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It’s that exciting time of year, again, when smug second-years move into their houses and shake off their awkward first-year personas. Now, they can proudly proclaim to impressionable freshers that they “live in town”.
“Wow,” freshers reply, wondering if they too will ever reach that stage of adulthood. But, looking at it from another perspective, second year is also the time innocent students escape from the bubble of campus and venture into the world of dodgy properties and even dodgier landlords.
Now, everyone knows the age-old mantra, “Don’t sign too early!” But here’s a shock: nobody ever listens. As Michaelmas term draws to a close, first-years eagerly view houses and recklessly put deposits down in a mad rush to get their places sorted before the Christmas break.
Speaking of viewings, I will always remember looking around one house which looked pretty decent at face value… One of the tenants pulled me aside when the landlord was out of sight and warned me, with serious fear in her eyes: “Do. Not. Rent. Here.” A few minutes later, there was another bombshell. The landlord tried to pretend there was no living room in the house. After showing her the website ad, which clearly stated it had a living room, we were shown a room with a shiny floor, covered with hundreds of slug trails. Safe to say, we gave that one a miss.
Sadly, some unassuming freshers could have easily overlooked these things and been left with a year from hell come September.
Personally, I have had a plethora of issues with my second-year house and landlord. You name a problem, I have had it. Damp, mould, rats? Been there. Broken heating, filthy furniture, questionable neighbours? Had those as well. Does the landlord ever plan on addressing these concerns? Absolutely not.
One of the issues is that some landlords think they can take advantage of students. Students can be vulnerable, new to the world of renting and unsure of their rights. In some cases – students don’t pursue their complaints beyond a passive-aggressive text or a half-hearted Whatsapp, and accept the landlord’s excuse.
In those cases, the only chance of any real change is when students’ parents come up and demand that problems be fixed. However, by this point, it is often too late and some landlords can become reluctant to resolve issues. After all, if you have lived with the fault all these weeks, surely you can survive the rest of the year?
Although I had a bad experience with second-year housing and landlords, I have had friends whose experience has been plain sailing with renting. Even as far as the landlady popping round for dinner every now and then!
But at the end of the year when we hand back our keys, I have no doubt that I personally will be begging my housemates: “Can we move back to campus next year, please?”