Advice for parents about the career options for their children

65% of students 'live in squalor' due to landlord neglect

07 April 2017

Student advice site  Save the Student asked 2,095 students to reveal the realities of living in rented accommodation around the UK. The results are pretty grim.

  • Almost 50% of students say their accommodation suffers from damp

  • 42% left without any running water

  • 26% are lumbered with unwanted guests including rats, slugs and bed bugs

  • … yet 1 in 4 reported problems are never resolved by landlords

  • EXTRA: Halls of shame - ten instances when student accommodation totally sucked

    The cliché of students living in squalor may be closer to the mark than you think: two-thirds of them are paying through the nose for 'horror homes' more suited to rats than renters, Save the Student has found.

    The National Student Accommodation Survey 2017 reveals students around the UK pay an average deposit of just under £300 each to secure a place to live, with 80% coughing up for fees as well. 

    Many have to pay a month or whole term's rent - that's anything from £500 to thousands of pounds - in advance. This means that students are being asked to put down big money for accommodation even before their first loan instalment comes in at the start of the year, putting pressure on budgets (and the Bank of Mum and Dad).

    Paying more rent and upfront costs DOESN'T guarantee students an easier ride, either. The majority (65%) experience serious housing issues, including rodents, bed bugs, damp, inappropriate landlord visits and security concerns.

    Claudia, a 2nd-year student in Yorkshire, lives in university accommodation. She says:

    "[My] bedroom would get extremely damp and I would have a build up of mould … I can only have my bed positioned against that damp wall since the room is too small to switch things around. I bought a small dehumidifier (one I could afford) and would clean up the wall regularly ... I did call the university in the first semester. They just recommended to leave the window open (which I always do) and not to dry clothes on the radiator (which I don't). Then they said they'll send someone over to have a look at it but no one ever did."

    NHS advice states that "if you have damp and mould you're more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma" - yet Claudia is just one of hundreds of students going without help from their landlords.

    3rd-year Bryony adds:

    "I am asthmatic and it was [damp] in the bedroom. Landlord simply refused to get it looked at."

    In fact, although half of those who reported housing issues said they were sorted within a week, 22% said it took a month - and 25% said their problem was never resolved.

    One 3rd-year student in the East Midlands comments:

    "We struggled to lock our front door and they didn't come until two days later. Our house was not secure and they just kept saying they would send someone out but they never turned up."

    Other complaints include a gas leak being repeatedly shrugged off by the landlord; noisy neighbours; and agents, maintenance staff or landlords walking into houses (and even bedrooms) without warning.

    Jake Butler, Save the Student Editor, comments:

    "People tend to think that living in substandard conditions is just part of being a student, but it's time we realised it simply isn't acceptable, especially when many students and their parents are shelling out plenty of money.

    We hear from stressed out students with housing issues pretty much daily. Far too many landlords and even university accommodation providers will just shrug off major issues. And who can they turn to when that happens? There should be more obvious support available to students for matters like this."

    Halls of Shame

    Ten times student accommodation totally sucked.

    We asked students to name-and-shame the worst aspects of rented accommodation. Here's what they told us in their own words:

  1. 1.     Slugs in our kitchen on our plates.
  2. 2.     The shower drains out to the back of the house ... at some point a frog got wedged in the drain and died. So whenever you had a shower, the smell of sewage and death stunk out the bathroom. This got resolved after 3 visits from the landlord and a month of waiting.
  3. 3.     Landlord handing out our key to other estate agents without telling us so that we get unexpected visit from a complete stranger claiming to be working with landlord. When we asked landlord to tell us next time he made threats saying that he doesn't need our permission to let strangers into our home and that if we don't cooperate he won't fix the broken pipes and damp in our house.
  4. 4.     Mould in bedrooms and shower areas, broken front door lock, a backyard that rats would avoid and general hell.
  5. 5.     Millipede infestation in the bathroom following a flood from exploding radiator which wasn't fixed for over a month.
  6. 6.     No hot water for 5 days in the middle of winter. Also we had no shower for two weeks. Landlord was abysmal in sorting it.
  7. 7.     Being fined £45 after accommodation tried to take my rent out of my bank early and could not access it.
  8. 8.     1 hour heating per day for 40 days, even after several emails, reports, calls and in-person visits. Ridiculous!! In the north east!! It was winter!!    
  9. 9.     Not feeling safe when people could get into our accommodation without any ID or a fob. They came and smashed up our ceilings in the corridors and switched off all my electrics and water.
  10. 10.  Maggots in sofa.

Source: National Student Accommodation Survey 2017,