An annual survey has been conducted since 2009 and this year, for the first time, the University of Brighton’s Students’ Union participated as well.
The University of Sussex’s Students’ Union has compiled a report from the survey’s results, which attributes student dissatisfaction with “poor practice among landlords and letting agents”.
It shows that that while 44.4 percent of students find their housing through letting agents, “private landlords are providing a significantly better service than their letting agent counterparts”.
Apparently 30.8 percent more respondents reported satisfactory landlords if they used StudentPad to find their accommodation as opposed to letting agents.
Many students found letting agents deceitful – lying about the kinds of furniture being provided, withholding information and even being dishonest about rent prices.
There are many instances of letting agents being rude and unhelpful.
Some letting agents have also been known to pressure students into signing contracts by encouraging competition between groups seeking property.
This has led to students feeling exploited after they have made decisions that they later regret.
Jo Goodman, the union’s Welfare Officer, told the Badger about what the union has done this academic year to help students.
She said: “This year we ran a number of Housing Talks in conjunction with the Housing Office which were attended by several hundred students and we continue to produce guidance to students on living in the private rented sector.
“This year for the first time we produced some initial findings of the Rate Your Landlord survey in time for the University’s Housing Fair so that students were able to learn from the experiences of others.”
There are still, however, recurring problems that students have to face.
Worryingly, only a fifth of those who gave information about previous tenancies said they had received their deposit in full after moving out.
Over 70 percent of students reported having been required to provide a UK based homeowner as guarantor to avoid paying larger deposits up front.
For those who were unable to fulfil this requirement, an average of four months’ rent was requested up front although some reported being charged up to a year’s rent in advance to secure the tenancy.
Two students told the Badger about a particular letting agency on Queens Road that they had difficulty with.
On one occasion the agency told a student that he had to find a guarantor within 24-hours of placing his safety deposit in order to secure a property.
When he failed to do so, they kept his money and gave the room to someone else. The same agency refused to refund a third-year psychology student her deposit at the end of her tenancy, when they found a small stain on her flatmate’s carpet.
Problems that students encountered during their tenancies have included finding their houses inadequately cleaned upon moving in, mould and damp problems not being resolved and receiving visits from landlords, letting agents and repair workers with little notice.
A common complaint was that there was a lack of communication between tenants and landlords.
Only 34.4 percent of people who took part in the survey felt that their landlord or letting agent provided good value for money.
Although some people are paying rents under £70 per week, the average rent is between £85 and £90 a week – with a significant number of students spending £100. The report also found that first-year students are more likely to pay over £100.
In addition to this, it was found that first-years were less likely to know about deposit protection schemes.
This could reflect that there is a large problem this year with students being thrown into the housing market without enough information.
By September, the number of bed spaces on campus will have significantly increased due to the construction of the new accommodation, Northfield.
While this will ensure that a majority of students who want to live on campus will be able to do so, this addition will be at the top of the price range, along with Swanborough.
The university is also expecting a large intake at the start of the next academic year as potential students strive to avoid the forthcoming tuition fee hike.
The Students’ Union is therefore planning to support students who will need to rent privately by helping them to make informed decisions.
Jo Goodman, who is responsible for compiling the report, said that the union will be continuing to raise the profile of the Rate Your Landlord survey and its findings.
She added, “We will be able to put pressure on local letting agents and landlords to provide a better service to students.
“We have also been working closely with the university and local council to establish ways of driving up standards for students living in the community.”
The Students’ Union also met with Channel 4’s Dispatches last week to discuss the findings of the survey. The programme-makers are seeking students who are having trouble with landlords and letting agents.
If students wish to contact the programme-makers with their stories, they can do so via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the full report and how Brighton’s letting agents did in the survey as well as getting some hints and tips, visit www.sussexstudent.com/rateyourlandlord