Renting a house in second year is the next step in the university process for many students, and as many first years prepare to move into houses in September, I speak to University of Leicester students who have had experiences from hell.
(Some names have been changed to protect identity).
A new poll from Save the Student reveals that bad student housing is not uncommon, issues include dampness (33%), lack of water or heating (30%) and rodents and pests (15%). Students often fall into debt to offset the upfront expenses of finding student residence, from loans to letting agency payments despite these concerns.
Research by the NUS found that over half of students face troubles getting their landlord or letting agent conduct maintenance. As a student, it is hard to be taken seriously by landlords: there is something about being young and inexperienced that seemingly causes them to just not care.
Carla Field, a graduate of law from the University of Leicester said: “We rented a house, and the entire year was A MESS! The day we moved in there was still building work being done and the attic bedroom (newly converted that summer) was structurally unsafe. Their response was to have our housemate live in someone else’s room until it was finished. They offered nothing off the rent for this. The whole house hadn’t been cleaned and was disgusting. I even had to request a mattress be replaced as it was soiled with blood. We spent two whole days cleaning.
“Further into the year, we got really bad mould issues and they didn’t do anything – it took me threatening to have environmental services around for them to do anything about it. It made my two asthmatic housemates really sick – one of which has still not recovered and has been on stronger inhalers ever since. We then got an infestation of mice which was so bad they would run around our lounge, kitchen and then later in the year one housemates’ bedroom.
“The whole year was a complete s*** show.”
“I was the lead tenant and I spent at least once a week screaming down the phone at them – they were rude and utterly useless. It was all of our first experiences of privately renting and now as someone much older and working in law I know the way they treated us as tenants were so unacceptable and illegal!”
“The house was not disgusting when we moved in, but he never answered the phone, our heating broke in the height of winter and he left us without heating for ages, the toilets broke, and he left us without a toilet and suggested we didn’t use toilet roll!
“He didn’t pay our bills when we were bills included in rent, so we had people from Eon knocking trying to install stuff in our house. It was horrific!”
Joshua Parkinson a third-year politics student stated: “Jeez, what wasn’t a problem, never had a landlord or agency that wasn’t s***.
“The landlord built an extension at the back a year ago before we moved in, which since Christmas started leaking through the carpet. My housemate has bad asthma, so the room has been unusable for over a month.
“We’ve had workmen almost every day of the week, it’s so hard to concentrate on our dissertation and work! They put wood on the outside wall to try and stop the leak, but it didn’t help. Months later another boiler guy came round who found a broken valve which was causing the leak, so they wasted so much time and money.
“Landlords are a parasite on society.”
It’s not just private accommodation that students have found a nightmare, university halls also provide their fair share of horrific experiences.
In March, first-year student Louise Manley posted a Twitter thread accusing the university of ignoring problems of black mould within their flats. She posted: “Two students, including myself, have had mould spore poisoning from mould in our showers and common areas.”
Louise added: “Multiple flats are having to be moved due to black mould. But it does(n)t just stop at the rooms. It is everywhere. I have already moved rooms and I am still suffering because it’s all over the building.”
Other issues like the shower have also arisen: “(my shower) has the wrong paint on it. The ruse is from insufficient materials used in renovating. It can cause tetanus and blood poison.
Stagnant water came flowing out last night where a bucket left under it by a cleaner overfilled and poured out. Luckily, the men who turned up called a plumber, but the water stank like sewage.”
When it comes to renting a house, you should expect, at the very least, a safe and habitable place to live. Know your rights!
Following the receiving of these reports, I spoke with Irving Hill, a spokesperson for Sulets Letting Agency, who informed me of what students should be doing to make renting easier.
Past tenants = “Before you start the contract with the landlord, check the Student’s Union and always have a chat with the current tenants in there.”
Contract checks = “If you’re worried go and get the contract checked by somebody that you trust.”
Check repair status = “For Sulets, when things go wrong, for example, repairs, we have a set procedure to respond to and we try to give deposits back to keep people happy.”
If you are having similar problems and need advice, contact:
University of Leicester Accommodation Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Services: email@example.com
Emily Herbert is a first-year student of Journalism at the University of Leicester, with further aspirations of pursuing a career in TV
All slideshow images sourced from Twitter, feature image by LSM