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The Reality of Student House Rentals

Greg Devine


Students sharing a student accommodation.

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Year Two of university means the next exciting challenge in my life: renting a house. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to all summer, the next big test. Previously, in halls, it’s been a lot easier. You only have to worry about your own room. Bills are included in the price, so everything is relatively straightforward. Now, I’ve got rent to worry about, including any bills and other tasks that come with living in your own house.

Driving the two hours up to Newcastle, I was filled with anticipation to see, in person, the house I would live in. It had been a bit of a gamble…I didn’t get chance to view the house before I moved in; however, I trusted the people I’d be living with to pick a good place. From the photos I’d seen, the house looked okay—nothing special. It was quite old-fashioned, but this didn’t bother me too much, as long as everything was clean and in working order. 

When we arrived at the place, my mother was close to tears. The house contained mould and threadbare carpets, the wallpaper was coming off the walls, and there was more than a lingering smell of cigarettes. Had the house been up for sale to the general public, it certainly would have been classed as a ‘fixer-upper’. 

Dirty Room for Hire

I don’t expect student houses to be perfect homes to live in. The stereotype of students wrecking houses isn’t exactly untrue, so cheap furnishings make sense. But things like mould, threadbare carpets, broken furniture and wallpaper hanging from the walls isn’t acceptable. Students still rent properties for a decent amount of money. The least landlords could do is make sure things are appropriate, clean and in working order.

To be a landlord is probably the perfect business to be in. You can charge huge amounts of money with big deposits up front then provide less than the bare minimum. My bedroom, for example, has a carpet that is no doubt older than me, and single glazed windows that will result in a freezing cold room during Newcastle’s chilly winters. What houses don’t have double glazing nowadays? Surely, in 2023, this is standard for houses, to stay warm in winter. It’s a real shame too, because the property has so much potential. It’s a huge semi-detached place in the lovely village of Jesmond. It would only need a small amount of time and money invested in it—some basic furniture and maybe one or two new carpets—and I would then have no complaints. Sadly, I’m instead writing this in a room that looks more like a grandma’s dining room in the 1980s than a bedroom you’d expect to see in 2023.

We can’t get rid of the smell of cigarettes, despite no one in the house being a smoker. My chest is currently terrible, no doubt from the lingering cigarette smoke and dust in the air. What was a couple of weeks of pure excitement, waiting to collect the keys, has turned into a nightmare. I’ve managed to make the place a little nicer, and I’m sure, with time, I will get used to it— but that isn’t the point. With the amount this place is costing me, it should be much nicer. I only require the bare minimum, it’s really not much to ask.

My housemates and I took photos of all the damage to the property when we moved in, such as the missing floorboards and holes in the walls. We emailed the letting agent with them, only for them to reply with ‘the property is taken as seen at the viewing’. How can they expect you to check everything at a viewing when, often, people are still living in the house? I can’t check if a wardrobe is broken when it’s got somebody’s clothes and personal items in it. It’s a complete cop out from the letting agent and landlord, but nothing is in place to protect the tenants—everything is in favour of the landlord.

I think an independent, external company should be appointed to check all student houses are up to standard before they’re rented out. It should probably apply for all rentals in truth, but particularly for student accommodation, where it seems you can get away with the poorest of standards. 

I will still enjoy my time in the house, but not because of the house, more in spite of it. Just putting up some photos and a rug has already made a big difference to the room, but it won’t fix the carpet, the broken furniture or the peeling wallpaper…

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