The academic year 2011-2012 is approaching... How to find a “wonderful” studentroom or flat ?
You will find below a number of advices to find the perfect room or appartment !
- Watch out for rental scams !
- Is there really a rush to find a house ?
- The student accommodations
- And once I've found a potential house ?
1. Watch out for rental scams !
Watch out for potential scams when looking for rental properties.
The scams work by offering to let property at below market rents and asking for deposits, or in some cases full payment upfront in order to secure the property prior to visiting it, or to prove they have the money in order to rent for the duration.
Prospective tenants are convinced to part with either credit card details, cheques or cash before seeing the property, which then turn out not to exist. Payments are then not returned and the student cannot get in contact with the supposed “landlord”.
How to protect yourself:
- Do not send money upfront - Make sure you are certain the person and property exists and that the person has control of the property. Deposits are standard in renting; paying money upfront to secure a room is not. Never pay with Western Union, Moneygram, mandat poste...
- Use your common sense – If the property is too cheap and looks fantastic then it’s probably too good to be true.
- Visit the house you intend to rent - Make sure you visit the property with the landlord to confirm if the house share is bona fide. Be suspicious of anyone who refuses to let you visit the property.
2. Is there really a rush to find a house ?
Looking for a student house when you've just got to University or High School can be daunting. In May and June most students are starting to look for a student room. So the sooner you begin your search, the more choice you have, and the more chance you have to get a “great deal” !
If you start searching later, many student rooms will also become available after the 1st or 2nd exam session in July and September. It’s a great time to find a student room as well, except you have less time to compare rooms and prices.
3. The student accommodations
First of all, it is useful to know that in Belgium a student’s room is known as a « kot ».
There are 2 types of housing:
1/ Housing managed by University or School itself
2/ Accommodations rented by private owners or companies :
Studios: generally have one living room, including a kitchen area and a shower.
Communal apartments: The student lives in an individual room, but shares with other students the kitchen, the living room and the sanitary installations (shower and toilets). The room is equipped (wash-basin, bed, mattress, chair, table, cupboard and shelf space).
Homestays: you share the house with its owner. It is therefore essential that you meet him before. This kind of housing are generally pretty quiet. You will have to respect your landlord rules, including when friends can come and visit you. But this can be a very cosy housing solution!
Kots à projets: for those who are studying in Louvain la Neuve, there is a type of community kot very particular called “KAP”.
The "kots à projets" are a unique formula of social student life. Between six and twelve students live together in a shared flat (private bedroom, shared kitchen, bathroom and toilets), and work together on a project of social, cultural or humanitarian dimension for the duration of an academic year. To give just a few examples of projects: raising public awareness of the environment, health, or of the problems faced by developing countries; general services to the community; the organisation of an exhibition or a music concert; a project on the language or the culture of a given country; assistance for students with special needs, ... just name it !
In Louvain-la-Neuve only there are over 120 kots à projets, or KAP's, as they are also called.
Some of these kots à projet have reserved one of their rooms especially for an exchange student. Living in a kot à projet is a wonderful way to work on interesting projects, develop transferrable skills, get to know the Belgians and Belgian culture from the inside and improve your French.
The number of rooms available in kots à projets is limited. International students who would like to be part of a kot à projet should contact the UCL Accommodation Office. The University actively supports the kots-à-projets through an attractive rent for the participants and by funding some of their activities.
4. And once I've found a potential house?
Once you've compiled a list of potential houses - whether from online, paper lists picked up, or some other method - you need to contact the letting agent/landlord to arrange a viewing. In most cases they will take you on a viewing, but in some cases you may just be told to make your own way to the property (this is particularly likely with agents who have the poor quality housing lists discussed above).
At this stage, the method of search you picked above can really start to make a difference. Decent online listings will often have internal pictures of the property, so you can get a good idea of the property before you go to view it. That way you can ensure the properties you view you can seriously consider.