A YUSU survey has revealed that half of York students used the University’s approved housing list when searching for off-campus accommodation while 13.2 per cent had not heard of the list at all.
The ‘Rate Your Property 2012’ survey was completed by 446 off campus students last term, as part of a joint community strategy with York St. John Student Union.
Whilst some students praised the university’s Codes of Best Practice list as useful, a number of issues were raised.
Many felt that the list, which is usually released around week 4 of second term, came out too late. Students also voiced their frustration that the list was not updated regularly enough. Others complained that despite using the list, they had ended up in poor quality accommodation with bad landlords.
An independent survey run by Nouse into student housing also highlighted many criticisms with the university’s list.
A third year told of how they had signed up with a private landlord who was on the University’s approved list, only for his name to be removed after they had signed their tenancy agreement. When disputes over rent arose, the University refused assistance to the students.
The student told Nouse, “To put it bluntly, we were abandoned by a University scheme that is supposed to protect students.”
Another student criticised the late release of the approved housing list, “When we went to visit Sinclair, they told us we were unlikely to get the house we liked because we had not been signed up to their website for very long. Given that the University told us not to do anything with regard to houses until after Christmas, this seemed contradictory and unfair.”
Bob Hughes, YUSU Welfare Officer told Nouse, “These survey results finally give us confirmation of some of the issues we anecdotally knew to be the case, and help us map out and back up a lot of our campaigning activity on housing.
“We will be presenting these findings to the Council, landlords and many other groups to try and improve the quality of accommodation in York, particularly given the worrying trend of accommodation prices rising so rapidly.”
Overall, the feedback on off-campus accommodation was positive, with 70 per cent of students rating their accommodation as good or excellent.
However, a number of students voiced their frustration at poor quality housing and inefficient landlords. 20 per cent of respondents rated the efficiency of their landlord as poor or terrible, whilst a further 15 per cent rated their landlord as poor or terrible.
One student revealed that their “landlord has not done the repair of a leak in our roof after almost six weeks; we are now considering taking legal actions”.
Another respondent complained that, “The cleanliness of the property was awful and the amount of rubbish in the house meant we had to spend a whole day cleaning the filth and taking rubbish to a waste disposal.”
But, majority of students had a good relationship with their landlords, with 60 per cent rating their landlord as being good or excellent.
Private landlords were rated significantly higher than any letting agencies, with 71.3 per cent of respondents rating their landlord as good or excellent.
Of the three most popular letting agents, IG properties received 52.9 per cent of positive ratings, Adam Bennett received 58.5 per cent positive ratings and Sinclair was rated positively by 58.8 per cent of their
In Nouse’s survey into student housing, a number of students raised issues with these landlords.
One third year student told of how their “experience with Adam Bennett was terrible. They were very incompetent and quite rude (kept us waiting for half an hour while so the staff could chat), lost documents, emailed about things we had already sorted and then charged us an administration fee.”
Another student told Nouse, “Adam Bennett are cowboys…Despite paying the full £50 agency fee (which seemed to be simply for printing off the contract), the agency refused to help when we had problems with the house because they claimed the property was ‘tenant found.’”
“We had extensive mould damage throughout the property which damaged our things, and when one dehumidifier was finally sourced, instead of leaving it inside or contacting housemates; he left it outside in the garden in the snow.
“When we were trying to get our deposits returned (which we eventually did), the landlord tried to claim we hadn’t paid a quarter’s rent.”
According to the ‘Rate Your Property 2012’ survey, a number of students told of their experiences with “rude and intimidating” landlords.
One respondent told of how their landlord “turned up out of the blue to attach a door handle (the absence of it was a health and safety breach), when I said I required 24 hours’ notice he told me he is ‘sick of my attitude’, despite never meeting me in person before and that he ‘will find another tenant who is happy with the house’ and said that, ‘he suggests I leave now as I don’t want you here’.”
Letting agency, IG property, was also criticised by tenants, with one third year student tenant saying: “IG have done very little well.”
The tenant went on to list their grievances, describing how the, “house was dirty when we moved in. Heating broke 6 times in a year with long delays in repair work every time. Nothing gets fixed within the month of being reported. Lawn was not mowed for the entire summer.”
According to the she landlord then “threatened to take [the student’s] bond because of noise complaints from neighbours.”
Not all landlords were criticised though, with one student praising their “excellent landlord who responds to any problems or queries promptly. Very friendly and is on good terms with all of my housemates.”
The issue of student safety was also highlighted by the survey. Positively, 90.5 per cent of students who responded to the survey said that they felt somewhat or very safe.
It was revealed that the areas where students felt most unsafe were Heslington, Heworth, Hull Road and Fishergate.
Worryingly, only 30.5 per cent of students stated that they have insurance, with a further 30 per cent unaware of whether they had any insurance at all.
10 per cent of respondents to the survey also mentioned that they did not know their housemates prior to moving in with them.
Students from outside the EU and postgraduates were significantly less likely to know their housemates before living together, compared to other students surveyed.