January, 14, 2014

Student houses; where do you draw the line?

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Name: Sophie Bichener
Member of: Student Panellist
Joined: Dec 2010
Sophie's Full Profile

I ventured onto the Daily-love-a-good-story-Mail today for my daily dose of gossip when I stumbled upon a reported a house fire. A 7 year old boy died because a battery had been taken out of the smoke alarm by the clearly incapable landlord.

“There was only one smoke detector in the terraced house where young Mateusz Wlodarczyk lived, a court heard, and its battery had been disconnected, meaning it failed to go off when a fire broke out due to an electrical fault.”

Whilst reading the story I was transported back to my wonderful Third Year university house. The landlords were well known around Leicester and their reputation proceeded them, their name uttered was often met by a groan and an ‘oh god, they’re awful’. All Freshers have been warned by their predecessors not to rent with this particular company because they are renowned for ridiculous fees and withholding the deposit for every little scrape and scrap.

housing

Photo by Regina Rentals

Our student house had 4 or 5 fire extinguishers. ‘Safety first’, you think as you step through the rickety front door (which never closed properly) and see them all lined up against the corridors battered old walls, however, this was not the case. Our landlords were not thinking of our safety, surprisingly, they were simply being lazy. I’d actually go as far as to call them a fire hazard. One particularly student-y night my flatmate and some friends thought it would be a good idea to spray some of the extinguishers only to be greeted with a foul-smelling pitiful dribble of an oddly coloured substance that would struggle to put out a candle let alone a fully blown house fire.

Our fire alarms were dodgy to say the least. Despite our landlord bragging, ‘they’re the latest technology out there’, they often triggered at random intervals and once when the house was actually filled with smoke they sat quietly, watching. Although I have only been with this one company and experienced these serious safety issues, I’ve heard horror stories about many student landlords who expect their students to simply put up with it.

housing

Photo by Michael Gray

On top of this, our washing machine flooded on a monthly basis. It flooded our whole kitchen. The vile stagnant water got under the carpets and dangerously close to various electoral sockets. It made it’s merry way into one of my flatmates room, which was never the same again. Breathing in 2 week old stale-water air, the dampness turning the walls yellow, probably wasn’t too good for him. Yet, our landlords refused to do anything. A dehumidifier would have been the way to go. But nope, they tried to say it was our fault, then, after we refused to accept that reasoning, replaced the door… THE DOOR. Safe to say it flooded again. The washing machine looked like it was from the 1940s; and probably was.

housing

Photo by Tiffany Terry

Having been a student, I think we take a lot of risks and don’t take things, such as student house safety, as seriously as we should. Everyone knows ‘digs’ are usually hell holes filled to the brim with mould and faulty appliances, but where do you draw the line?

How many fire extinguishers are faulty? How many plugs go unchecked? How many 40 year old about-to-expload ovens are still hanging on?

Read the story on the Daily Mail here.
Had your own horror story? Comment below

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33 Comments

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  1. Charlie Reid

    For everyone starting in September, please don’t worry!
    There are some absolute dumps out there.. And there are some gems.

    1) DO NOT BE PRESSURED TO SIGN.
    2) insist on a second viewing to be sure
    3) always communicate problems to your landlord first.
    4) if (after a couple of weeks) nothing has been done, send a second letter ‘of intention’ to tell them you are going to sort the problem yourself.
    5) get a professional in and bill the landlord as they are in a position of responsibility to ensure you live in a clean, hygienic, safe environment.

    The best thing to do is to go and view EARLY! All the nice places are taken first!
    If you leave it till July next year, you’ll be stuck with a shed that’s overpriced!
    If anyone needs a hand or some advice, feel free to contact me :)

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  2. Rebecca Haydock

    I think it’s all part of the student ‘lifestyle’ experience. The excitement of living with friends. Imagining how much fun will be had. Things get overlooked that are important, and landlords definitely take advantage, so you’ve just got to be careful. I used to live in a shared house that was falling down around us. But hey grunge chic is very fashionable these days and the great times we had at the house are memories for life.

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  3. Hazrat Umar

    i am going to uni this September, and I am very happy for it. so far I haven’t got in tension.

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  4. Lucy Stead

    I’m going to uni in September, this has worried me a lot. It’s unfair because being a student you can’t afford anything better and you have to live with what you have in such awful conditions!

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  5. Nicole Allison

    Uni is suppose to be an amazing memory which you should remember through out your life. However this has really worried me as I start in September also.

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  6. Sarah Taylor

    I’m going to uni in September, this has worried me a lot. It’s unfair because being a student you can’t afford anything better and you have to live with what you have in such awful conditions!

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  7. James Tilley

    its up to the individual what they want to, if they go too far, they have to face the consequences, we are all adults

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  8. Jade

    That seems to be extreme cases, surely it can’t get that bad if you try to stay clean.

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  9. Mohammad Zubair

    This is a real eye-opener for me as I am hoping to start uni in September. I really will have to check up on these things before hand.

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  10. Elizabeth Bailey

    I think that’s absolutely disgusting. Many people may believe having a faulty alarm is no immediate problem or that nothing bad will ever happen to them. Well listen here it does, and at some point it will.

    I think its terrible to here some students are without proper fire safety procedures and equipment in place. I’m sure you must be able to complain to somebody higher than the landlord, perhaps the council?

    If not buy your own fire alarm, annoying yes but it scares me to think people are living out there without any protection… Bad things do happen and spending a few pounds on your own fire alarm may seem a hassle but maybe one day you will be grateful.

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  11. Rebecca Garner-jones

    It is a notorious problem with student houses that most students don’t know to look for. The majority of students when looking for a house will become so excited by the prospect of living in a house with friends, that they foget to check for the small details like fire alarms etc. Okay so most people are going to look around a few with different letting agents, but they won’t think to keep an eye out for potential problems that might go wrong with the house, and ask about it. Luckily, one of the girls who I’m going to be living in a house with next year, was very thorough during the house viewings and even asked if it would be possible for us to see a copy of the gas certificate!

    I’m not sure how you managed to get a house full of mould and appliances breaking constantly, but students need to make sure that they pay attention to any safety hazards and possibly even ask their parents for advice on any questions they should ask or things to check for whilst looking round houses. This article does make the whole moving away from home thing seem a little scary, but it can also be one of the best decisions you ever make.

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  12. Karabo Tshediso

    Ok now I’m definitely terrified of moving away from home. What’s better though, student halls or private accomodation?

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  13. Tonieka Haughton

    I hope my student accommodation is some what decent. I’d die if I don’t get an ensuite

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  14. ANIEKA

    STUDENTS should be take more seriously, they charge so much and that almost feels like its just for the roof and not the state the house is in…

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  15. jade watson

    Eeee this makes me nervous about considering moving away to university, I will definitely have to look out for all these signs. Hopefully ill be recommended by someone trusting to find a nice place.

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  16. Misbah Kousar

    I have been struggling to find a nice place in Liverpool that isn’t really expensive. I couldn’t find much that was less than £120 per person per week. I couldn’t really find any good 2 bedroom accommodation either. There should be given more information of private student living

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  17. sarah harrington

    I actually cried the first day i moved into my flat, being assured by the estate agent that it would be cleaned up by the time we moved in. I found the toilets black, the toilet handle actually fell off the first time i used it, we found out that none of the windows actually shut, everything was falling apart or had already fallen apart. i remember finding a lamp where the wire had just been duke taped back together. The worst thing was the day I realised we had no smoke detectors, when i left something in the oven which had got so hot it went up in flames, thank god i smelt it otherwise god knows what would have happened.

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  18. jennifer gartland

    During my own third year I lived in a house where all your belongings got covered in slug slime and mould. The house (Fallowfield, Manchester) was so damp it got into the wiring and rusted the inside of my television. Absolute shambles. The land lady did nothing and blamed it on us for having clothes drying.

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  19. Saddaf Iqbal

    thats nice

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  20. Georgina Davey

    I’m a second year currently living in rented accommodation. Had many problems with our house, landlord and estate agents – nobody will actually do anything to fix the problems! We’ve had no heating since we moved in last term in October, and being single glazed means the house is SO cold and full of mould. There are numerous other safety hazards including fire and carbon monoxide alarms not working, slugs in the bathroom and a dodgey front door…

    My advice to any student looking at houses is to look at as many as possible, from different estate agents and definitely ask the current tenants of any house you’re viewing what it’s like and why they aren’t staying there. Be demanding and barter with the price; if you ask for a tumble dryer, a nice landlord will put one in for you.

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  21. Jennifer

    For those who were saying if you run into issues take your landlords to court. This is not a solution, because as short-term and non-working tenant, which is the bracket that students fall under, we have very few rights, so check up on your landlords beforehand and make sure you get one who doesn’t overcharge and does maintenance. Ask previous tenants about it and most importantly.. always read the small print!!

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  22. Rachel Smith

    That’s terrible. I’ll definitely need to try avoid renting from anyone like that next year

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  23. Aryeh Haffner

    Worth looking around

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  24. Nathan Simpkin

    I’m currently in my first year of Uni and have never heard of this in my area, my friends are currently looking for flats, or a house to rent and are carefully looking at their options. I don’t understand how you managed to get a place like this? Surely you must have researched your options first?

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  25. Dominic Aveiro

    You just have to be VERY careful. There is so much advice online, I recommend that you try and follow it.

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  26. Christos Dickman

    all student housing that I have seen is in perfect condition and definitely worth living in. they are took care off all the time and any issues are fixed immediately

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  27. Amy Ireland

    I’m in my first year in Lancaster and have already put down a deposit for my house next year, the landlords a very nice, respectable man with student houses to let all around Lancaster for reasonable prices with everything included! He’s not lazy as I was speaking to someone who lives in one of his houses and whenever they text him no matter what time it is he will get in his car and check out the problem! Glad I don’t have anything like above, I’d have gone to citizens advice and complained about them, shocking considering we are paying for it!!!

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  28. Annalise Godby

    I’ve just paid up for the bond on a property that I will be living in for my second year, as of July 2014, in Cardiff. Although I’ve not lived in the property yet the group of us come to the realization that the estate agents are there to provide a service and are sales men (sleazy scroungers in suits) so stand up to them, we spent time with various agents and chose one who treated us the least like a bunch of bank accounts.
    We had one complain for half an hour that he wanted to get home despite holding us up for half an hour before hand, so we gave him a hard time when it came to discussing our money, and since he’s a sales man he did budge to give us some money off over the summer, don’t be afraid to barter!
    We had one that when he heard how difficult we were to please so didn’t bother showing us some ‘messy’ houses, by messy we deduced he meant mouldy, so tell them straight that you don’t want to be fobbed off with a shack for a place, it saves you time and effort.
    Always ask the tenants how they’re finding the house, landlord and estate agent, you’re in your right to get consumer review so be sure to have someone stray from the group at the viewing to chat with the inhabitants without the agents prying eyes, we found a property that had a slug infestation in the kitchen by speaking to the tenants.
    Keep an eye on how the estate agents treat there tenants, that’ll soon be you, the guys we went with offered to mop the kitchen floor for the current tenants at a viewing since 8 of us looked round the garden and brought footprints back in.
    We had 3 viewings and 2 contract readings with them too, and made sure we had plenty to ask and wanted them to clarify a lot of points. Have the contract read over too, we had a sublet clause allowing them to sublet if we were paying but not staying in the house over summer, which was apparently illegal, so we had them remove that!
    Good luck to anyone else moving into their first student digs next year!

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  29. Kevin Madden

    WOW! Trust me If I move into a flat when I join UnI I will ensure to do a full sweep of everything and report it straight away! I would say you should have threatened the landlord of taking them to court an say they are inflicting your consumer rights!!

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  30. Sarah Louise Willey

    I’m not at university yet but hope to be attending soon and by reading this article it has showed me that after my first year I should make sure that the property I rent has a great landlord and the condition of the flat is excellent. I think more people need to be educated about this before they enter their second year and go to rent a flat.

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  31. Jen

    Most student landlords know that their tenants and potential tenants are probably 1) desperate for accommodation in an over-saturated market (at my uni, we only got our choice off-campus accommodation because we paid the deposit nearly a year before we moved out of halls!) and 2) probably aren’t aware of their rights as a tenant. So landlords take advantage – in the best-case scenario, I think most students get charged over-the-odds for the properties they have.

    I guess the best way to combat it ourselves is to educate ourselves on our rights (Shelter’s website is very good for info, and the Fire Brigade also do free fire alarm checks and installation), always complete inventories and take photos when you move in.

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  32. Amanda Aiken

    My second-year flat was one of five in a large house. The fire alarm was on a centralised electronic system that could be silenced and reset in a communal front hall. It was triggered one Friday and would not reset, so we put it on silent and phoned the landlord. I spoke to a woman who told me just to keep it on silent, and they’d send someone out on Monday. I told her there was no way I would silence the fire alarm for five separate flats (at least 20 people) over a whole weekend, and that I could not believe that was her response. I then threatened to call the fire brigade if she refused to do anything. In the end we called the fire brigade (on the non-emergency number). The officers didn’t recognise the smoke detectors in the flats and ended up yanking out a faulty one and replacing it with a new battery-operated one.

    The flat itself was in good condition, but it was the lack of care for twenty peoples’ wellbeing that really irritated me. My friends and I usually chose nicer properties, if we could, but even with them the landlords didn’t care.

    Take pictures of everything when you move in, and test all the appliances. Let the landlord know immediately when something is broken or faulty. Keep a copy of your contract handy and know exactly what the landlord is supposed to provide. Apply pressure the right way and they will have to do something. Know your rights as a tenant! (I think I was lucky to have a law student as a flatmate.)

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  33. Gui

    I’m a fresher and I have been debating if i should get a house next year but after this i think if I get a house it better be through my student accomodation centre at the university so i am ensured i will have good landlord and that every house/appartment is certified by DASH. I guess otherwise I will not trust the landlords. I also heard that they do everything to get money from made up ‘damage’ at the end of the contract so be carefull

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