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Talk to me about the condition of student houses

(53 Posts)
blueskypink Tue 03-Jul-18 12:33:54

DS moved some of his stuff into a student house yesterday ready for 2nd year. As I was in the area I went to have a look....shock

He was clearly excited and pleased and I had to try really hard to keep a smile, or at least a neutral expression on my face. It's not overly dirty, although skirting boards and corners looked grubby. But it's so shabby! Desperately in need of a lick of paint (letting agents' attitude apparently is 'feel free'). Carpets are threadbare and look in need of a good clean. Furniture is ancient - I had to steel myself to sit on a sofa which has holes in it and stuffing coming out. His 'bed' is an ancient divan base (no legs) and a knackered mattress dumped on top. His desk and wardrobe look like a few bits of plywood tacked together.

The lease (all signed up) is for 12 months so I don't know when they expected to do any cleaning or maintenance.

I'm wondering if I should ring the letting agency and ask if they will replace the beds and hint at the need for some general maintenance work. But I'm worried about causing any problems. I know ds and his housemates are in discussion with the agency over a new oven and one or two other things, and I don't want to embarrass ds by being the one with an interfering mum. But on the other hand we're paying his rent (nearly £400 pcm) and it infuriates me to think they can get away with this!

Does this sound typical of student houses?

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 13:36:43

No. Your DS and his friends have made a poor choice and have taken a “party house”. This describes one where the owner and landlord don’t care and students treat it as a hovel. If they had looked around and been prepared to spend a bit more, I have no doubt nicer properties would have been available. It’s rather telling that your DS was excited about it so his expectations were very low. Did they leave it too late to get a nice house?

I don’t know what city he’s in, but less than £100 a week doesn’t get you anything very nice in some university areas. My DD paid more then that 7 years ago.

Also, don’t trust an agent who says they will do something over the summer if they don’t already have the work in hand. Also, your name isn’t on the contract. Therefore your DS, not you, will have to:

Agitate for a deep clean
Get electrical replacements sorted
Get rugs
Get sofa blankets and throws
Make a list of repairs
Talk to the Accommidations office at the university
Keep talking to the Agent - daily if nothing happens.

Look early for Y3 and be discerning. DD had a landlord with a live in maintenance guy in one of the flats. They painted the minute the students left. He repaired anything within 2 days. He was always helpful. The landlord briefed them about his expectations and what they could expect from him. They made students pay for a final deep clean as part of the contract. Your DS has chosen a bummer! Did you ask him why?

CherryPavlova Tue 03-Jul-18 13:45:36

I’m afraid you get what you pay for and it varies enormously from city to city. Eldest paid about 350 a month but has walls so damp,there were slugs and there was a festering kitchen. Unfortunately there was limited local student housing stock.
My youngest has just finished a year at £750 per month plus shared bills but it was much nicer. Then Exeter has lots of good student houses and people willing to pay for them.

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 13:55:31

£750 a month is out of reach for many and that’s nearly London prices! However there are some cheaper cities!

Starisnotanumber Tue 03-Jul-18 13:57:57

Photo or record all the conditions as they move in and advise others to do the same. Bad agents may try to keep deposit because of damage to property and furniture and also cleanliness and damage to paintwork. È mail it to agent so there is a dated backup but things go wrong.

lalaloopyhead Tue 03-Jul-18 14:01:50

My dd has just got the keys to her new place for 2nd year. It is a 6 bedroom house and is lovely from the outside. Not too bad inside but definitely seen some wear, a couple of very old coloured leather sofas in the living room. It does have some new appliances and one new bathroom, one clean but a bit grotty round the edges bathroom.

All the furniture in the bedrooms is oldish but seems in reasonable nick, wardobes etc look of an era that you would pick up in a charity shop.

My DD thinks it is a palace though, and that is the main thing - she is so excited to move in!

It is a licence to print money though at rent of nearly 2k a month between them.

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 14:03:27

Parents are not contracted for the proerry though. It must be the students. They signed for the year. What’s in the contract about obligations?

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 14:06:23

However, £330 a month each is Very Cheap! It’s less than the maintenance loan. You do get what you pay for. It sounds good value to me.

4catsaremylife Tue 03-Jul-18 14:15:52

@starisnotanumber is absolutely right take photos lots of photos. My DD (actually me) lost over £400 to the unscrupulous letting agent who let her flat in her final year at university. They had form apparently, there were a number of us parents challenging deposit returns so they went bankrupt. 😤

Starisnotanumber Tue 03-Jul-18 14:29:30

They tried to get 150.00 off ds for an iron burn on carpet. Sent copy of photos showing iron burn when he arrived.
They'd made a mistake (honest) deposit refund sent

Needmoresleep Tue 03-Jul-18 14:34:15

Look up the value of the property on Zoopla. DD's is worth about £500-600k. Divide by the rent paid.

DD's landlord is getting less than a 4% return, gross. Add in mortgage costs, now no longer tax deductible, agents fees (in London agents will charge as much at 17% + VAT for managed properties, though less elsewhere) maintenance and furniture replacement (again the 10% wear and tear allowance has gone), insurance and risk, statutory and licensing (gas checks, electricity checks, Local Authority fees etc - again often hefty) and allow for the fact that there is little or no prospect of capital gain in many areas, indeed the opposite, and it is no wonder that many landlords are actively divesting. Pushing rents up further.

That said it is a case of buyer beware. If you have tenants who cannot be expected to be house-proud, you dont go overboard on decoration. However a property is an asset and as a landlord I want to keep the fabric maintained. Often cheap is cheap for a reason. The landlord might have priced low because he does not want to make much investment this summer - many landlords with mortgages are pretty cash-strapped. He may have been burned last time he did the property up, only to find the tenants took no care. He may just be mean or a bad landlord.

Letting property is, at the moment, emphatically not a license to print money. I would ask permission to move in any hand-me-down family furniture that might be available, suggesting you either leave it behind as an upgrade disposing of whatever is there now, or pick the most important item - non working white goods or poor matresses, and ask politely if they can be replaced. Your chances are higher if it is clear that the group is houseproud and will look after the property.

Note also that many student properties need to be licensed as HMOs. Rules vary and are available on a councils website. The landlord is obliged to display the licence, and obliged to provide tenants with both a right to rent booklet, and a current Gas Safe certificate. If the property is licensed and there are health problems like damp or a cooker that does not work, which are not resolved, complain to the council.

Cancer research, and presumably some others, do a cheap and efficient furniture sales, delivery and removal. Find a second hand item in their shops, get the landlords permission to replace, and then they do the rest.

blueskypink Tue 03-Jul-18 14:46:22

Lalaloopy - what condition are the beds in your DS's house? That's what I'm most annoyed about. Fully intend to provide him with a new one and assumed naively that landlords would provide somewhere decent to sleep.

Bubbles - I didn't ask him why he's chosen a 'bummer'. His confidence is very low at the moment and I don't want to undermine him. I guess I was looking for advice and reassurance rather than a lecture about DS's ineptitude!

Recent experience of Exeter with another dc where £500 per month got something very nice, with a cleaner thrown in. DS is in a less affluent area so I thought just under £400 pcm would get something of a similar standard.

Trying not to fret about it too much as not much to be done now. Will do what we can with a new bed, bits of furniture etc. Throws and rugs a good idea.

Keep reminding myself of some of my uni accommodation decades ago. An attic room in a house with no central heating (in Scotland) ice on the inside of the windows and mould in the bathroom didn't bother me confused

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Tue 03-Jul-18 14:57:24

"what condition are the beds in your DS's house? That's what I'm most annoyed about. Fully intend to provide him with a new one and assumed naively that landlords would provide somewhere decent to sleep. "

Landlords, or rather letting agents, tend to buy cheap contract matresses. They only last 2-3 years. DS' was awful, but they replaced it straightaway when he pointed this out. But it was a reputable high street agent.

Doobydoo Tue 03-Jul-18 15:04:52

Sorry OP that sounds grim. I have only seen photos of Ds's it looks ok but will have to wait until we see it for real when he gets the keys. Goung slightly off topic ..ds got email saying landlady hadnt received the 1k he sent her..him and one other..she had received the other 2 tenants dosh. Ds sent it 22nd June. We are now waiting for her to deign to look at her bank again n get back to him! It takes a couple of minutes to check and I am really angry that she thinks its ok to keep him dangling after he replied promptly.Feels like she is doing us a favour...raaaagh.Disclaimer...am keeping rage to myself.

Needmoresleep Tue 03-Jul-18 15:06:27

Tenants are normally given 10 days to confirm they are content with the inventory. (Hopefully he has one.) They should write noting any discrepencies and confirming the state of cleanliness (including carpets, windows and garden). This is an opportunity to highlight things that are not to a standard that might be expected. White goods not working, beds that are seriously sub-par. Ask for them to be repaired or replaced. If the flat is good value - ie scruffy but cheap, you cant expect redecoration. But you can expect a bed you can sleep on and an oven that works. Test the heating and water pressure as well.

Be clear and use the system. If there is ever a dispute, tenants hold many of the cards. Ensuring there is a clear, polite and reasonable paper-trail cld be very helpful.

Doobydoo Tue 03-Jul-18 15:11:31

Great idea re photos

Needmoresleep Tue 03-Jul-18 15:11:37

DD is the only one around so picking up keys, so seem sto have picked up the admin as well.

Tips. Do the Council tax exemption on line right at the start. It saves a lot of admin later.

Book broadband early. If there is not cable in the property already (Virgin etc) you probably need LL permisson to have it installed. It can take up to three weeks to get a phone line changed over to a new supplier. It is quite possible that you will need to get an engineer out, so worth considering logitics when choosing a supplier.

corythatwas Tue 03-Jul-18 17:12:14

The bed would be my only concern because it might not give a good quality of sleep. But seriously, a young person is not going to come to any harm from living in a house where the skirting boards are not perfectly painted. And not caring about that is not a sign of ineptitude on your ds' part.

I think somehow we expect too high standards of perfection from our young people and forget that they are young like we once were young: resilient, slightly lack-a-daisy and with other things on their minds than painted skirting boards.

Yes to photographing everything, and obviously making sure all the checks on gas etc have been done. But that is where I'd leave it.

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 17:20:11

I am sorry you think I was getting at you. You didn’t say his confidence was low, OP, and you were very quick to blame the landlord. It’s still a valid question why the whole group in the house didn’t want anything better and chose a bummer! You know that’s what it is from your first post so I don’t get why you are telling me off!

The truth is, you, as a parent, cannot do very much. The contract is with DS and he has to learn, with the others, how to manage this situation. I am surprised you are surprised. I also think girls are more discerning. Often good properties go like hot cakes so students have to be very organised to get the better properties. You also seemed to think you were paying a fortune but this isn’t the case. It’s always worth considering paying more to get a decent property.

You can ask to replace the mattress and then take it away at the end of the year if the landlord won’t change it. DD looked at a couple of “party” flats in her university city and of course some students took them on. Bedroom in the basement with no window, not seen a lick of paint in living memory, chairs with foam coming out of them, damp in the bathroom, walls peeling, freezing cold because no insulation etc. You do learn to avoid them and if DS cannot manage to find a decent property because he has no experience of shopping around, you might need to be a bit more proactive next year, or up the budget. Or, maybe he’s happy in a party house? Some students actually are even if the parents are aghast!

ApolloandDaphne Tue 03-Jul-18 18:02:30

My DDs 6 bed house in Bristol is no palace but it has a reasonable bed and is warm. She told me that students don't like super nice flats because it is too much responsibility. They like shabby but fairly comfortable. We pay £450 per month for hers.

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 18:19:34

Many super nice flats don’t get offered to 2nd year students. Landlords sometimes stipulate final year and post grad only or young professionals. I agree you don’t want it flashy but you do want it ok. I think the extra £50 a month can make a lot of difference.

Needmoresleep Tue 03-Jul-18 18:34:40

Bubbles it must be some time now since your dd was starting second year. The renting environment has changed a lot in the past few years. Not least the expansion of HMO licensing, and the threat of large fines, will have ensured most properties are of a basic minimum standard. Licensing, however, does not require landlords to paint skirting boards.

I agree with a pp. Scruffy is good as it reduces the risk of end of tenancy deductions.

blueskypink Tue 03-Jul-18 18:42:32

* I also think girls are more discerning*

He's sharing with 4 girls and 1 boy Bubbles. The girls have very much taken the lead on this but they all looked at a number of properties, in good time. DS is very happy with it so I had no reason to question anything until I saw it on Monday.

You make a lot of assumptions Bubbles - like they didn't look around and weren't prepared to pay more. I don't think it would enter DS's head to scrimp on rent costs (we pay, and he knows we've paid more for siblings). Of course it may be that others in the group need to be more frugal. I don't think ds would have ditched his friendship group to live somewhere better.

Not sure why you say I seem to think £400 is a fortune Bubbles. I absolutely don't think that. But I do think that for £2,400 pcm, the landlord might provide new mattresses with each new tenancy!!

But, I've suggested to ds that it would be worth them asking for new mattresses and he thinks that would be a good idea. One of the girls is taking the lead on negotiating with the letting agency about some repairs that need doing and a replacement oven so he's going to suggest she mentions mattresses as well (seems sensible to have one person negotiate rather than 2 from the same house).

OP’s posts: |
fufulina Tue 03-Jul-18 18:50:06

Is this how involved parents get now?? My parents never even saw my uni accommodation. They are adults. Let them crack on. If they are happy, that’s great.

BubblesBuddy Tue 03-Jul-18 18:53:21

Umm? I do not think that £400 is a fortune. Did I say that? From your original post, the implication was that you did and the landlord was doing them over.

Yes, I know the renting sector has moved on but, in terms of quality, the bare minimum seems to be very low. It doesn’t seem to cover slow (no) repairs and agents saying students can paint properties.

Anyway, if all the students are happy, I cannot see what the problem is apart from the OP thinking it’s not good enough. If the students are ok and they chose it, for whatever reason, then it’s up to them to chase up the shortcomings. As they are doing.

The only way you can be satisfied, op, is to look for them next year. In their price range. I certainly looked on a few web sites and familiarised myself with nice properties and dumps. There are clearly party pads still out there, so next year you could do this. Suggest some nicer places. Or let him be happy and you put up with it.

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