All students have been there; you’ve survived being a fresher, made some friends that you at least *think* you’ll get along with, and you’re ready to escape the bubble of halls by moving into your first shared house.
However, all may not be as it seems. Many students end up in a damp-infested, shoebox-sized, overpriced box room, and soon start wondering how they ended up there.
Laurie, a 25-year-old Quantity Surveying graduate from Leeds, had this to say about his first student landlord:
Everything was going alright until the landlord told us he wanted to renovate the whole house whilst we were living there. We objected but he told us that they would be doing it anyway. The next morning builders turned up at 7am and started work without even knocking on the door. They ended up doing half a job and when it came to the end of the tenancy they charged us for the damage the builders had caused.
So what can students do to avoid the pitfalls of unscrupulous, dodgy and money-grabbing letting agents and landlords? In order to glean a wider perspective on the situation, we spoke to Unipol Student Homes.
The organisation is described as the ‘national voice on student housing’ on its Twitter page. Their officers work closely with universities to ensure that landlords ‘go substantially beyond their legal minimum requirements in providing good quality, safe and well-managed housing’.
George Bradley, Student Engagement Officer at Unipol, said:
Students can come across a few pitfalls when navigating the private rented sector for the first time. Your university should have a list of preferred landlords and agents so check to see which are on this list, or are part of a local accreditation scheme, and contact these businesses before non-accredited ones.
Siân, a 24-year-old recent graduate of Graphic Arts and Design, told us about her experiences within her damp accommodation.
I reported damp and condensation on my walls, which took them a year to treat. It caused me to contract a chest infection. They only painted over it because I rang the council. Still didn’t lend much to my chest problems though as they never actually treated the walls properly.
Unipol had some advice on how to avoid suffering Siân’s terrible experience yourself, responding:
Regarding issues like mould or disrepair, get repairs written into the contract so the landlord or agent has an obligation to deal with them, and can’t just fob you off with a promise of a lick of paint!
Helen, a recent Sport Science graduate at the University of Birmingham, described her experiences in her first student home:
We arrived at our seven-bed house, which was an absolute state. So we took pictures to prove how awful it was then when it came round to moving out the landlord refused to give us our deposits back unless we painted all the walls, got a professional to clean the oven and hoovered every inch of the house… we did it all and still didn’t get the money back.
UNIPOL stressed their are ways to prevent landlords making off with your deposit, saying: Make sure your deposit is protected in a scheme like the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) or Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS), and keep your details to hand – remember, a deposit is YOUR money, until PROVEN otherwise.
What is a deposit scheme?
If you’re in a dispute with your landlord, then your deposit will be protected in a deposit scheme (such as the TDS or DPS) until the issue is sorted out. If you disagree with charges you can submit evidence and the scheme will make the final judgement. It’s always worth getting in touch with the scheme your landlord has protected your deposit with. If they haven’t protected it they will have to return it in full, or risk court action against them.
Now I’m not saying that students are ideal tenants, I was one so I know that’s far from the truth. We all know that university is, for most people, a three to four-year whirlwind of booze-soaked excess, and things can get damaged.
But is it really fair for some landlords to automatically rip students off because there is a chance they may damage the property they let? And does students’ knowledge they are being ripped off actually make them treat the property without respect?
It seems like a case of chicken and egg-style self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, a mutual lack of respect seems to be the root of the problem and changing that could be the solution.
Are you a student who is having some issues with your landlord? You can check out UNIPOL’s website by clicking here.