5 Ways To Deal With Problematic Landlords As A Student
As a student, I’ve been living in rented houses for the past 3 years. This involved either going through a letting agency or a private landlord.
Renting a house as a student can be really daunting. As an international student, I felt even more lost and scared to speak up because I wasn't sure if I was in the wrong or not.
I realised that a lot of agencies and landlords exploit the fact that many students are naive and don’t know their rights. So, after 3 years of crazy rent stories, here’s a list of ways to make sure you avoid horrible rent experiences:
1. Report Issues As Soon As They Happen
If the past 3 years have taught me anything, it’s to never leave anything unreported. Whether it’s a scratch on the dining table or a leaky ceiling, make sure you let your agency or private landlord know ASAP.
I say this because one of the three scenarios below is likely to happen when you report the issue:
- They dismiss it and tell you if it’s not completely broken then they won't fix it
- Try to turn the situation around and say that you broke it. In which case you can tell them that you didn't (if you didn't) and use the inventory as proof
- They are actually nice and they fix it! Usually, if that is to happen, they take a very long time so it’s important to follow up.
2. Take Pictures Of Everything As Proof
This is your armour! Take pictures of anything that shouldn’t be the way it is. This, combined with reporting it as explained above, will make sure that you have a solid case when it comes to raising issues.
If you start noticing something, even if it’s still in the early stages, take a picture of it so you can monitor whether it’s getting better or worse. You can then show your agency these pictures. They usually have a lot of experience with issues that can happen in rented properties so showing them pictures can help them quickly resolve it.
This can also ensure they don't deduct huge sums of money from your deposit.
3. Take The Inventory Seriously
Typically, at the beginning of your tenancy, you will be given an inventory with everything in the flat/house and its condition. I found that landlords can be vague in the terminology they use. ‘Used’ or ‘scratched’ can actually be used for something that is broken or in bad condition.
Therefore, it’s important to flag up anything that is not in the same exact condition described in the inventory. That way, they can have it in the updated version and you can have email proof of it.
At the end of your agreement when they come to check the state of the flat or house, things will be documented and you are more likely to get your deposit back!
4. Contact Your SU Housing Office
If things go bad and you need legal help, contact your Students’ Union Housing Advice Office (or similar name).
Most universities offer advice and have contacts with the main letting agencies that rent to students. Set up a meeting with the housing office and explain your situation and seek professional advice.
My housemates and I actually had to do this once because the service provider for electricity and heating was trying to overcharge us £700! We were able to understand our rights and how to navigate the situation.
5. Be Firm
Last but not least, be firm. Just because you are a student does not mean that you should be treated worse or respected less than anyone else. You are paying a sum of money in exchange for a product (your flat or house) and a service (maintenance, etc.).
You should expect these services to be done to a reasonable standard.
Make sure you send well-written, formal emails and follow-up if the letting agent does not respond. List your concerns and expectations (within reason) and suggest a reasonable deadline.
It would be unfair to generalise and say that all letting agencies or landlords are bad, my housemates and I have had good landlords that were extremely friendly and helpful!
However, renting for the first time can be overwhelming but support is available! Make sure you seek help if you feel unsure about how to proceed.