2020 applicants
Joining Essex from Overseas

Finding your living arrangements

Aerial view of a suburban street with trees and houses.

Searching for a property

There are various ways to find suitable accommodation. In most cases, you can use the services of an estate agent (see below). Our Student Housing pages only provide accommodation information for students, but you can still find plenty of useful information there that can help you find the right accommodation.

Estate agents

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'. They deal with administration, rent, contracts and property repairs. You might never meet the person who owns your property. This is standard in the UK.

The most popular search engines for property searches are:

Renting

If you rent accommodation, you'll enter into a contract with a landlord (usually through an estate agent – see 'Finding a property' section above), 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.

Depending on the arrangement, you may also be liable for utility bills, such as gas, electricity, water, telephone and internet bills and council tax.

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 6 or 12 months.

You can rent directly from a landlord, which may be cheaper but offers less protection if something goes wrong.

Your rights and tenancy agreements

Familiarise yourself with tenants’ rights in the UK, as these may be significantly different from those in your home country. You will be asked to agree to a tenancy agreement before you move into the property. This document will explain what is expected of you as a tenant and what you can expect from your landlord. Don't sign the tenancy agreement if you don't fully agree with its terms or if you don't fully understand it.

If you're in doubt, you can get advice in person from the Citizens Advice Bureau, which has branches throughout the UK.

Inventories

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, and so on).

Check that it's 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 too.

If your landlord doesn't provide an inventory it's best to make one yourself and send a copy to the landlord. It is also a good idea to take photographs of any existing damage as evidence that damage was already present when you moved in. This can prevent later disputes about the contents and condition of the property.

Paying rent

Rent is almost always paid in advance in the UK. Payment of a deposit, in advance, is also standard practice, but always ensure you get a receipt. You may also have to pay agents or letting fees.

Your landlord is under a legal requirement to put your deposit into a Government-backed Tenancy Deposit Schemes. This ensures that your deposit is protected if your landlord refuses to refund it without a good reason or makes unreasonable deductions. Every scheme provides a free dispute resolution service.

Rent will vary depending on the size and location of the property. Other things like whether the property has a garden, parking or is near to public transport will also affect the rent. The following website will provide a guide for current rental prices

 

Buying property

Buying a property in the UK is quite a complicated process and is not quick. Once you have found a property and had an offer accepted the average sale takes around 3 months to complete, although it can take longer if there are complications. Most property purchases will require the buyer to arrange a mortgage to fund the purchase, these are arranged through banks or building societies. A mortgage can be difficult to secure if you have not lived in the UK for 2 years. You will also need to have a deposit of at least 5% of the purchase price. The UK Government website explains the process.

Contents and Home insurance

The type of insurance you should buy depends partly on whether you rent or you own your home. There are three main home insurance policies:

  • Buildings insurance;
  • Contents insurance;
  • Combined building and contents insurance.

Buildings insurance protects the structure, the fixtures, and fittings in your home, whilst content insurance covers your belongings.

Homeowners usually need both buildings and contents insurance, while those who rent typically only need contents insurance. It can be a condition of the lease or mortgage, that you have both building and/or house contents insurance.

In the UK there is a wide variety of insurance providers, with widely varying policies, cover options, and costs. Advice and comparison websites, such as Moneysavingexpert and Comparethemarket can help you find the best deal and cover to suit your needs.

Choosing where to live

Where you choose to live will depend on your personal preferences and circumstances. You may want 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

Your colleagues may also be able to give you useful information about Essex and the surrounding area, and other matters such as schools, childcare, cost of living, public transport, commuting times, shops and other facilities.

Moving your belongings to the UK

For guidance on shipping your belongings to the UK please see the government website.

The University also provides a financial relocation assistance for some roles. Details are available on the staff directory.

Paying your bills

Paying your council tax

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.

Most people have to pay Council Tax on the property they live in whether you own or rent the property, although you may qualify for a discount or be exempt from paying altogether. Council Tax has to be paid directly to the local council. The amount of council tax you pay is dependent on the value of the property. When considering properties to rent or buy it is important to check the Council Tax band to see how much tax you will have to pay.

Utility bills (gas, electricity, water and television)

In the UK, whether you own the property or are renting it, you will normally be liable for utility bill payments. The costs for gas, electricity and water may differ between providers. 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. 

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. You can find a provider on price comparison websites.

You will usually get a bill every 3 months, although you can also pay for your bills by monthly direct debit from your bank account, which is usually cheaper. Make sure you take a reading regularly (e.g. monthly) and tell your providers when you move out so you don't overpay.

The law says that you must have a TV licence in the UK if you watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, or watch or stream programmes live on an online TV service. If you watch TV without a licence you are liable to a £1000 fine.

In the UK, you'll often need to show a recent utility bill as proof of residence. If you buy or rent a property together with a partner it's advisable, where possible, to sign up to providers under both of your names.

Telephone and internet

If you rent a property you'll normally need to pay for telephone bills and for an Internet connection in addition to your rent charge. Line rental is the charge for having a phone line. You can usually buy line rental and broadband together as a ‘bundle’. Often, these bundles are cheaper than buying line rental and broadband separately, but you are still able to do so if you wish. Most providers allow you to pay monthly or annually.

There are many different providers of telephone and Internet services. You can find quotes on comparison websites such as uswitch.com