Amongst the chaos, I’ve managed to squeeze a much-needed week off. Life has been a rush for as long as I can remember, so it has felt a little strange applying the breaks, but it has been refreshing to just walk, eat, drink and gather my thoughts.
I am a student at the University of Surrey, in my second year. As I am no longer a fresher and I’m not an international student, it was almost inevitable that I would not receive a place in Univeristy of Surrey halls had I applied, so I didn’t bother. The University of Surrey takes in far too many students than it can actually accommodate -but that’s another issue!
Finding Somewhere to Live
I chose, along with 3 friends from the university, to rent a house in Guildford. After the struggle of finding properties online and offline, going to many viewings only to hear that property had already gone and viewing others which were so vile even the agency staff recommended not living in them – we finally found somewhere that looked decent (not great, but decent).
We found this property through a lettings agency in Guildford called SimplyLet.Net. We all paid £125 as an agency fee to get the house off the market (that’s £500 between us). We then paid £70 each (£280 altogether) for an inventory fee. This should cover a check of the property by SimplyLet.Net which marks any problems with the property before we move in so that we do not get charged for them when the tenancy ends. We also split the hefty £2790.00 deposit 4 ways (£697.5 each). Of course, we also have monthly rent at the price of £465, per tenant.
Our tenancy runs from the 1st of July 2016 until 30th June 2017. However, we couldn’t move in until about a week later as they were fixing problems in the property (apparently). When I moved into the property initially on the 9th of July, they still had jobs left to do, however, this work was carried out within a few weeks.
Faults, Problems, Mould
The problems appeared when we went to check over and submit the inventory form. Upon inspection, we realised they had missed at least 30 issues within the property – from mould and leaky taps, to broken windows and faulty hobs. Bare in mind, we paid them £280 to fill in this form for us, and they failed to do that.
We emailed a few times over the summer that we needed these issues fixed. When nothing was done, we visited their offices to give them a nudge and sent them further emails. Yet nothing was done until late September, once we emailed them again. They fixed a few things, probably to get us to back down, but left most of the problems unaddressed. We gave them a 2 week deadline to fix those, in a further email, however they failed to meet this too.
We were told that for some problems (such as the broken hob and the broken fridge/freezer shelves – which are incredibly sharp and dangerous), would need permission from the landlord and that they would contact him or her. I don’t know which; we have not got the details of the landlord, and are unable to contact them ourselves, to my knowledge. However, I have requested these details multiple times.
Nothing further happened until we emailed them, yet again, but this time we were a lot firmer. We said if these problems were not addressed quickly (especially the ones which pose a health and safety hazard) – we would have to take further action. Luckily, they responded quickly to that and we’ve had a handyman visit today to carry out some repairs. We’re still waiting for many of the problems to be addressed and the landlord to be contacted, but we’ve made some progress.
We Cannot Continue Like This
It should not take 3 months (a quarter of the tenancy) to fix basic problems. We are lucky that there were no major problems to do with anything like the sewerage. That said “lucky” probably isn’t the right word.
It shouldn’t be like this, but there is not enough houses to accommodate the amount of people, particularly in Guildford. The landlords and lettings agencies don’t need to compete fiercely, as every house will sell regardless of how expensive and poor quality it is. It’s sad that UK and local government has let it reach this point. It can’t go on like this.
We could solve problems like this with a few measures, such as:
- Ban letting fees for renters (as Scotland has done)
- Giving renters access to an open database of rogue landlords and also giving the ability to submit extra comments about landlords to the database
- Giving renters access to an open database of rented houses, including their landlords name and contact details, and a system which verified tenants can submit property reviews to
- A helpline or website which renters can easily report problems to
- Bringing in compulsory safety checks for rented homes
- Preventing rogue landlords from obtaining an HMO licence
- Teaching students about their rights when renting property in mandatory “General Education” lessons
Some of the details within this post would usually be kept private, however, I am happy to be public about these so that people can see the extent of the problem. I am also happy to pass these details over to our Student Union president, who will be meeting with Guildford MP Anne Milton next week.