21 July 2016

Students ripped off by “Jumanji” horror home

Flooded, flimsy and downright decrepit accommodation – but landlord still kept their £1,750 deposit. Don’t let it happen to you!Donkey standing in front of a run-down house

If someone pulls up in a car and tries to sell you something, run the other way – definitely don’t rent a house from them. Blindingly obvious? After hearing what happened to a group of first years, we’re not so sure!

We heard from a student in Bournemouth who was out house hunting when a man in a car drove up …

He said he was a trusted local estate agent and that he had a 5-bed property nearby. We weren’t having much luck finding a house so we followed him.

For Lindsey S*, who got in touch with Save the Student, they’re what you call famous last words.

The house was in reasonable nick, she says, with huge rooms and high ceilings. It was also the cheapest they’d seen – £1,500/month between the five of them: “the house looked a little rough around the edges, but I was confident it just needed some love.”

How does your rent compare? Find out in our National Student Money Survey 2016!

“It’s like Jumanji up in here …”

Flood scene from Jumanji - policeman floating in torrential waterWhen they moved in, none of the promised painting or maintenance had been done – and a load of broken furniture had been dumped outside. Then things got much worse:

We woke up on the first morning in our new home to what sounded like a shower running …

It wasn’t the shower. A leaky toilet had been running all night and flooded the bathroom: the noise was the water running through the kitchen ceiling. “The water was dripping through the light fixtures in the downstairs hallway,” Lindsey recalls. “The ceiling was bowed from soaking up so much water!”

Pretty damp, hey?

That’s not all, folks

Mouldy Student HouseShockingly, Lindsey says the only repairs involved the estate agent bringing in “an industrial dehumidifier for about a month”. The students were worried about dangerous mould spores, but say they were told to clean most of it themselves with bleach: “we had constant chest infections and breathing problems,” she adds.

They stayed in the house for the rest of the year but – perhaps unsurprisingly – had a rough ride with broken fittings, fixtures and a back door held on with a piece of string.

The oven broke after a month in the property [and] we were left without a working oven for 5 MONTHS … the estate agents finally ordered a cheap Curry’s oven and chained it to the kitchen wall.

The kicker

Meme - sparrow kicking another bird off the bird table.Credit: imgflipThe students stuck it out until July 2015, then say they cleaned up and left the house in the same standard they found it – but there was a sting in the tail:

I was shocked when an email from the estate agent arrived with a list of issues that needed addressing with the house, and the price next to each one, amounting to exactly £1,750.

They’d been asked to pay for broken fixtures, fittings and new carpets throughout the house. The kicker? Their deposit wasn’t in a Deposit Protection Scheme, which would have helped them dispute the charges.

“I wish I had taken more photographs and gained legal advice,” Lindsey comments, “but we felt we didn’t have a leg to stand on after realising the deposit wasn’t protected.”

How not to get taken for a ride

Broken motorbike missing a wheel and dumped by a wall.Credit: Morguefile

  • Don’t do business on the road! Get recommendations for estate agents from your university, and don’t be shy about asking for testimonials.
  • Be nosy and ask the right questions: take a look at the Ultimate guide to viewing student houses if you don’t know what to look out for!
  • Take photos at the viewing and when you move in, and do your own inventory – and don’t sign anything until you’ve read this.
  • Agree any repairs or maintenance before you move in, and get written confirmation about the condition (and any dodgy areas).
  • Make sure your deposit is in a protected deposit scheme, and find out the process for getting it back or disputing unfair charges (if your landlord doesn’t put your deposit in an appropriate scheme you could be due compensation, too).
  • Look after the place. Remember that it’s not your home, it’s someone else’s, and they’ll expect to be reimbursed for damage!

Got a sweet tip – or a hideous horror story? Let us know below!

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