CMA asked to investigate agents who ‘pressurise students into signing tenancy agreements months too early’

The National Union of Student is urging the UK competition watchdog to investigate agents over ‘pressurising’ students into signing tenancy agreements months before the tenancy actually starts.

A new report by the NUS says that the pressurising by agents and landlords of students into signing contracts so early may be an unfair practice.

It is also calling on the Competition and Markets Authority to consider an investigation into the use of ‘sham licence’ agreements for student tenants, which it says are used to circumvent the protections provided in tenancy law.

According to the NUS, “students reported signing contracts for properties months in advance of when they intended to move in, as well as a number of cases where students were renting properties having not signed tenancy agreements”.

According to the report, most students (57%) start looking for property by the December before the start of the next student year. The large majority start looking in November.

Over a quarter (28%) were asked to pay a deposit before they had seen the tenancy agreement.

The report also provides a litany of other evidence as to the experiences of people who are often first-time renters.

One third of student tenants say they are suffering anxiety or depression because of ‘appalling’ living conditions and ‘exploitative landlords’.

One in five have pest infestations in their rental homes, while nearly half have damp and mould.

Other tenants have moved in to find broken furniture, rubbish, and cupboards unusable because of mould.

Issues over electrical and gas safety have also been raised in the NUS’s report, ‘Homes Fit For Study’.

Landlords and agents are accused of not fixing problems within a reasonable timeframe – a complaint by 47% of student tenants.

A third (32%) complained of difficulty in contacting their landlord or letting agent.

One student, in York, said she had to wash her hair in the kitchen sink for six weeks after her landlord ripped out her bathroom.

She said she had gone 89 days with broken radiators, 42 with no bathroom and 18 without hot water.

Half of student renters were not given the documentation that they should have had at the start of their tenancy, including gas safety certificates and the prescribed information to show where their deposits were.

Eva Crossan Jory, vice-president of welfare for the NUS, said: “We are already making progress – the Tenant Fees Act 2019 will outlaw the extortionate fees paid by renters to secure a home, and in January 2019 the Ministry of Housing launched new funding to crack down on the very worst landlords in England.”

The report does say: “Over-priced and low-quality housing is not a right [sic] of passage for students.”

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  1. Property Poke In The Eye

    One student was forced to sign a contract at gun point whilst the other was tied to a chair.  Appalling behaviour by agents  lol!!!

  2. jeremy1960

    I may be wrong but I suspect that all student property starts out at a half decent level. It is once student tenants move in and neglect the property by lack of cleaning,  ventilation and general care that conditions deteriorate. Imho if parents of students gave them some basic lessons in how to live then the students would enjoy a more comfortable environment,  landlords would have fewer issues and the properties would not suffer. This can be said for much of the younger rental generation,  many have no idea whatsoever about cleaning standards or even how to open a windows and operate heating and don’t get me started on lack of basic cooking skills!

    1. DASH94

      Not to generalise, but the description of these living conditions is pretty much equivalent to the condition of both my teenage daughters’ bedrooms at home before they left for University. I’m sure there are plenty of clean living, tidy, hygienic students out there – and there is a serious side to this – but none of them are my children or any of their housemates from what I witnessed.

  3. rgs79

    I run a letting agent and my 20 year old son has just had to rent his first house as a student. This current academic year is in halls and the move in date is 01/09/19. No issue with admin fee being paid already although they have ensured that the contract is signed before June 1st. 1st month’s rent due beginning February, 6 months early (to allow for any compensation due to landlord should they withdraw according to the agent (NFOPP member)) and full deposit to be paid early April. Not sure this would be deemed best practice. This must be replicated thousands of times in university towns across the country.

  4. CountryLass

    I can see why it would be in a student’s best interest to find and secure a contract early, to try and get the best place, but I think having to pay the first rent early is a bit much, does it go to the Landlord or does it sit in a Client account at the Agents? Would it not be possible for the student to sign the tenancy agreement, and pay the deposit into a Deposit scheme, then the rent a month before they move in?

    Then that way they have secured the property, their money is secure and will go back to them if the Landlord pulls out, and the Landlord knows that he will be able to have that if the tenant pulls out.


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