Loud music, late night parties and missed rent. We’ve all heard the horror stories of being a landlord who owns a student house but what about when the shoe is on the other foot (or the key is in the other lock if you will)? Student landlords and property agencies come in all different guises: some as friendly as they can be; others as invisible as the person who ate your last frozen pizza and didn’t own up to it, and some who just don’t care about the students living in their properties and see them only as a source of income. So whats like living in student houses?
These are real stories taken from real student house experiences in York. Some good, some bad and some down right ugly.
ZOE T AND APRIL C:
“I walked out of my bedroom and saw heavy water pouring from the ceiling. A pipe had burst on the 2nd floor bathroom and the water had flooded all the way down to the ground floor leaving big puddles and damage. In a state of panic we rang the agency’s emergency number as it was after 8 pm however there was no answer. We left a voicemail and managed to get in touch with the landlord who told us where the stop tap was to turn the water off however he wasn’t home and unable to come out until the morning.”
“as we were waiting for the agency to get back in touch, the electricity cut out and the fire alarms started going off. The ceiling then started to fall through with large chunks of plasterboard rolling down the stairs. We left another voicemail with the agency who replied that someone would be out in the morning. It was dark and unsafe for anyone to go upstairs so we expressed to the agency that it wasn’t safe to stay. This was their reply: “
“It was very distressing and disappointing that no one was listening to us or coming to make sure we were okay and instead we had to leave the house and go seek help from the university security team for somewhere to stay.”
“On Halloween we all went out and one of our housemates decided to stay home because she wasn’t very well. Shortly after we left, she called us and asked if we were still in the house. She said that she could hear someone in the house so I told her I’d call the landlord and get him round to check. I called my landlord saying that she’s in the house on her own and someone’s breaking in. He said, and I quote: “Tell her to lock herself in her room, I’ll be over in 5 with my golf clubs”. He came over and made sure the entire house was clear and stayed with her for a cuppa till she’d calmed down. He’s an angel and couldn’t wish for anyone better.“
“We’d all been away for Christmas and we came back for a New Year’s Eve party and there was a horrid smell in the house. Bearing in mind we hadn’t been there for 2 weeks we thought it might just be rubbish or moldy food someone left out. My housemate suggested that it smelt like something had died in there and that’s when we remembered that a month before someone had said they’d seen a rat in the utility room. It also reminded me that I’d heard scratching through my walls recently but hadn’t thought much of it.
We put 2 and 2 together and called the landlord to say we thought a rat had died in the house. He sent an exterminator round the next day who confirmed something had died but he couldn’t find the culprit. He put some special deodorant in my room to mask the smell and said if I round the rat: “to just throw it in the black bin”. I started moving loads of things in my room and when I moved my bookcase, I found it.“
“As soon as we moved in, we encountered many problems with the house that we were not told about during the viewing earlier in the year. The house was supposed to be fitted with two showers; one was broken and it was never fixed. The front door lock was damaged too; it was never fixed. The house was covered in a ridiculous amount of mold when we moved in; they of course blamed the students and refused to fix it. We never saw the landlord either, failing to respond to our calls. Later in the year, one of the students was causing issues in the house.
With the landlord never responding, we tried to get in touch with the agent to help resolve the issue. They wouldn’t lift a finger to get involved, and simply wanted their payment. The responses were aggressive, accusing and unprofessional. With them failing to reason or help resolve the issue, I had to resort to legal advice; having to move out early and cut my losses of double rent.“
“One of the worst experiences of my life at University.”
“To any upcoming students, read the Google reviews before thinking about renting . I would recommend renting directly through a landlord without going through the letting agencies.“
“Blue door of York was the best landlord I ever had. Just one guy running a business- genuinely treated us all with respect. Fixed things straight away. Was really flexible with payment dates when we realised our student loan hadn’t came in. And the house was big too!“
“We spent 3 months without a boiler meaning we had no heat or hot water. Nothing was done about the damp that had been there since the start of tenancy. We wanted compensation from them but we got none because they claimed the house is “100+” years old so the damp was normal.“
“Other houses we looked at though were awful so we went with the best out of a bad bunch so god knows what the others were like”
“We were told the house was cleaned professionally but when we moved in, everything was sticky and the floors were full of hair. There were marks that we had to clean ourselves and there were bugs all over the house so we had to clean head to toe. We reported this and someone was apparently on the way to clean the property … that person didn’t turn up for 4 days.“
After receiving these stories, I spoke to Desma from the accommodation department at York St John who told me about the support the university offers.
- Temporary housing – “we can offer temporary accommodation when necessary but that is dependent on accommodation available.”
- Contract checks– “There’s a member of the well-being team Mel Stanton who can read contracts for you and point out any red herrings or issues”
- Housing Fair– “The Student’s Union organise a housing fair and I’d recommend going. Even if you don’t like any of the houses it gives you a chance to meet landlords and agencies”
Desma knows it can be a scary experience from her own time at York St John:
“Going into the private sector you go in sort of blind with not really a whole lot of experience of contracts or legal jargon that they’re using and they’ll sometimes use it to try and trip you up.”
She tells me that students shouldn’t rush into getting the first property they see: “Take lots of photos of the houses you’re viewing and talk to the current tenants. Get as much information as you can.”
Anyone struggling with similar issues and needing advice, contact the people listed below.
- York St John Accommodation Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Citizens Advice: http://www.citizensadviceyork.org.uk/