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Student Accommodation

Worst student housing problems revealed

We've all heard student housing horror stories, but what are the real issues? We asked students from all over the country to find out...

frustrated woman in front of terrace houses

Credit: Tom Falcon Harding (background), Luis Molinero (woman) – Shutterstock

New research by Save the Student has revealed the most common issues students face when renting private accommodation at university – and it's clear that things aren't in a good way.

We asked over 1,200 students about their experience with accommodation for our National Student Accommodation Survey, and you guys revealed just how bad the state of student housing in the UK is.

From mouldy walls to rodent infestations, student houses are troubled by some seriously dodgy issues. Most worryingly, around one in three students said they were affected by a lack of heating or water. This is all comes as rent costs are eating up the vast majority of student Maintenance Loans!

Feel like you're being ripped off? Here are the average rent costs at universities across the UK.

Worst student housing issues

Here are the worst student accommodation issues:

  1. Lack of water or heating (30%)
  2. Damp (26%)
  3. Disruptive building work (17%)
  4. Rodents and pests (15%)
  5. Inappropriate/unannounced landlord visits (13%)
  6. Break-ins or burglaries (7%)
  7. Smoke or carbon monoxide alarms not working (7%)
  8. Dangerous living conditions (7%)
  9. Other (5%)
  10. Bed bugs (4%).

It's incredibly concerning that almost one-third of students are facing periods without water and heating.

But that's far from the only issue students are facing in their own homes. More than one in four students (26%) have had to deal with damp, while nearly a fifth has had to contend with disruptive building work, and 13% have been disturbed by inappropriate or unannounced landlord visits.

On top of that, 15% have suffered what many consider to be their worst nightmare: a house infested with rodents or pests, which is something we discuss in detail in episode one of our podcast, as one of the Save the Student team was unfortunate enough to share a flat with German cockroaches.

These issues are a strain on students' mental health, but that's not all. Rodents and other pests pose an obvious threat to hygiene, while damp and a lack of hot water/heating can seriously affect the health of inhabitants, causing coughs, chest infections and throat irritation.

Take a look inside one of the worst student houses we've ever seen.

Student landlords failing to act

run down terraced houses

Credit: BerndBrueggemann – Shutterstock

The issue isn’t just that these problems exist in the first place, it’s also that they often go unresolved for long periods of time. Many of you reported that landlords fail to take you seriously as students, and 28% said household issues take longer than a week to resolve.

Even worse than this, 6% of students said their problems have never been fixed.

Here are just a few of the quotes from this year's survey which reveal that it's not just private landlords who are neglecting their responsibilities:

  • [We] had no heating or hot water or even clean water ([the] filter in [the] boiler wasn't changed for months) and the house was freezing and we were all ill for a while and couldn't get better as it was so cold. [Also] our washing couldn't dry so it created a damp atmosphere which made it worse. (Private landlord)
  • We can't request help over the weekend so had a sink that was slowly flooding our cupboards and kitchen that we couldn't stop. (Private halls)
  • My 2nd year house was awful. I had bed bugs, like woodlice, in my bed and had to buy my own bed. When I moved in, nothing had been cleaned, there [were] pizza slices on the floor. The cellar flooded when it rained, and it was carpet. The landlord wouldn't resolve any of the many (many more) issues so we wrote them on the chalk board so when people came for viewings, they could see all the issues that hadn't been resolved. Even then they didn't get resolved, so we moved out. (Private landlord)
  • Bed bugs, mould, everything is dirty and broken. (Uni halls)

Taking all this into account, it's hardly a surprise to learn that now 35% of students do not view their accommodation as good value for money. The only bright side is that this figure has dropped from the previous year's survey, when 47% had viewed their accommodation as poor value for money.

While it's good to see this number has dropped, there is still a long way to go to ensure all students live in good accommodation.

Where to seek housing advice

As many as 57% of students turn to parents for advice on housing problems but, while they may be able to offer some advice from their own experiences (or provide a more authoritative voice to scare a landlord/estate agent into action), there are plenty of expert sources that provide free information and guidance too.

Here are some places to turn to for info and advice on housing issues:

  • Your university – Most universities will give advice on private housing issues, and student unions offer guidance on landlord problems as part of their advice centre. These services often also offer to check over your tenancy agreement for free, flagging up any issues which might affect you further down the line.
  • Legal advice – If you want to take things further, there’s also the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, your local council or the Property Ombudsman who'll be able to advise you further on your legal options.
  • Shelter – If you’re not sure where to turn first, housing charity Shelter will advise you on your rights and the most appropriate course of action.
  • Landlord reviews – This last one may not be a source of advice for you, but you can help other tenants by giving your landlord a review! Some universities or areas will have their own specific websites for this, but the likes of Marks out of Tenancy and Rental Raters are nationwide services that allow you to review your experience with a landlord or letting agent.

We also asked students what the most annoying housemate habits are – how many are yours guilty of?

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