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Scarlet Francis on the exploitation of students by landlords

As an UEA student, the notion of landlords ripping off students seems to be an epidemic – but is this actually true?

I distributed a survey via social media, imploring students to answer questions based on their own experiences with landlords. Amongst the anonymous respondents, 74 percent stated that they felt landlords were taking advantage of students. The comments varied, but themes such as poor condition of housing, vulnerability of students and a general acknowledgement of a disparity between family and student housing were abundant.

For instance, one respondent illuminated the disparity and argued, “The rent for residential houses, that are in much better keeping, and well looked after with the same amount of facilities and bedrooms, are the same price that one student pays for their room alone.”

It was clear that a proportion of respondents attributed this to the estate agents and not the landlord. Comments made highlighted that, “it’s easy to rip off students as we have no previous experience in renting and when there is limited housing.”

The notion of disingenuous estate agents is further reinforced by another comment that states, “Estate agents try and take money off you left, right and centre-charging to pay by credit card, making ridiculous claims in the damage deposit that you can’t appeal.”

Questions arise, such as what is being done at the university to protect students from being taken advantage of? Do they vet estate agents and landlords, if at all? An SU spokesperson said, “Landlords advertising on Home Run agree to operate within our minimum standards.

“These include important safety features, supplying up-to-date gas and electrical safety certificates, and not charging fees for the setup of a tenancy.”

However, the issue of ‘Letting Agents Fees’ failed to be mentioned. UEA students have often been charged an additional fee on top of their deposit. This often occurs if agents are involved, which only serves to exploit students further. Luckily Home Run properties must not charge extra fees to be allowed onto the list, though the private sector can charge additional fees.

If you are a fan of a proposition, to reduce or abolish fees, then you will be glad to know that, according to gov.co.uk the government are working on, “New measures to provide a fairer deal for renters by banning unfair letting agent fees.”

One drawback of this is that there is not a timescale given, so we are unsure of when that will be achieved. Although 74 percent of the sample believed that their landlord was taking advantage of them, it is important to acknowledge that 53 percent were happy with their landlord in ensuring the upkeep of the property.

On the contrary, 53 percent is still a low majority. A large number of students live off campus. A very unfortunate few are left to live in deteriorating properties due to a lack of choice. Some of these students experience hardships such as “rats which went unsorted for months”, “mould”, and “no hot water for a month.”

If you have had similar experiences then it is important to get educated and know your rights. Advice SU can help with the most frequent student housing issues including advice on legal rights and responsibilities as a tenant and support with requesting repairs to a property.

If you are dissatisfied with your landlord or letting agents, find a voice and articulate your issues coherently. It is incredibly unfair. No student should have to live in squalor just because they are a student.

27/02/2018

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