Looking for Accommodation: Top Tips

We understand that flat-hunting can be stressful. Here are some top tips to bear in mind during your search...

Accommodation Tips

Top Tips When Looking for Accommodation

We understand that flat-hunting can be stressful. Here are some top tips to bear in mind during your search:

1. Be tenacious

Edinburgh is a beautiful and vibrant city, which makes it a very desirable place to live. There can therefore be stiff competition for rental accommodation. You will need to be methodical in your search, and you should be prepared for the fact you may need to view a large number of properties before you are successful in securing one. Stay patient, remain positive, and follow up every lead. 

2. Consider all the options

There are many different types of accommodation to consider. Purpose-Built Student Accommodation is targeted specifically to Students but can tend to be an expensive option. If searching for a private room or flat, then you should sign up with as many Letting Agents as you can. Other places to search include: flat hunting, spare-room and flat-share websites, dedicated Facebook Groups, Housing co-ops, Volunteer Flatmate Schemes (ENSA's advisers can provide you with an up-to-date list). 

If you are also seeking flatmates to live with, you can contact the University's Private Accommodation Team, who provide opportunities to meet fellow students with a view to flat-sharing.  You could also consider living outside of Edinburgh, as there is more availability and rent tends to be cheaper.

3. Be organised

When you find a property that you are interested in, you may need to move very quickly as there can be a high level of competition for some properties. Make sure that you have all of your paperwork ready to go. You may be asked for ID documents, immigration status evidence, credit history, reference letter, guarantor details etc. You should also make sure that everything is in place with your bank to ensure the smooth and speedy transfer of deposit funds.  

4. Be Wise to Scams

Unfortunately, scammers do operate in the rental markets in Edinburgh. It is easier than you think to become the victim of a scam. If it looks to good to be true - it probably is! Before sending any money to someone claiming to have a room to rent - make sure that the property actually exists and check that the person has permission to rent out the room. Always try to view a property in person, and also try to bring someone with you if that's possible. 

5. Make sure any prospective Landlord / Letting agency is legitimate

It is easy to check whether a Landlord is registered. All private landlords in Edinburgh must be registered with the City of Edinburgh Council (although this won't apply if you live with your landlord), and their Landlord Registration number should appear on all advertising and marketing materials for the property. Letting Agents must also be registered and must adhere to the Letting Agent Code of Practice. You can carry out the necessary searches here: 


Found suitable accommodation? Here are 5 things to consider now

1. Do you have a UK-based Guarantor?

Prospective landlords will usually expect you to have a UK-based guarantor. If you don't have one, you may be asked to pay several months' rent in advance instead.  Please be careful if you are asked to do this.  Before paying any money, you should make sure that:

  • the sum is affordable for you;
  • the accommodation is suitable for you and
  • that the Landlord/Letting Agent is legitimate. 

If this is not possible for you, then there are some organisations offering Professional Guarantee Services for a fee, but you would need to do your own research into their reputation and legitimacy.

2. You may be asked for a Reference Letter

Your Landlord may ask you to provide a Tenant Reference Letter, to prove your suitability to rent their property. This can be from a former Landlord, University staff member or someone who knows you well. 

3. You will normally need to pay a Deposit

It is normal for your Landlord to ask you to pay a deposit. This is a sum of money which acts as a guarantee against damage to the property, cleaning bills, unpaid rent etc. If there are no issues, this money will be returned to you at the end of the tenancy. The amount that can be charged as a deposit can't be more than 2 months' rent.  Be wise to scams here: before paying any deposit, make sure that the property actually exists and is in fact private rented accommodation. Once you have paid the deposit, your Landlord must lodge it in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days of the tenancy starting. This is a legal requirement.

4. Don't forget to register for Council Tax exemption

If you are a full-time student, living only with other full-time students, you will be exempt from paying council tax. You need to apply for this exemption online, through the City of Edinburgh Council website. If you are part-time student and/or live with non-students, you may be entitled to a council tax reduction. Speak to ENSA Advice for tailored advice on this. 

5. Consider taking out Contents Insurance

Whilst Buildings Insurance is not necessary for students renting accommodation (this is the Landlord's responsibility), you should consider taking out Contents Insurance to protect any valuable items, such as laptops, bikes, gadgets, jewellery etc. Student accommodation is often targeted by burglars. 

Support When Things Go Wrong

We know that occasionally things can go wrong, or you might just need some extra support.  Here is a list of resources you can access:

ENSA Advice 

We understand how hard it is to find accommodation in Edinburgh, so please don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you have questions.  We have a specialist housing adviser, who can support you and advise on your specific circumstances.  You can make an appointment with us here.

ENU Private Accommodation Support Service

This service is available to students all year round. They can help and guide you if you are having difficulty finding accommodation. Whilst they can't actually provide private accommodation to students, they are able to signpost and give general advice. They also run two Private Accommodation Support Sessions per year, in September and again in January. During the Private Sector Support sessions (in-person support sessions, 4-8 September, 2pm-5pm) they put up a whiteboard where students are free to add a sticky note with their details. Students who attend sessions then contact each-other to team up looking for flats.

Residence Life Team

The ResLife Team at the University runs an exciting programme of social events and excursions throughout the year for students who live in ENU Accommodation.  These are a great way of meeting fellow students. They also operate a Facebook page which can help students staying in ENU Accommodation to connect with their new flatmates. Visit their Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more. 

Homeless charities

If you are really struggling and you find yourself "sofa-surfing" or homeless, there are various charities that may be able to help you, depending on your circumstances. Please contact ENSA Advice who can support you with the process.

Hardship Funds

If money is tight, consider applying to one of the University's hardship funds. Detailed information can be found on the Money pages of MyNapier.