Based on a survey of over 2,000 students, Homes Fit for Study 2019 has exposed the poor conditions of rented student housing, and the exploitative relationships with landlords that some students endure.
Of students that rent their homes, 42% lived with damp and mould growing on their walls and ceilings. Around 1 in 5 students share their homes with mice, rats, slugs or other pests. Even more alarmingly, 16% of students reported that there were electrical hazards in their home, and a further 9% reported an issue with gas safety, despite it being illegal to rent out a property in this condition.
Over a third of students reported that the state of the rented property left them feeling anxious or depressed, 17 % said that it had exacerbated an existing health condition, and 12% claimed their living environment had brought about a new health problem.
When it came to the legal documentation associated with renting, including things like having a proper contract and being issued with the required safety certificates for their property, fewer than half of all student renters received all of their documentation.
Despite it being a legal requirement that security deposits are protected within government-backed schemes, only 63% of student renters had been provided with the appropriate paperwork to prove their deposit was safe. When it came to challenging decisions made by the landlord about deductions to their deposits at the end of their tenancies, a quarter of students felt like they were treated unfairly but didn’t feel confident in challenging the landlord.
The research also found that students are paying a significant price for somewhere to live, with half of renters spending more than 75% of their monthly income on housing costs.
Eva Crossan Jory, NUS Vice President for Welfare said: ‘Students are living in appalling circumstances, in some of the worst housing stock in the country. For too long, they have been taken advantage of by bad landlords who rely on students not knowing their rights, or what to expect, when they rent their first home. Living in damp and dangerous properties is not a right of passage for students coming to college or university.
We are calling for better enforcement of the law to protect tenants’ rights, because it’s no use educating tenants about their rights if landlords aren’t forced to improve standards.’
Education providers have a role to play in ensuring that students from low income backgrounds in particular can access decent affordable housing. Widening participation isn’t just about offering bursaries or scholarships, it about ensuring students aren’t held back by overpriced substandard accommodation and the knock-on impact it has on their health and ability to study.’
The NUS Homes Fit for Study 2019 report will be launched at the NUS Renter Activism Day on Monday 18th February and is available for download here.