I’m three weeks into my Christmas holidays, enjoying the life of luxury that is the catered, central heated, polished
hotel place I call home. The only issue I have so far encountered in this paradise is that here, the washing machine complains, and subjects me to far more made-for-TV channel 5 Christmas films than I would prefer to endure. (Sorry, just joking, mum.) The one at uni doesn’t do that. Although it would be hard pressed to do anything, since it is still, four months after moving in, sat untouched, unplumbed, unplugged and unfixed abandoned in the middle of our hall.
Throughout my first year at Nottingham Trent Uni, I was safely encompassed by the security blanket that is chain private student accommodation wanting to keep a good reputation, and a £95 a week price tag. After this, you are essentially turfed out onto the fancy dress and cigarette end littered streets and left to fend for yourself – in an overcrowded and unkind market that regularly exploits students who have no other option.
Welcome to a world where getting back from a night out, sprinting up the stairs, and moments later hearing a thud as the toilet seat falls off and somebody splats onto the bathroom floor is a weekly entertainment source. It is customary by now in our house to have experienced the wrath of the upstairs toilet seat and have nearly cracked your head open on the bath tub.
A world where you daren’t touch your window in case it shifts the final millimetre out of the wall and shatters on the concrete below. Draft excluders are no longer just for doors. Walking the street in your slippers to go round a friend’s to get your washing done is the norm. Being called ‘silly girls’ by your landlord when you’ve neglected to answer the door thanks to your broken doorbell.
What’s loveliest is the surprise visits you get from her and the ‘family’. She is definitely checking up on you. Judging you for eating Weetabix in your dressing gowns at 2pm, and has brought her grandson to join in the fun. And she certainly has no intention of looking at your broken washing machine or hoover whilst she is here in any other way than to diagnose is as ‘broken’ for the third time this month. In your hungover, caught off guard state, you will try your hardest not to respond with any come back that may be deemed sarcastic or catty. No shit Sherlock.
In our first few weeks living in our second year house, we mentioned to our lettings agency that it would be nice if they could replace the Ikea sofa covers on the two sofas in our communal area. We politely explained that there were numerous holes, and (worryingly) the odd blood stain decorating the ones we currently possessed. After about 4 weeks our landlord called to tell us our ‘new’ ‘sofa suite’ would be delivered the following Monday. Confused by the mention of an entirely new sofa when all we’d suggested was new covers , we tried to stay positive and awaited the arrival of the unknown.
Having experienced what we had so far, I don’t know why any of us were surprised when a week later, two borderline embarrassed and apologetic charity shop volunteers delivered our ‘new’ sofa. They tentatively explained that it was the cheapest available in the shop and that they’d cleaned it up as best they could. They even suggested we come and have a look in the shop ourselves and they’d exchange it for something better if we paid the difference. It’s still sticky, and to put your hand or any other body part down any of the cracks would almost be considered a suicide attempt.
Our landlord exclaimed that we were welcome to put one of the old sofas in somebody’s room, however clearly this was just a sarcastic facade of ‘generosity’ that would mean they were excused from the responsibility of removing it from the property. It immediately became obvious why every time we’d viewed the house the previous academic year, there had been an abandoned fridge freezer parked in the middle of the driveway.
My short but so far not ideal experience of student letting cannot be confined to a one off and explained by bad luck, as I hear stories from friends studying across the country; mouse and rat infestations, slugs invading bedrooms and even ceilings falling in. Why do we have to live with this?
Students have over time earned themselves a rather unfavourable reputation as being uncontrollable and profane tenants, who as a result are undesirable to most landlords. This means we are literally disallowed from renting from non-student landlords with a normal monthly contract, and directed to student lettings agencies instead. As a student this reputation can make it hard to be taken seriously by your landlords, and this makes it particularly difficult to get your landlord or agency to carry out repairs.
The fact it has become standard to pidgeonhole so many young people into paying over the odds for underwhelming and often disgustingly run down accommodation is grossly unacceptable. Often what a student may pay per month for a room, somebody else who is not a student pays for an entire flat or house. The attitude seems to be ‘they are only students’. Spend little or nothing and charge as much as possible. And this attitude needs changing, dramatically.
Thanks for reading – if you have any entertaining stories or suggestions on how we may start to prevent occurrences like this please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a side note, whilst I would ideally love to be able to warn you off the agency that has aided in producing this post, I would rather not be at the centre of a court case/possibly end up homeless for my penultimate year through being blacklisted. Until next time.