Why students shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens

Laura Wood, Student Lettings Manager at student accommodation provider, Vita Student, takes an in-depth look at the conditions many students face with their shared houses.

We all know the mantra when it comes to student accommodation: University students want to live in filthy, shared houses with bizarre layouts, holes in the floor and no locks on the front door. It’s funny right? A topic of conversation? A rite of passage that every student must endure?

Wrong. It is this opinion that has allowed unscrupulous landlords to take advantage of students for so long. The majority of students need to find accommodation at some point during their time at university and landlords are well-aware of this fact and have been using it as a way of making money for years. Don’t get me wrong, obviously they are providing a vital service and without these houses full of plasterboard and Ikea furniture many students wouldn’t have a home but in recent times the upkeep of many of these houses has been unreliable at best and criminal at worst.

The reality is that often there are no alternatives for students to choose from and, let’s be frank, many undergraduates are very trusting, so innocently sign the tenancy contracts without a second thought. This means that over the years they have unfairly gained a reputation of not caring about the state of their homes, paving the way for landlords and unscrupulous letting agents to cut corners and cash in on them even more.

However, the NUS’ recent ‘Homes fit for study’ report has highlighted that students DO care and that they are increasingly becoming conscious of what landlords are getting away with.

Some of the findings from the report are quite shocking in regards to the general conditions of student houses: Of all the students questioned, 21% paid a ridiculous £1,000 or more to secure a bedroom in a shared home, 87% of students did not have smoke alarms fitted, 47% reported a presence of mould, 41% had serious cases of damp and 21% had to put up with slugs as additional residents.

Landlords were also revealed to be extremely unresponsive with 34% of students experiencing difficulties when trying to get in touch with their landlord or agent and 53% of students faced severe delays when trying to get repairs carried out.

None of the students questioned said they were content to be living in these conditions and the majority were thoroughly fed up with their digs. This explains why the student property market has shifted in recent years, away from the traditional shared houses and towards purpose-built developments. This has been evidenced by global property agent Knight Frank which stated in its ‘2014 Student Property’ report that students are willing to pay significantly more for purpose-built accommodation as many are realising that it is no longer acceptable for them to be subjected to unsanitary conditions and poor service.

Click here for more useful information and an interesting infographic from Vita Student.

Here at Vita Student we were well aware of this movement but even we have been amazed at the speed at which our apartments are being rented. Since we opened the bookings process in January, more than 40% of our studios in Manchester, Liverpool, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton have been reserved. Our show apartments have also been inundated with visitors, demonstrating that people want to see first-hand what they are getting and ensure that the quality is up to scratch.

This demand for quality can been seen across all walks of university life with the Association of University Directors of Estates finding recently that more than three-quarters of students choose their university based on the quality of facilities available.

So what does this mean? Well, with an increasing number of purpose-built developments springing up across the UK, unless landlords pull their socks up and start to treat their tenants with respect then shared houses will soon be confined to the pages of history books.

If you’re looking for student accommodation visit Rightmove Students.


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