Ongoing student survey uncovers issues with rented houses
Rodents, slugs and mould are just some of the issues students face living in Jesmond, a new survey has revealed. 350 student-completed responses illustrate the standards many young people begrudgingly tolerate when living in rented properties, dealing with letting agencies many of them believe are unwilling to help.
The surveys are one of many collaborative steps taken between Northumbria Students’ Union (NSU) and Newcastle City Council to try and force landlords and student letting agencies to improve their conduct and work ethic. The aim is to get 1,000 surveys completed before December so that both the NSU and the council have substantial evidence on which to determine the appropriate course of action.
Of the 350 surveys completed so far, the most recurrent issues students highlighted were vermin, mould, leaking roofs and broken furnishings. Many noted that despite raising these issues with their landlords, their complaints were going unnoticed.
However, it was not only landlords on whom the blame is being placed. Some participants noted that their landlords were involved and helpful, yet it was the letting agencies with which they were facing difficulties.
Despite the Housing Act of 1998 stating that 24 hours’ notice must be given, many students complained that letting agents were turning up unannounced and entering the property with a horde of viewers.
Another concern was the pressure many students felt when signing for houses. Instead of being given 24 hours to read the contracts, many are told that unless they sign almost immediately after the viewing, the likelihood is the property will be given to other students who are willing to do so straight away. Further to that, many were disgusted by the extortionate administration fees they pay, arguing that the service they receive certainly does not justify the cost.
Annabelle Coakley, the lay student councillor for NSU, said: “When you speak to students about their housing situations, by and large, the response is overwhelmingly negative. In order for anything to change, the letting agents, landlords and the residents all need to communicate and work together.”
A council spokesperson echoed this sentiment, commenting that the surveys demonstrate that “students do believe issues exist regarding property standards,” and in order to make change “students need educating on their rights and responsibilities, and where to go for help when a landlord does not comply with the legal requirements.”
The council has already set up the Landlord Accreditation Scheme and Shared Housing Accreditation Scheme whereby landlords adhere to a code of practice and an agreed set of standards. However, with both schemes being optional, some simply choose to not join.
The surveys have been designed to develop more robust and reliable data on which action can be taken. To improve relationships between landlords, letting agencies and students, the council suggests that further collaboration between them and the NSU is crucial. Some of the projects they propose are “a student handbook on living in the private rented sector, job shadowing for student representatives to improve understanding of council services, and advice on how to engage with landlords.”
If you are a student living in Jesmond unhappy with the service you are receiving from either your landlord or letting agency, please keep an eye out for the surveys that will soon be circulating on various social media sites