Impact Investigates: Letting You Down – Student Renting Horror Stories

Impact’s Investigation Team

Straight from halls or their parents’ homes, students often head into their privately-rented accommodation wide-eyed, expecting a problem-free year of living. However, a very different reality sometimes awaits. In collaboration with Nottingham Student Television (NSTV) and University Radio Nottingham (URN), Impact  interviewed University of Nottingham students to see whether they found their landlords and letting agencies to be offering a fair and reasonable service. 

The team spoke to Marcus Blowers, now a Masters student, about his experience of renting in his second year.

“The main thing we had a problem with while we were there was a rat that kept coming in,” he said. 

“At one point, it chewed through a wire which ended up electrocuting one of our housemates.”

Blowers then stated that more problems came after they moved out and were told to pay £600 for a professional clean, despite previously being informed this wasn’t necessary. After they queried this, further charges were demanded for issues including a broken TV – “which it wasn’t”, he claims – and pest control services. The landlords continued to pressure the students, and told them if they backed down, and paid for the services, they wouldn’t be charged any extra fees: “They threatened us”.

Blowers and his housemates contacted an Advisor at the University of Nottingham Students’ Union’s Accommodation Services and disputed the charges formally through the Deposit Protection Service (DPS). This resulted in the extra charges being dropped. 

A third-year History student, Will, had similar successes with the DPS. A month before he was due to leave the property, Will said that he and his housemates came home to find the landlord and a contractor cutting through their broadband cable. When Will confronted them, they immediately denied it.

“I was like, ‘We just saw you!’” Will laughed. The issues forced them to leave the property early, after which Will and his housemates were also charged for a professional clean.

This led to further friction: “I asked for an invoice from the cleaning company, and they sent me a fake invoice. The numbers were different…and the company didn’t exist, the address was just a random residential property.” 

“The only reason they tried all this was because we were students”

The students alleged that they also realised that the inventory they had received contained photos from the house next door, which the landlord also owned. Once the students threatened to take it to a tribunal, via the DPS, the letting agency backed down and they received their full deposit. 

“The only reason they tried all this was because we were students,” Will insisted.

Matthew Kempton currently rents his eight-bedroom flat through a local letting service. Upon finalising the contract last academic year, Matthew and his housemates were excited to move into their new property. However, by September, it was clear that the letting agency was not able to provide the service promised.

Kempton and his flatmates told Impact that they experienced many issues including a broken boiler and full-to-the-brim bins that they claimed had not been emptied since 2019. 

The tenants were told to report any issues they had through an online form. However, feeling they were waiting an unreasonable amount of time for resolutions, the tenants felt they could no longer rely on the form system. When new problems appeared, Kempton decided to visit the offices of the letting agency. 

When the lock on their front door had broken, the tenants were unable to access their property from the outside. They had to depend on someone letting them in from the inside. They told Impact that it took them three days to get in contact with the landlord about this issue. After that, the students say the landlord contacted a locksmith, but no one ever came to fix the door. The tenants had to resolve the matter themselves using WD40 so that they could access the property.

By this time (two months into a twelve-month contract), the group felt that the agency was providing an unacceptable service. Therefore, when a rat was found in the flat, the students resorted to calling pest control instead of contacting the letting agency. They suspected that the agency would not sort the issue out in the timeframe needed.

Another student who expressed dissatisfaction with their letting agent was Anna Boyne. Boyne also lives in a house of eight people but signed her contract with a different letting agency. During her interview with Impact, Boyne stated many issues with the letting agency and the long period of time she and her housemates would have to wait for a desired resolution. 

Issues such as a broken microwave, a fridge without a door, and a broken washing machine saw the group wait up to two weeks for the items to be fixed, despite the group constantly trying to get in contact with the agency. Like Kempton, Boyne and her housemates gave up on reporting issues to their letting agency, choosing to fix the problems themselves.

It is clear that change is needed to make landlords and letting agents more accountable. 

Impact contacted the agencies and individuals named in the interviews, however, none responded. All names and identifiable data have been redacted as a result.

By Investigations Team: Gareth Holmes, Arabella Mitchell, Kit Sinclair, Cora-Laine Moynihan, Ben Mellor and Olivia Conroy

Featured image courtesy of Martin Sepion via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 


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