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Accommodation Service

Studying at Cambridge


Private accommodation FAQs

What is provided in the rooms/flats/houses?

They are all different. Some are fully furnished, some part furnished, others unfurnished. Always check with the landlord what is provided, and where possible view the property. University accommodation is furnished with white goods such as refrigerators and cookers, but no linen or other electrical goods.

For whom are individual rooms suitable?

Rooms are generally for one person only, although we usually have a small selection for couples. It is not possible to accommodate a family in 1 or 2 rooms; families should look at flats or houses.

What do I need to know about rooms?

Always ask the owner for clarification on all terms and conditions for the let, including access to the kitchen and other areas, whether you may have visitors and the notice period required to vacate.

Why can't I have my whole family in one room?

In the UK landlords rent individual rooms to individuals or occasionally couples. It is not culturally or legally acceptable for a family to share one room.

Will I be able to eat in college?

University members affiliated with a College will be told whether or not they receive dining rights. If you are a visiting academic working with a fellow of a particular College, he or she may also be able to arrange these for you.

Is there a charge for your service?

No, not even if you find a property through us.

Nor do we allow landlords and agents to charge you any fees (ie set up or admin fees) for renting a property with them if you do so through our website. The only advance payments will be a deposit and rent.

Members of University-affiliated organisations may be charged a small fee for using our service, if eligible to use our website.

Are there any hidden fees?

There are no hidden fees.

How expensive is renting in Cambridge?

Cambridge is an expensive city for both property prices and living costs; properties tend to be cheaper in the outlying villages. Please view the properties on this website for an indicative guide to rental costs. With rooms, always ask the owner about bills, any additional charges and for clarification on all terms and conditions for the let.

How is rent paid?

Rent is normally paid directly to the landlord or agency on a calendar monthly basis. Occasionally you may be asked to pay weekly. Rent payments may be made by BACS, Direct Debit, credit card or cash, subject to the requirements of the landlord.

How does the deposit work?

A deposit is required to secure a property. This is returned at the end of the tenancy when the property has been vacated, less any deductions for damage, or unpaid bills or rent. This may take a few weeks. Properties should be clean and tidy when vacated.

Legislation which came into effect in April 2007 dictates that when a landlord or letting agent takes a deposit from a tenant for an assured shorthold tenancy, the deposit must be protected in a government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme.

From 1st June 2019 landlords can charge a maximum of 5 weeks deposit for a property of a rental value up to £50,000 per year and are not able to charge administrative costs for references , credit checks and renewals.

The only permitted charges are:

  • Rent.
  • Utilities and council tax if included within the tenancy
  • A refundable holding deposit to reserve the property, capped at one week's rent.
  • Changes to the tenancy requested by the tenant, capped at £50 (or "reasonable costs").
  • Early termination of the tenancy requested by the tenant.
  • Defaults by the tenant, such as fines for late rent payments or lost keys. These must be "reasonable costs", with evidence given in writing by the landlord or agent.

At the beginning of a new tenancy agreement, the tenant pays their deposit to their landlord or agent as usual. The landlord or agent must then ensure it is protected.  Landlords and agents have a choice of three schemes providers, offering two types of scheme to protect the deposit.

In  Custodial Schemes money is held by the scheme until it is time for it to be repaid at the end of the tenancy. There is one custodial scheme provider. 

Under  Insurance-Based Schemes the landlord keeps the deposit, and pays the insurance scheme to insure against the landlord failing to repay the tenant any money due to him. 

Government information on tenancy deposits

What bills can I expect to pay?

  • Council Tax is a monthly charge levied on each individual property (properties entirely inhabited by students are exempt). See here for more details.
  • Utility bills – water, electricity, gas and/or oil – are usually payable monthly or quarterly.
  • Communications – expect to pay for telephone, internet connection and television each month.
  • Other – check with your landlord about other charges, e.g. residents' parking permit (central properties) or charges for a gardener or cleaner.

Ensure that you make an allowance each month for the utilities and council tax, in addition to budgeting for rental costs. However bills will vary widely depending on the property and time of year.  Always ask landlords first for a more accurate indication, and refer to the property’s Energy Performance Certificate.

Do students have to pay council tax?

Any house occupied entirely by students will not be taxed by the Council provided the relevant form is completed. See here for details. However, as a general rule, if one or more of the occupants are not students, then Council Tax is payable for the whole property. There are exceptions to this rule, detailed on the council web site. 

Please note that Visiting Students from outside the UK are liable for council tax.

Where there is only one non-student in the house, an application can be made to reduce the Council Tax payable by 25%. See the local council web site for advice, rates and discounts.

Will I need a television licence?

Everyone who installs or uses a device to watch or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV is legally required to be covered by a valid TV licence. TV devices include TV sets, video/DVD recorders, mobile phones, set top boxes and computers.

If you are going to be sharing a house, usually, a shared tenancy agreement would mean only one licence is needed, regardless of the number of TV sets in the house. A separate tenancy agreement would mean that you will need your own TV licence if you have a TV in your room. Only one licence is required if the only TV in the house being used, is in a communal area. Ask your landlord what kind of tenancy agreement you have.

See the TV licensing web site for more details.  Students please see:

Will I need contents insurance?

We strongly recommend that you take out appropriate insurance to cover loss or theft of property from the home. This usually comes with options to cover loss or theft of property away from the home, for example a bike or valuable equipment.

If you are a student check to see if your possessions are covered under your parents' insurance.

Searching FAQs

Who is eligible for accommodation?

We help locate suitable accommodation within the Cambridge area for members of the University. This includes:

  • Current members of the University of Cambridge i.e.: Full time graduate students (and undergraduates in exceptional circumstances) or those with confirmed offers joining the University within 3 months.
  • Academics and staff members.
  • Visiting Scholars with a formal invitation to a Faculty or Department.
  • Current formal visiting fellows of Colleges.

Please note that life members of Colleges who have not obtained formal attachment to a Faculty or Department may only use our website in exceptional circumstances, and will then be charged an admin fee.

Students attending part-time courses connected with the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) may only access the database at the discretion of the Accommodation Service. Discretion will be based on the length of the course and the weekly hours attended in Cambridge.

We regret that we are unable to assist those teaching or attending summer schools, or visiting family members, owing to the high demand for short term accommodation for those working in the University. It is worth looking at our short term listings under ‘Visiting Cambridge' (website front page) as many of these places will offer more than a few nights.

If you are unsure whether or not you are eligible, please contact us and we will advise you.

Do your listed prices include bills?

Most rooms do. Most houses and flats do not. Check each individual listing carefully to find out what is included.

When is it best to start looking for accommodation?

Houses and flats: No earlier than 4-5 months before moving, and right up to the last minute because availability changes rapidly. You should give yourself 4 weeks minimum.

Private rooms: From a month before right up to the last minute. Many tenants only give their landlords a month’s notice, so accommodation often will not be advertised for longer than that.

University accommodation: The optimal time to apply to join the waiting list is 3 months in advance.

How can I see as wide a range of properties as possible?

Widen the parameters of your search:

  1. Be flexible with your move-in date (could you stay in temporary accommodation for few days before moving in?)
  2. Maximise the rent you are prepared to pay – you may catch some properties with bills included in the price.
  3. Try not to limit too much the areas in which you are prepared to live? Cambridge is a small city with easy access to the centre and the University from all areas.

How long does it take to find a room?

This is very variable; however once you have set up your viewings, it usually takes about 3 days from viewing to moving in.

I'm arriving at an unusual time of year – will this affect my chances of finding a property?

Although there are peak times before the start of each term and before the summer, we do have properties becoming available all year round.

Do you have accommodation for less than a month?

Over the summer, and sometimes Christmas and Easter too, we have ‘Holiday Lets’ – short lettings of one week or more over a holiday period. If you are interested, please register to search our database.

During the rest of the year the minimum period for renting is 3 weeks or more. If you were hoping to stay for less time than this, please see our Visiting Cambridge page.

Will you help me find a private property?

Yes, however the Accommodation Service is just an introductory service – we will give you the details of landlords, you must contact them yourself.

What sort of properties can I expect to find for private rent in Cambridge?

The most common property types you will find on this site include flats, houses, rooms in shared houses and bedsits.

Is there a minimum or maximum time I can rent a private property for?

Properties are typically available on both long and medium term basis (more than 3 weeks). It is difficult to obtain self-contained accommodation for less than 6 months.

This can vary however, so please check on the listing of the property. If you are unsure then please contact the property's landlord and ask them to confirm this.

Number of bedrooms?

If you are coming with children from overseas, look for accommodation with more than one bedroom (in the UK, one room is for a  single person or a couple only).

I want to share – where can I find others looking for similar houses?

There are house sharing options built into your shortlist. You can choose to share your name and email address with other people looking for similar houses. You can do this when you register, or under My account if you've already registered to search.

If you've chosen to share your details, you will see people who have shortlisted the same properties under your shortlist. The more properties you have both shortlisted, the further up the list those people will appear. In other words: the people at the top of the list are looking into more of the same properties that you are.

To form a housesharing group, simply email people, and let them know that you are interested in the same houses.

Where can I find other PGCE students looking to share?

It is worth searching Facebook for informal groups set up for this purpose.

Can I register as a landlord on your site to find new tenants on behalf of my landlord?

It is far better for your landlord to advertise their property on our site, even if you are listed as the contact person.