Student housing can be complex. The whole process of looking for a suitable house and finding a reliable letting agency can be overwhelming. After the experience of finding a house and having to sign a contract, it is now up to the landlord and letting agency to keep the promises that were stated. Within a housing agency as soon as a contract is signed it should be written within the contract that it is the landlord’s responsibility to deal with any maintenance issues. The term “deal with” is used very loosely. The common theme with student housing is that there is a lack of response or urgency towards issues that occur in the houses.
Let me tell you about my personal experience. I had mould running down the walls of my flat and when I emailed my landlord to deal with the issue, there was no response for a further two weeks. The following week I had to email the maintenance team again, to which they responded by saying they had already dealt with the problem, having “fixed the door handle already and scraped of the fungal growth in the bathroom”. A week later they responded with an official date that they would deal with the problem, but the date came around and nobody turned up. This problem had been developing for over a month. The mould had grown larger and had begun to crack the paint in the walls. A further phone call was made to our landlord, who came into the house and took pictures of the problem. Promises were made to fix the issue.
The following week was just before Christmas and the maintenance team had still not arrived. The mould had cascaded around the walls of the living room and was seeping into the wardrobe of my housemate’s bedroom. A few days after they had promised that they were going to arrive they turned up at the door without warning, with a huge block of wood. They drilled into the wall and sand papered the mould, took away the door that separated our hallway, formed gaping holes around the entrance, then left. You could imagine our dismay when we came in from our busy lecture to find a red strip where the mould used to be and the huge gaping holes in our once chic living room.
But what could we say? We were just students, and there were other houses to look after. We were not a priority and the mould we were complaining about was just “wipeable” – as we were told several times. The disarray was left for a further two weeks, they came in and painted the red wall back to an off-white colour. After a further two weeks, they came to finally fill in the hole in the doorway.
For many of you reading this, this will be a familiar experience. In a survey conducted by Save The Student, 32% of students have said that it takes longer than a week for a housing issue to be resolved. 1 in 3 students are waiting for a month for assistance, and 7% of problems are never fixed. The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to demand more. The rent we pay permits us to live in the house, but landlords also have a responsibility to maintain their end of the contract by ensuring the property remains liveable. The less direct approach is to ask for advice from the university campus life team or MyUnihub. There is no pressure on student housing as students don’t know what to expect. The issue here is that they feel that they can get away with it.
By Shannon McDonald