An Impact Survey of over 150 students revealed that more than a fifth of University of Nottingham (UoN) students currently have an issue with vermin and over a third have mould problems in their student house.
This data reflects national research conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS), which recently showed that over three quarters of students are dissatisfied with the state of their student homes.
The NUS report stated that one in five student homes are infested with vermin, over half have condensation problems and almost half have untreated mould.
Twenty-two percent of the UoN students surveyed by Impact reported a current vermin issue in their student house, and descriptions of the issue included rats, mice, woodlice, ants, and slugs. Mould was reported by thirty-eight percent of students, mainly around windows and in bathrooms, but also in bedrooms, and even on possessions.
He appeared to have solved the problem, but “it turned out he had simply painted over the mould”.
Impact spoke to one student, who wished to remain anonymous, who found mould on her clothes. They said that when they originally viewed the property, there was mould in a built-in wardrobe, which “the landlord said he would sort out”.
He appeared to have solved the problem, but “it turned out he had simply painted over the mould”. The mould returned and went un-noticed, due to the wardrobe having a front-to-back rail. When the landlord was notified of the problem returning, he provided the tenants with mould spray which has so far been unsuccessful in sorting the problem.
The student went on to add that the problem is due to “bad insulation and poor upkeep of the house”, and is not their fault. They noted that they have chosen, “because of this and the landlord’s incompetence in general”, to move out at the end of this year.
“[The mould] got so bad it ruined mattresses, shoes, clothes – so we moved out”.
Of the students Impact surveyed, only twenty-three percent said that their landlord had helped them to deal with a mould or vermin issue, and in most cases, the landlord had simply painted over the mould, or provided them with mouse traps.
Six students reported that the mould or vermin issue was a factor in their decision to move out. One student told Impact that “[the mould] got so bad it ruined mattresses, shoes, clothes – so we moved out”. Another claimed that “landlords do not acknowledge the problem enough, even when repeatedly informed”.
“Landlords and estate agents don’t think we care about where we live, but that isn’t the case”.
Milly Scott-Steele, a Second Year History student, told Impact that “the mould isn’t the problem I have with the house”. Instead she described the actions taken by her estate agents as “appalling”.
Despite various emails and requests for a meeting, both from members of her household and the University itself, the estate agents have failed to offer any help and have ignored all communication attempts. She said that as students, “landlords and estate agents don’t think we care about where we live, but that isn’t the case”.
“Since it’s not really an issue that is affecting us as it is currently only on a few walls, we’d rather not say anything to keep our relations amiable”.
Some students, like Goldie Aboutorabi, a Second Year Management Studies student, have chosen to ignore the problem for the time being. She stated: “since it’s not really an issue that is affecting us as it is currently only on a few walls, we’d rather not say anything to keep our relations amiable.”
However, other students have reported that the problems in their house, either mould or vermin, have caused them to move out and leave on bad terms with their landlord. Some have given up asking the landlord for help and have tried to deal with the problem themselves. “I tried everything to fix it”, one student told Impact.
“It is not Unipol’s experience that vermin infestation affects 1 in 5 student properties”.
The Student Advice Centre at UoN told Impact that “a significant number of students contact the Student Advice Centre each year about property conditions”.
They went on to add that these issues “mainly relate to condensation, damp and mould but we see a whole range of other problems including pests, gas and electrical hazards and property disrepair”.
Impact contacted Unipol, who said that they “run a scheme for student accommodation in Nottingham called the Unipol Code”. This Code sets standards of safety and security in student homes, and means students can contact Unipol for help and advice “if things go wrong”.
They reported that “it is not Unipol’s experience that vermin infestation affects one in five student properties”. However they added that if this did happen to a student, the first step is to write to the landlord asking them to take action within five working days. If the landlord does not respond to a satisfactory level, the next step is to contact Unipol.
Over a third of students find themselves in debt due to upfront security costs for their property, and a third struggle with energy bills.
Responding to the NUS report, Colum McGuire, NUS Vice President (Welfare) said that it was “disgusting and unacceptable” that student houses should be vermin infested “in this day and age”. He said that while “poor quality student housing” was perceived by many to be “a rite of passage”, these “alarming health and safety issues” could not be tolerated anymore.
NUS responded to their findings by calling for improved regulation of letting agents, and an end to letting fees so that students better understand the overall cost of renting in the private sector, and can therefore budget properly.
The NUS report also published statistics showing that over a third of students find themselves in debt due to upfront security costs for their property, and a third struggle with energy bills.
NUS were further worried by the statistic that nearly a quarter of students are unaware of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This certificate measures energy efficiency within a household and suggests where improvements could be made.
Image by Curtis Perry, flickr