You can book university housing and other purpose-built student housing before you come to the UK.
For other long-term housing, it is not usually a good idea to arrange it before you arrive in the UK. There are, however, some exceptions. It can be frustrating, arriving with uncertainty about your longer-term housing arrangements. However, there are things you can do to help prepare:
- read the guidance from your institution about housing options for international students
- check the processes for house-hunting and what support you can get from your institution, your students’ union and any other local agencies. They may have lists of local housing available for rent. They may also have inspected the housing to check that it is suitable. The student office at your country’s Embassy or High Commission in the UK may also be able to give you information about housing
- check online to get an early idea of what is available and the quality and cost of housing in your host town or city
- use social networks to connect with other students who are starting at your institution at the same time, and who will be looking for housing. This could give you a head-start in making new friends; it could also be a way of finding housemates with shared interests
If your institution does not have temporary housing, your other options are hotels and guest houses. Guest houses are like hotels but instead of having a restaurant, they may have a dining room where you have no choice about the meals served. Living in a hotel for a long period of time will be expensive. However, hotels and guest houses provide useful temporary housing which you can book before you travel to the UK. Hostels (see above) also offer temporary housing.
After you arrived at your pre-booked temporary housing, start your search for longer-term housing early with help from your institution. Internet searches, housing agencies, local newspapers and advertisements in shop windows or on a institution notice board are useful when you are looking for somewhere to live.
Check if there is any type of accreditation scheme in operation.
Fake landlords operate in the private student housing market, preying on vulnerable (often international) students, for example by pretending to offer housing online, for example, through Facebook or Gumtree. Victims are asked to pay for a deposit for a house or flat that does not exist. The October 2015 BBC News report "Overseas students targeted by fake landlords" includes some advice from the police on avoiding such fraudulent schemes.
Agencies sometimes charge a fee but, by law, they cannot charge you just for registering with them and you should not pay for details of places they have to let.