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Student Accommodation

Top 10 student housing problems revealed

We've all heard student housing horror stories, but what are the real issues? We asked over 2,000 of you to find out...

sad woman next to rat in house

Credit: Wolfstudiobkk (left), InessaI (right) - Shutterstock

New research by the Save the Student has revealed the top 10 biggest issues students face when renting private accommodation at university – and it's clear that things aren't in a good way.

We asked 2,000 students about their experience with accommodation for our annual 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, one in three students said they were affected by damp and/or a lack of heating or hot 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

wall with black damp

Credit: Infrogmation - Wikimedia Commons

Here are the top 10 worst student accommodation issues:

  1. Noisy housemates (43%)
  2. Damp (33%)
  3. Lack of water/heating (30%)
  4. Housemates stealing food (29%)
  5. Rodents and pests (15%)
  6. Disruptive building work (15%)
  7. Inappropriate landlord visits (15%)
  8. Break-in or burglary (6%)
  9. Dangerous living conditions (5%)
  10. Bed bugs (3%).

With many students living in large groups, often with five or more people in one house, it’s no surprise that noisy housemates topped the list. Add stress, essay deadlines and alcohol to the mix, and tensions often start to fray.

But if you think things are bad where you live, just be thankful you’re not this poor student:

[My] flatmate wasn't buying toilet paper, so I decided to keep a roll for myself. Then my flatmate left poop in the shower.


But the poor quality of student housing in the UK is evident in just how many students are affected by shoddy living conditions.

Damp and a lack of hot water/heating aren’t just housing headaches: they can seriously affect the health of inhabitants, causing coughs, chest infections and throat irritation, not to mention how detrimental they can be to mental health too.

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 problem 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 56% said household issues take longer than a week to resolve.

Even worse than this, 15% of students are waiting over a month for issues to be sorted out, including those whose issues are never fixed. Here are just a few of the quotes from this year's survey:

- I only go in my room to sleep, and sometimes I'll sleep on the sofa instead because I'm worried about the mould affecting my health.

- The university doesn't uphold their end of the contract. There's no water or electricity or heating for days at a time, but with no compensation.

- One of the walls in my room was so damp that mushrooms grew on the wall.

- Heating and hot water went out in a freezing week in January and landlord didn't fix it for six days. Had to shower at the gym and just stayed in the library all day.

The good news is that, as we predicted back in 2019, the number of students seeking legal advice has doubled since the introduction of new laws forcing landlords to take action over serious issues.

Legislation introduced in March 2019 means that tenants can now take legal action against their landlords if they fail to address serious issues which render the property unfit to live in. This could include severe damp, infestations of rodents and pests and fire hazards.

While it's never nice to hear of students living in shoddy conditions, it is encouraging to see that more and more of you are exercising your right to demand better!

Just be sure to keep communication with your landlord in writing – even if you have a phone call, send a follow-up email summarising the main points discussed. This avoids any confusion and makes things easier if you do need to seek external help or take legal action later on.

Whatever happens, make sure you're aware of your rights as a tenant.

Where to seek housing advice

block of flats

Almost half (46%) 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 cause 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 which allow you to review your experience with a landlord or letting agent.

Housemates have come up top trumps as the trickiest part of student accommodation, so here's how to deal with them!


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