Renting Accommodation in Cambridge

Cambridge City Centre

Renting a room, apartment or house in Cambridge

We take care to inspect review and maintain the accommodation we offer. We’d be happier and believe it is safer for our students to stay in our accommodation. If you are 18 and you prefer to arrange your own accommodation, you are allowed to do so but please read the advice below before doing so.

Under 18s are not permitted to arrange their own accommodation.


If you’re planning to rent a house, flat or room, make sure you understand what’s involved. You can rent a property privately or through a letting agent.

Different ways to rent privately

The main types of accommodation that students can rent privately include:

  • accommodation let by private landlords
  • accommodation in private halls of residence
  • a room in the same property as the landlord.

Accommodation let by private landlords is usually flats or houses which you may rent on your own or with other people. Household bills are normally separate to the rent, but some items may be inclusive, for example, water charges. The tenancy agreement should outline if the rent includes any other payments.

Halls of residence that are owned and managed by private companies are becoming more common. Some are purpose-built as student accommodation and run as commercial enterprises and have very specific entry requirements. Bills are generally included in the price of the accommodation.

If you rent a room in your landlord’s home and share some accommodation with them, such as a bathroom and kitchen, then you may be what’s commonly known as a lodger. A lodger may have their own room, usually a bedroom, but they don’t have exclusive use of that room. This means that their landlord can enter the room without their permission. Lodgers generally pay a charge that covers rent and bills and in some cases meals may be provided too.

Using a Letting Agent

It is advisable to use a letting agent. A letting agent acts on behalf of a landlord and the landlord generally pays for this service.

What does a letting agent do?

A letting agent helps a landlord to find a tenant for their property. Some also manage the property while the tenant is living there. How to choose a letting agent?

It’s best to use an agent that has signed up to the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), or is a member of a self-regulating body such as the:

  • Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA).

What are you likely to have to pay?

Fees can vary from one letting agent to another, so it’s best to shop around and ask letting agents for details of their fees. You should also ask for receipts for any payments you make.

Administration fee

Agents can charge an administration fee. This may cover things like drawing up tenancy agreements, inventories and checking references.

Holding deposit

Agents can charge a holding deposit if you’ve agreed to take a property but haven’t yet signed the tenancy agreement.

If you’re asked to pay a holding deposit make sure you’re aware of what will happen before you pay any money. It will be useful to know: 

  • in what circumstances the deposit can be returned, for example, if you fail a credit check do you get the deposit back?
  • in what circumstances are you entitled to withdraw, for example, if you change your mind about the tenancy is the deposit refundable?
  • if the landlord decides not to go ahead with the tenancy, will you get the deposit back?
  • if the tenancy doesn’t go ahead for whatever reason, are you tied to using that agency because it transfers the deposit to another property?

If you do pay a holding deposit it is usually deducted from the security deposit you pay when you move in.

Security deposit

Agents normally require payment of a deposit as security against damage or getting into rent arrears. A typical security deposit is one month’s rent.

A letting agency cannot charge you:

  • to register with the agency
  • for providing a list of properties available for renting

Things to check before registering with a letting agency

You should find out the following information from an agency before registering with them to avoid future problems:

  • details of the services it provides
  • full details of the charges it makes
  • whether it is a member of a trade body such as ARLA, NAEA, RICS or NALS as it must have a complaints procedure and protect your money if the agency goes out of business
  • whether the agency has a complaints procedure and whether it is a member of an ombudsman scheme

Things to ask the agent before signing a tenancy agreement

  • the terms of the tenancy agreement
  • the amount of rent you must pay and whether the rent includes any service charges
  • the amount of the security deposit/rent in advance
  • details of the tenancy deposit protection scheme it uses
  • the procedure for getting repairs done.

Furnished accommodation

What furniture must be provided

If a property is let furnished as a tenant, you could expect a level of furnishing that would be reasonable to allow you to live in the accommodation. This would include:-

  • table and chairs in the kitchen/living room
  • sofa and/or armchairs in the living room
  • a bed and storage for clothes in each bedroom
  • heating appliances
  • curtains and floor coverings
  • a cooker, fridge, kitchen utensils and crockery.

Any upholstered furniture must comply with fire safety regulations (see under Furniture fire safety, below).

If you think that the provision is not adequate, you can provide your own furniture, unless the tenancy agreement does not allow this.

If you are not happy with the condition of the furniture when you move in, you could consider discussing this with your landlord. Your landlord might agree to replace it. You could check what was listed in the inventory (if one exists) (see below), or tenancy agreement about the condition of the furniture.


An inventory is a list of furniture and other contents which have been provided in the accommodation by your landlord.

Your landlord usually writes the inventory. It should list everything provided in the accommodation for use by you, with a description of the items, including their age and condition.

If there is no inventory, you can create your own. You will need to do this as soon as you move in. You’ll need an independent witness to sign to say that they have done the checks. This cannot be a close friend or relative.