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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 1,000 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, over one in three surveyed students said they were affected by damp.

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Worst student housing issues

Here are the worst student accommodation issues:

  1. Damp (37%)
  2. Lack of water or heating (29%)
  3. Rodents and pests (18%)
  4. Disruptive building work (18%)
  5. Inappropriate/unannounced landlord visits (13%)
  6. Smoke or carbon monoxide alarms not working (9%)
  7. Dangerous living conditions (8%)
  8. Bed bugs (6%)
  9. Break-ins or burglaries (5%)
  10. Other (4%).

It's incredibly concerning that over one-third of students in the accommodation survey said their property had damp.

But that's far from the only issue students are dealing with in their own homes. 29% had experienced a lack of water or heating, while 18% had to put up with disruptive building work.

As well as this, 18% had to contend with rodents and pests. This 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

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. In fact, 35% of students in the survey said household issues take longer than a week to resolve.

This includes 5% who 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:

  • The whole accommodation is a building site, which is unclean and unhygienic. (University halls)
  • The house we pay so much for has damp walls and gaps under doors and no insulation meaning in order to live healthy we would need to pay even more for heating than we could afford. My room is so damp I can't stay in it. (Private landlord)
  • Once my room flooded with an inch of water and it took my accomodation two days to fix the pipe that caused the flooding. (Private halls)
  • Our house is constantly coming up with new problems – mould, flooding, breakages etc. (Private landlord)

Taking all this into account, it's hardly a surprise to learn that 45% said they do not view their student accommodation as good value for money.

Where to seek housing advice

As many as 57% of surveyed 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 advise 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 Citizens Advice, your local council or the Property Ombudsman who could advise you further on your legal options.
  • Shelter – If you're not sure where to turn, housing charity Shelter can 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 sites like Marks out of Tenancy will allow you to review your experience with a landlord or letting agent.

We also asked students what the most annoying housemate habits are...

Jessica Murray

WRITTEN BY Jessica Murray

As an Editor of Save the Student, Jessica Murray has written extensively on student money news and money-saving tips. She was co-host of our podcast, No More Beans, and is now a journalist at the Guardian. Her tips and insights range from fun guides for freshers, to information for graduates entering the workplace.
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