Student accommodation can be a case of hit and miss.
In some cases, it can just be a nightmare
A disturbing account of inadequate housing, broken appliances and manipulative landlords in student accommodation has been revealed to WesternEye.
Struan Farquhar told Western Eye of his nightmare experience using it as a warning to other students “What happened to us was pretty horrible and I wouldn’t want it happening to anyone else” he said. Farquhar, along with four other students rented the accommodation with little knowledge of the premises and was subject to illegal property rules.
“The problems started as the agents wouldn’t allow us to take the contract off of their premises.” The students were new to renting property as he described “The agents were clearly just taking advantage of the fact we were inexperienced at dealing with renting procedures.”
“When we moved in there were tons of problems with the house, the whole place was a tip” Farquhar said. He went on to describe the horrors of an injury sustained by one of his housemates. “One of my housemates had a piece of glass stuck in his foot for the first two days.”
The students came under criticism after attempting to tidy the house and garden. “As we went on with our fixes the landlady became angry with us for cleaning the place, we still don’t understand why. We had to repair a lot of bits and bobs inside the house and she complained to us about this for making changes to the house which weren’t allowed.”
As their time continued in the housing they began to witness the malfunctioning of electrical appliances. “Throughout the year things in the house broke down and we asked for them to be fixed, our land lady would always take the cheapest route, which we expected.” The students raised issues regarding the shower and extractor fan, both of which were in disrepair but were subjected to “patronising” conversations with the land lady. “The extractor fan she had in the shower room didn’t work” Farquhar explained. “Her solution to this was to place a label on the shower saying we should make sure to wipe the walls after every shower.”
Struan, along with fellow students Mark Wilding, Adam Tengku, Kris Lau and one who wishes not to be named were not prepared for the catastrophic events of the winter. “One night we heard a mighty crack and found that the roof in the unoccupied spare room had fallen in. It turns out that the pipes had not been insulated properly and water had frozen in them, causing a break.” Farquhar told us that repairs took two months and that the landlady did not accept immediate responsibility for the shoddy plumbing. “She tried to blame us saying it was our fault for not having water running through the pipes often enough and for not keeping the room warm.”
Eventually the five students decided to leave the accommodation but were victims of financial fraudulences. “We cleaned the house spotlessly before we left as we didn’t want to pay a cleaning fee and we also wanted to be good tenants.”
“The next day as we were unpacking in our new house we got texts saying that she was appalled with the state of the house and how it was a mess.” The landlady charged the students for a missing key even though the students claim to have all returned their keys. Most unbelievably of all, the students were asked to pay a fee for a new vacuum cleaner. “This made absolutely no sense as the vacuum was right by the door that she had gone past twice the day we left. When we disputed the expense claims she started to get aggressive and as a group we decided to not get into another argument with her.” The students deciding it was best to not to seek the return of their deposits.
“The landlady charged each of us £95 for the five of us. That’s £475 to cover for one key, one vacuum and a clean.” Farquhar described how he was not provided with a receipt for proof of the cost of each item, noting that they were charged three times the amount for the vacuum cleaner. “Rough figures put the hoover at £90; ee were shocked, as we knew she got an Asda Smartprice hoover valued at £30. So she charged us treble the rate.”
This story echoes complaints earlier this year about the Marketgate accommodation reported in WesternEye, April 2010, in which housing conditions and maintenance came under criticism from students. Complaints included the frequently broken lifts, extensive vandalism and substandard services.
Farquhar conclusively says “This was a terrible first experience of renting at university and I would advise anyone to go with companies that are legitimate. If they (the property agents) hustle you to do things their way always question them. Also be confident when talking to them and they are less likely to muck you around.”
UWE Student Services are always ready to help with any questions or problems that you may have with accommodation.