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.”