Housing | Stop.Think.Sign 

If you are living out of college or away from home for the first time, we have rounded up some of the key aspects for you to consider before signing for a property.

How much can you afford?
Living out of college means that you need to consider having money to pay for your bills and your own food as well as the costs of socialising and your academic commitments. Most contracts in Durham are for 52 weeks so you will need to budget for paying rent for the full year.

Remember once you have signed a contract it will be legally binding. Therefore you won’t be able to give up the tenancy if you have miscalculated your finances, so you need to do your sums before you commit yourself to a house.

The following budget planner will assist you in working out your finances.


Budgeting/paying bills
Many landlords offer bills inclusive packages which means that your heating, hot water, internet and water rates are included in your rent.  Whilst this can make life a whole lot easier as you do not have to organise them yourself or agree with your housemates as to who pays what, it will usually be more expensive. The price of this accommodation is more likely to be higher than the average rental prices in Durham, so may not wholly be covered by the transition fund, so you will need to bear this in mind when working out your calculations.

You will have to pay for the bills for every month you rent out the property regardless of whether you are there or not. Payments will be due during the summer as well as the winter months.

If you do choose a bills free package, make sure you read and understand any fair usage policy provided – this may limit the amount of heating/hot water you can receive under the terms of your contract. If you don’t understand what the policy means in real terms ask for more information from your landlord or alternatively ask the current tenants whether they have ever been charged anything extra.

If you elect to pay for your own bills you will be able to shop around and change supplier by using one of the comparison websites. You will also be able to control how much heating/hot water you use. 

To avoid arguments in your household we would advise you to ask your utility provider to put everyone’s name on the bill.


Who do you want to live with
Who you live with has a huge impact on how enjoyable your living out experience will be and friendships may be fleeting at this point in your University career, so you need to stop before rushing into a decision which you later regret.  

Most contracts we check are for joint tenancies (where everyone signs the same contract) this means you are all individually and collectively responsible for the financial obligations of the house. If one of you defaults on the rent the landlord can pursue one or all of you for the rent – chose your housemates carefully!

If you are lucky enough to find a group of potential housemates then we recommend that you sit down with your potential housemates and fill in our questionnaire together.


Ready to sign

Once you have found the property you want to sign for, we would recommend taking these next steps:

  • Print off our checklist and take it with you when you look round a house. The checklist will provide you with invaluable information to help you make the right decision for you;
  • Check your contract carefully. Your landlords should give time to consider whether you want to take the property before signing the contract. Remember your housing contract is a legally binding document, so it shouldn’t be signed lightly.   
  • Pay your deposit: once you have agreed to sign a contract you will be probably be asked to pay a security deposit, usually a month’s rent, which will be used by your landlord as security against unpaid rent or damage. Your deposit must be protected by law in a government scheme and your landlord must provide you with proof of this along with certain prescribed information within 30 days of payment. Your landlord will be required to return your deposit to you at the end of your tenancy within time limits specified by the scheme used. Whilst your landlord can make deductions from your deposit for unpaid rent or damages you will have a right to challenge any deductions through the scheme used.  It is however essential that you have evidence to protect your deposit. Please see our Guide to Living Out in the Community for more information about protecting your deposit.
  • Holding Deposits and other fees: some landlords may charge you fees such as a holding deposit or to cover their administrative costs.  If you are asked to pay a holding deposit you should make sure you understand whether this would be refundable to you if you were unable to take up the property.  There are plenty of landlords who will charge nothing at all so think carefully when choosing the right landlord/agent and if in doubt seek advice before paying anything up front.
  • Guarantor Agreement: you may be asked to provide a guarantor who will act as a backup for your rent if you cannot pay it. We would encourage your parent/guardian to take advice to try to ensure that they limit their liability to their own son or daughter. If you cannot provide a guarantor the landlord may require you to pay all the rent up front or to enter a private guarantor scheme. If you need more advice about this please contact the Durham Students’ Union Advice and Help Service. 

​Use what you’ve learnt from our guide to put yourself in the best position to have a fantastic living out experience and remember we are always here to help.


Where to live in Durham

We've created a map which highlights some of the different areas you may want to live in Durham (click onto the blue house icons). We've included some information so you can compare the price, distance to the University main campus and town, along with some of the key features of each area. 

We've also included some of the key points of interest (look for the yellow icons) so you can see the relative distance between areas you may choose to live and the various places you may visit on a ragular basis. 

We would always recommend you view any property before you sign for it. Try viewing a property in several different areas and try out the journey to the Library (Science Site) and town, to see which suits your lifestyle. Some of the areas (Gilesgate, Bowburn, Coxhoe and Neville's Cross) are quite big, so check the location of the specific property you are interested in.


Useful Resources

  • Housemate quiz: check how compatible you and your future housemates will be 
  • Viewing checklist: make sure you know what you get as part of the deal! 
  • Budgeting: check you can afford your rent (and your social life) with Shelter's budgeting tool


Useful contacts


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