Every student in the UK has their own horrifying story of bad landlords and disgusting houses. Letting agencies and landlords are legendary for ripping students off, failing to pay back deposits, and providing practically unliveable houses. There have been cases of a bedroom ceiling collapsing in Bristol, lucky escapes from carbon monoxide poisoning, and of course; mould.
Minna rented her house in Cardiff through an agency and never met the landlord. She noticed damp in the lounge, but no action was taken after she reported it. The damp spread to her bedroom and across three walls in the house.
Minna said, “I started getting panic attacks, went to the doctor and they said that my asthma from when I was a child had come back. I told them about the damp and the doctor said that was definitely causing the asthma. I phoned the agency again and explained what happened so they sent out two people to look at the house, they were very sarcastic and told us we need to keep the windows open and that we had caused the damp. I explained to them we keep all out windows open all the time and never have the heating on, as it was summer.”
The agency finally sent out a contractor after a series of complaints. He noticed that an outdoor pipe was broken and leaking into the lounge. The landlord still made no efforts to fix the leak. Minna noticed that after about three months of moving back to her parent’s house her asthma became better and has now practically gone.
Tom, also living in Cardiff, was shocked by the state of his flat in his third year of university.
“There was a huge chunk of jagged metal jammed into the doorframe leading into my bedroom, which also had a slanted floor and a stained mattress in which the springs were twisted and broken. There was mould around the windows of two of the bedrooms which were also filthy; used tissues and cotton buds under the beds and behind the desks, there were no curtains in the front room, the taps for the bath didn’t work, and in the kitchen there was a stain on the wall that made it look like someone had been executed there.”
Tom reported all of these problems to the letting agent, who refuse to provide the tenants with the landlord’s contact details. When Tom and his housemates moved out, they each received £10 of their individual £400 deposits back. This was owing to the problems that Tom had reported before they moved in. Tom encouraged the landlord to check the inventory the tenants and letting agent signed.
Tom continued, “when we went to request a copy (of the inventory) from the agency we were told that it had been misplaced after copies had been sent to the landlord. Fortunately we had the idea of asking for the inventory from when the previous tenants had moved out. Sure enough there were all the same issues that we’d been accused of causing. We sent this copy to landlord who didn’t address the fact that he’d been caught out. That was two years ago… I still haven’t got my bond and I don’t think I ever will.”
In Birmingham, housemates Hollie and Emma had a nightmare with their third year accommodation. Hollie’s bedroom was a converted bathroom, with a mouldy extractor fan still in the centre of the ceiling. When she asked the landlord to remove it, he left a whole in the middle of the ceiling.
Hollie said, “over time, mould started to appear in the room. Sometimes, the room was so damp the walls were soaking wet. The curtains and a photo-frame became so mouldy they were unusable. The landlord’s solution was to say that we weren’t allowed to dry our laundry or hang our towels in our room, but he refused to give us a tumble dryer, so there was no other way of drying our clothes. He only did something about this once we threatened to get the council involved, because I got a chest infection due to the mould.”
Their landlord did eventually repaint the room, but did not give the students any notice that he was coming round, and spilt paint over a jacket and a coat that were hanging in the living room. In addition the freezer was broken, the shower fell off the wall in the bathroom and was not fixed for months, there was no hot water for a week in October, and there were slugs everywhere – even on the toothbrush holder! When the girls moved out on 1st July, the new tenants turned up at the same time as they were told they could move in on the same day. This led to Hollie and Emma having to rush out of the house, losing and breaking things in the process.
Emma added, “sometimes we couldn’t get hold of the landlord for days due to a ‘family problem’. He eventually admitted to us that he didn’t know what was expected of him, as he never actually read our contract.”
These horror stories are endless. Landlords and letting agencies need to start treating students and young people like adult human beings and charging such outrageous fees and rent prices! It is completely unjust to keep deposits of hundreds of pounds when students are moving into unclean, mouldy, dusty houses, which are making them ill.