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2 months without a shower? Students share their stories of nightmare landlords


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Two weeks ago we revealed that one in three students had rented from a “nightmare landlord”. To put this to the test we invited students to share their real life experiences. Here´s what we found out…

By a mile the most common complaint in student flats is mould (but I suppose many of us don´t need to be told that). Even in university accommodation it seems there's no escaping it. Countless students have complained to us of landlords who refused to act on damp or mould festering away in their flat, often to the point where it became a health hazard.

The mould situation in Hollie´s flat became so bad that she contracted a chest infection and had to go on antibiotics. Her landlord refused to fix the broken radiators or leaks in the ceiling which were causing it, and in the end she and her flatmates were charged for the cost of repainting the walls which had been damaged by it.

Another student with a serious mould problem was advised by his landlord to “just breathe less”.

Yandra, a student at the University of Edinburgh, told us that her flat was plagued with problems which their landlord and letting agency refused to address. They were forced to make do with a broken bed, missing door handles (on fire doors, which would swing shut and leave them locked in the kitchen) and severe plumbing problems for weeks on end.

Despite repeated complaints and phone calls the agency only acted when Yandra´s mum eventually called them herself.

“They just think because we're students we'll just deal with it or forget about it and give up, but as soon as an adult phones they're right on it,” Yandra told us. 

Even after this the agency continued to mess them about, increasing their rent for the second year of their stay without warning, and refusing to replace their broken hoover.

“I would say I would never use them again, but it seems all those that deal with student flats are just as bad.”

Ellie, a third year student at the University of Surrey, suffered at the hands of her letting agency for a year, whilst the landlord themselves refused to make contact.

“We thought something was a little dodgy when we were asked to pay a non-refundable holding fee, before being told that some other students were interested in the house and wanted it for the entire year, rather than just the academic one. We were given five minutes over the phone to decide whether or not we were prepared to take it for 12 months, despite already paying a holding fee.”

Their heating was broken for a fortnight during their January exams, which should have rendered the house uninhabitable, and was in fact a serious threat to their heath.

Shortly afterwards their shower broke, and despite repeated complaints to the estate agents, remained that way for 60 days.

Upon leaving the flat they knew to expect some foul play from the agency, and so went above and beyond to ensure that the flat was as clean and tidy as humanly possible – but it seems even this wasn´t enough.

“We were charged for a dead light bulb in our bathroom (a spotlight which we had explicitly been told to leave alone as its changing required entrance to the loft, which was prohibited), some building tools in one of the bedrooms (which were left by the men who changed the boiler and were never picked up), and even rubbish in the wheelie bins outside - we were charged £40 for using our bins.”

They fought their corner and argued many of these points, only to have returned a small portion of our deposit over a month later.

“Throughout our tenancy, the agency staff were nothing but unhelpful, passive aggressive and patronising, and we were treated like school children, rather than students."

One Edinburgh student told us that her flat, as is commonly done in student accommodation, had been split up to squash more bedrooms in, making all the bedrooms small and dark, and leaving the kitchen without a window.

“To me that smacks of exploiting students, but I couldn't tell you for sure whether that was the landlord or the estate agent or whoever came before them.”

It´s certainly undeniable that properties not targeted at students are nicer, cleaner, and tend to encourage more attention from landlords. The student told us: “I get the impression landlords and estate agents don't really care about doing places up for students and just want to make money out of them.

"My flat last year was amazing, but the landlord had made absolutely no effort to modernise anything - the hot water and central heating system was ancient and all the decor was pretty dated.”

She suggests that one way around being taken advantage of as a student tenant is to opt for two person flats rather than living in big numbers.

“They are always more expensive, but tend to be a lot nicer – they also don't need to be HMO approved so there doesn't need to be all the fire door malarkey.”

It seems to be all too common for students to face problems with letting just for being students. But beyond this we´re still vulnerable to the issues which may hit anyone regardless of age, such as one writer who told us:

“I had a landlord who used to let himself in and make himself a cup of tea - when I caught him one morning he let it slip he did it 'all the time' but 'it was fine because he only did it' when he thought we 'were out'!”

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