#ProjectWinter: From Stolen Aerials To Bed Bugs And Rat Infestations: The Life Of A Student And Their Housing

Scarlett Acres 

When Maisie Edmond’s student house had the TV aerial stolen, she thought the landlord would fix it.  

When she moved in and a fence panel was missing allowing people to wander into her garden, she thought her landlord would fix it.  

But students like Maisie across the UK have learned the hard way that getting a landlord to fix an urgent problem at your accommodation is not always easy. 

Sometimes it is close to impossible.  

And it is affecting students’ mental health. 

Our Project Winter survey asked students to share their experience of life during the cost of living crisis.  

And there was one common theme.  

Students consistently let down by their landlords while paying increasing rents and bills. 

Nottingham Trent University student Maisie says it has been a shocking crash course in dealing with housing problems. 

Not only did she and her flat mates have to make multiple calls to get their property secured with a new fence… and a TV signal.  

But they also battled mould and rising damp.

A fence which was promised to be fixed by the time they moved in during July, took till until the end of October. Credit: Maisie Edmond

Maisie said: “It’s been especially difficult as students under an agency which isn’t especially for students, when we’re paying as much as everyone else but because we’re students, we get put on the back-burner. 

“me and my housemate are breathing in mould daily” 

“Our safety has been put under threat with lack of a perimeter and me and my housemate are breathing in mould daily.” 

Her house’s mould problem left one person’s suitcase looking more like blue cheese… it went in the bin.  


Maisie Edmond’s housemate had to dispose of her suitcase after discovering it covered in mould. Credit: Maisie Edmond

Maisie and her housemate had to make repeated calls to their agent just to get promises of help. 

Promises that would often be broken. 

Just like Maisie, fellow NTU student Isabella Voice, also knows just how hard it is to get housing problems fixed.  

Isabella has had to deal with no hot water or heating for five days and left without working water for two days, along with rats nesting under a broken step outside their front door

The 22-year-old has spent four years in student accommodation experiencing mould, rats and periods of no hot water or heating. 

The law student says: “It seems wherever you go that there’s something wrong with the property, I think it’s pretty hard to get a good landlord and with the housing crisis, everyone kind of just accepts what they can get.”    

During her time as a university student, Isabella has had to deal with no hot water or heating for five days and left without working water for two days, along with rats nesting under a broken step outside their front door.  

Isabella adds: “They were under the stairs and just running across our feet.”  

Armed with their legal knowledge Isabella and her housemate felt confident enough to threaten with legal action and held off paying their rent until the issues were fixed. 

But while this helped initially, “Once we paid, our letting agency went missing in action again,” she adds.  

Despite many of the problems that students repeatedly have to deal with being in breach of general house in multiple occupation (HMO) standards, they are ignored.  

Many students feel they are treated more poorly than regular tenants as landlords and agents show a lack of respect. 

And it is not just in Nottingham where the city’s students have had problems.  

University of Nottingham student, Alexander Cage, is taking a sandwich year in Oxford as he felt it made sense to make some money during the cost of living crisis. 

But his house in Oxford has been plagued by problems including skin-crawling bed bugs. 

Alex and his flatmate endured five weeks of the creepy crawlies starting from October. 

When they complained the landlord implied Alex’s international housemate brought them in her suitcase.? 

Further investigation found the landlord had actually dealt with bed bugs in this property previously. 

After a fumigation in the two bedrooms affected the worst, it still seems to be a problem with one of his housemate still struggling with bites. 

Alex says: “I would argue it wasn’t a full-hearted attempt in the first place.”  

The house in Oxford has dealt with around 40 to 50 flies in and around the house. Credit: Alexander Cage

It seems to be never ending problems. 

Alex plans to save up his money during his placement to afford a better halls of residence for the next academic year which has a reputation of having less problems.  

Despite paying around £600 a month without bills, Alex is among many students who pay rent each month and feel they get treated unfairly. 

Therefore students are beginning to fight back. 

The Guardian released an article in December 2022 looking into how the UK student housing has reached a ‘crisis point’ with students sleeping in sports halls and cars, to having to queue overnight to reserve housing for the next year and some even having to move home and travel for their lectures.  

Students are having to think about their housing almost a year in advance just to assure they have somewhere to live, on top of worrying about their studies, they also have the constant worry of a home.  

National Union of Students (NUS), one of the world’s largest student movements representing universities and college students across the UK, have created a ‘Cost of Living Campaign’ to call on the government for help, currently having 22,948 signatures and aiming for 25,000. 

although student housing may have always been a problem, the cost of living crisis is only heightening this

Through a survey of 3,500 students and apprentices, they found 92 per cent of students say it is affecting their mental health.  

Also discovering that student accommodation prices have increased by 61 per cent in the last decade, and inflation is running at nine per cent with energy prices and the increase price of food shopping.  

One example of students fighting back are the Students at the University of Manchester who are currently withholding rent and occupying university buildings to protest more affordable housing and provisions during the cost of living.? 

Their campaign takes place across March, including their voting period for referendum starting Monday, 20 March with declaration of result to come March 23.  

So although student housing may have always been a problem, the cost of living crisis is only heightening this. 

As Isabella Voice perfectly sums up: “It’s a never ending vicious cycle that students have to endure every year, fighting to find the property which isn’t as bad as the last.” 

What the Nottingham universities have to say….

A spokesperson from the University of Nottingham said: “The University of Nottingham has increased its Student Hardship Fund by 50% to £750,000 to provide grants and interest free loans to any student who is experiencing financial difficulties, as well as providing access to cheaper food options on campus, free kitchens, shower facilities, heated study spaces and period products. Students can find out more about the University’s support for them at https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/studentservices/money/cost-of-living.aspx

“The University is also working hard to shield students from significant price rises during the current cost-of-living crisis and has absorbed all cost increases for University accommodation this year rather than pass them onto students. We have also fixed 2023/24 increases in accommodation charges to 5% – the same level as last year – at a time when inflation was running at more than 12%.

“We are continuing to lobby the government for further support for students through our roles in Universities UK and the Russell Group. Together, universities can be a powerful lobby and we are collectively calling on government to: provide targeted hardship funding for UK students; reinstate maintenance grants for those most in need; ensure that support for students is protected against inflation; increase financial support for postgraduate researchers; and ensuring that any government action to support people with rising costs, such as energy, can be accessed by students across the UK, including those in halls.”

A Nottingham Trent University spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact that the increases in the cost of living can have on our students and we work in partnership with our students’ union to understand the kind of support needed. We provide a range of advice and guidance around managing money whilst studying and information about deals, perks and discounts.

“We regularly promote all that we offer to ensure that students know how we can help them. We have increased our hardship funds, have frozen prices at all our catering outlets and provide free fruit on campus. We have also targeted support for those most in need, such as bursaries or food parcels. We are also funding the costs of graduation gowns for all of our final year students.

“We’ll continue to listen to our students to ensure that we are doing all that we can to support them in the most appropriate way.”

Scarlett Acres

To read more about what our Project Winter investigations revealed, click here

Featured image courtesy of Scarlett Acres. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-articles images courtesy of Maisie Edmond and Alexander Cage. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to these images. 

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