Platform Investigates: Students routinely lose deposits after living with ‘rats, rotten beds, bully landlords, and creepy handymen’

A Platform investigation has uncovered widescale issues suffered by student tenants, including how some are “robbed” of their deposits and charged extra costs after complaining about “filthy” rented living conditions.

Platform Magazine received a large number of cases of poor management by landlords when asking students for accounts of disputes between tenants.

The vast majority replied seeking anonymity as a result of reporting negative experiences of landlords who should have provided them with a safe, clean, and functioning home away from home.

Despite many properties being left empty during the pandemic, as many students remained at home, others still needed city accommodation.

A third-year Biomedical Science student said that upon moving in she found “mouldy food in the fridge, dead bugs and sticky floors”.

They added: “We found out later on that the landlord actually only left a few days between the last tenants moving out and us moving in.

“Bearing in mind this was in the midst of the height of the pandemic, we were very disappointed.”

Issues before the tenancy even began were also reported with a “rude” landlord apparently making another student “feel rushed to sign the contract after not even being allowed to read it.”

Similarly, a student complained of their experience as “the epitome of false advertising” as they were stuck in a “smaller room than was initially shown”.

They explained: “The bathroom also had a spongy floor which was covered in wallpaper. This smelled awful constantly no matter how much air freshener I sprayed.”

A second-year Fashion Management student recounts how she moved into a house which “was left in a horrible state.”

They said: “It clearly hadn’t been cleaned with thick mould on the dishwasher and flies in the washing machine.

“We saw rats and beds were rotten.

“They had told us everything would be sorted in our contract before we moved in.”

Another student says her landlord left her to “sleep on a mattress on the floor for eight months because they wouldn’t fix my bed. It was held together by duct tape when I moved in.”

Others have reported “broken sofas, ceilings caving in, and broken heating”, and infestations of silverfish, about which the landlord “did the bare minimum” and charged tenants their deposits.

These issues seemingly included students not being given the basic means with which to maintain basic hygiene as one student stated that their property contained ‘rotting bins and a shower that was broken for a month’.

These sorts of chronic issues were commonly referred to and frequently entailed individuals losing part of or all of their deposits and/or extra facility repair costs.

“One of us had no desk and our heating switched itself off,” said one student.

“There were power cuts when we showered – then we were charged loads off our deposit because of cleaning they had no evidence for.

“It massively affected our social lives as we were losing so much money.”

Another student stated that their household were “left for three weeks without Wi-Fi which meant that we had to spend money on data. We haven’t been reimbursed for this.”

Other tenants claimed to have had to pay a £90 fee multiple times for the repair of locks which their landlord claimed were still functioning.

“They flat out refused to listen to students,” they said.

“It massively affected our social lives as we were losing so much money due to their incompetence.”

The handymen were “complete creeps” – “uni girls wear no clothes”

Handymen sent to repair faults like these were also described as “complete creeps” by another tenant.

One said: “They made comments about how uni girls drink loads, wear no clothes, and that it’s ‘no wonder [we] all get attacked in the streets’.

“One said he watched girls like us come home from the clubs… Another guy randomly brought up dogging and was telling us about the best spots for it.

“We were just three girls living together, so we felt super uncomfortable around these men.

“When we complained we were told there was nothing they could do as no one had ever complained before about them.

“It 100% affected my mental health and my studies. Two of my flatmates actually went home early as they couldn’t cope with the stress of things constantly breaking.

“We had issues all year with constant fly-tipping outside. They didn’t do anything about that all year despite loads of e-mails.

“They forgot to contact a plumber about our broken boiler and we didn’t have hot water for a week.

“We complained so much that they blocked two of my flatmate’s phone numbers.”

“So many student landlords are greed personified”

Even if houses were clean and functioning, students nevertheless claim firms exploited the situation.

Etienne Callaghan, an MA Broadcast Journalism student, says “the rage is still with [him]” after his experience of “greed personified by so many student landlords”.

He explained how his landlord “played nice all year until it was time to pay our deposits back”.

Mr Callaghan said he lived in a house with seven others all “paying £5,750 per year, [the landlord] was getting £40,250 from that property alone.”

He added: “So he’s making over a hundred thousand a year from several large student properties in Lenton.

“He felt he could take an additional £1,750 of deposits off us after we’d handed the keys back.

“[This was justified by] the entire kitchen floor needing to be replaced because of a leaky fridge (that never leaked)’.

“It was a nice place and we kept it nicely!”

Conor Naughton, Nottingham Trent Students’ Union president, explained: “At NTSU our free confidential information and advice service can provide support to any NTU student with housing issues they are having from tenancy checks, deposit problems, damage to properties or issues with housemates.

“On our website, we provide an in-depth guide to every stage of the student housing journey including a downloadable guide. You can find this here.

“Additionally, we regularly meet with the council’s housing team, local MPs and other stakeholders to improve the quality of HMOs and PBSA’s for students.

“I am also a member of the NUS and Unipol student accommodation cost survey team who create a regular survey of housing providers which is used to inform improved pricing and quality of property for students across the UK.

“Any student who is dealing with an unresponsive landlord should book an appointment with our information and advice service who can assist here.

Main Image: Thomas Wolter from Pixabay. Inset: Images submitted to Platform Magazine

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