UK Students Complain They're Being 'Ripped Off' By 'Scummy' Landlords With 'Sh*thole' Housing
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Words by Niall Hignett
Uni students have been faced with rat infestations, broken furniture, mouldy cupboards and filthy toilets as they move into their ‘unhabitable’ new digs for the year ahead.
As letting agents distribute keys to young people across the country, huge numbers of renters are taking to social media to vent their outrage at the state of student housing.
One Leeds student blasted their landlord on TikTok, describing their new home as a 's**thole', and claiming they’d been 'ripped off' after finding their home with mould, broken beds and holes in the walls.
It’s no surprise many are feeling ripped off; the NUS reports the average student in Britain spends as much as two-thirds of their maintenance loan on rent (this rises to 89 per cent in London), while rates have increased by 61 per cent since 2012.
Despite calls for better living standards, many students feel they’ve been forced into “unliveable” housing.
Grace, a first-year at Durham University, is one such tenant. She recently moved into a house with faeces still in the toilet, mouldy cupboards, and unusable kitchen appliances that ‘stink’. “It’s just a joke really,” she told LADbible.
Grace says her ‘scummy’ landlord makes ‘upwards of £70,000’ per year from the 10-person rental, made all the more shocking by the fact that they have seemingly not bothered to clean the property before the new occupants move in.
She’s not alone in her outrage; according to Save The Student, over one third of students regard their housing as poor value for money; the average tenant pays around £148 per week for their digs, more than half admitting they’ve struggled to keep up with their rent payments.
A NUS spokesperson told LADbible: “Student housing has long been a joke: poor quality, poorly regulated and students exploited as second-class renters. We need caps, we need maintenance funding that actually lets us live, and we need proper regulation of landlords.”
This lack of regulation and oversight has led to students moving into mouldy and damp accommodation. Research by Portsmouth Law School called for “new measures are required to protect students”, as the Housing Act 2004 is applied inconsistently across councils. They said the law had a 'confused nature', meaning students are particularly vulnerable to shoddy housing. This is a long term problem, that is not seeing improvement; over 50 per cent of students now report living with damp or mould.
With the government in disarray, and MPs fixated on securing the top job rather than bringing about change, it is difficult to expect change. In fact, with the sacking of Michael Gove, we may see the Government scrapping their admittance that tenants have been failed. At the time of writing, there is no 'levelling-up' replacement, and there is grave uncertainty over the government’s direction.
Dan, a second year Law and Business student at Manchester Metropolitan University, recently took to TikTok to share the conditions of his new home.
He was faced with a 'huge leak' in the kitchen, staining the walls 'orange'. There were further leaks and mould in the upstairs bedrooms. Dan has been promised by his landlord the issues will be fixed after raising a complaint.
However, what that ‘fix’ will be and when is uncertain. One Newcastle student moved into their new accommodation to find faulty light fixtures which were not working. After raising a complaint, they were promised a repair. The fix? The landlord posted them a torch. The student said they feel the landlord was ‘taking advantage’ of them.
With these shoddy conditions in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking landlords were cash-strapped themselves. However, Save The Student found that over one in five students struggle to get their deposits back as landlords pocket their cash, even after failing to properly maintain their own properties.
One Chester Uni student told how they were forced to live with a rat infestation alongside black mould, which was so severe, one student had to be treated for sinusitis on two occasions. The student was forced to live in a bedroom that ‘wasn’t insulated’.
Their landlord reportedly refused to fix the issues, telling his tenants that letting was his ‘livelihood’, as a justification for not resolving the problems; he claimed he could not afford to ratify the issues. The student said the landlord ‘just pays for a takeaway’ to make the students 'feel better’, rather than repairing the problems.
Sadly, these stories are just a snapshot of the wider picture across the country. They do, however, highlight why it is so important that students know their rights and fight for fixes.
What are my rights?
According to Citizens Advice, your home is classed as unfit for human habitation if it has “damp or mould”, “it is infested with pests”, or it “doesn’t have a safe water supply”. In the first instance, they say you should contact your landlord or letting agent in writing to request repairs to the property.
Citizen’s Advice recommend collecting evidence of the problems, including:
- photos of the damage, particularly if the problem gets worse over time
- any letters, texts, emails, or notes of any conversations between you and your landlord or letting agent
- receipts if you’ve had to replace damaged items
- letters from your GP if the problem has made you ill
- a copy of your tenancy agreement
If the problem is affecting your health and safety, and your landlord does not fix the problem in a “reasonable” time, you should report the issues to the Environmental Health department at your local council, who can order the landlord to complete any necessary repairs to the property.
If these steps do not work, you should contact Citizens Advice.
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