students. Some halls provide meals and bed-linen but many are self-catering.
You will be given an agreement explaining the rights and responsibilities you have before you move in. You will usually be a licensee. You will have less rights than a tenant and can be evicted fairly easily.
Take time to read and understand your agreement before you sign it. If there is anything that is unclear or unfair, get advice. It may not be legally correct.
University houses and flats
Universities rent flats and houses to students. These are usually very popular so it can be difficult to get a place. Mature students and people with children usually get priority.
You are a licensee if you live in a university house or flat.
Privately rented accommodation
Most students live in private rented accommodation after their first year. Some places are rented directly from the landlord and some are rented through a letting agency. You may be able to find a place to live:
- in a bedsit or flat of your own;
- in a shared flat or house;
- as a lodger in your landlord's home.
As a student in a rented flat, bedsit or house, you have the same rights as any other private tenant. But if you share any accommodation with your landlord you will be a licensee. This means that you have few rights and can be evicted very easily.
The quality and price of privately rented accommodation is variable and private landlords can provide different types of tenancies.
View the accommodation and read any paperwork involved before you agree to move in or sign any written agreements. Don't hand over any money until you're sure.
If you want to live alone, bedsits and lodgings are usually cheaper than flats. Many students share flats or houses with friends. You usually get more for your money if you are sharing and will be able to split the cost of the bills.
SHAC Housing Association
Students can apply to be housed by SHAC housing association. SHAC has accommodation in Belfast, Newtownabbey, Whiteabbey, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Enniskillen and Derry.
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