1 in 4 students living in vermin-infested housing

Nearly one in four students currently live in vermin-infested housing, a new NUS survey has revealed. Findings show that 24% of students have reported finding slugs, mice or another infestation in their home.

The survey was part of new research published by the National Union of Students (NUS), which looked into the current state of student housing in the UK. The report also contained recommendations from the NUS to regulate letting agents, as well as proposing an end to letting fees.

Added to these health and safety concerns, more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of students experienced at least one problem with their rented homes. The issues most often reported included condensation (52 per cent), mould (47 per cent) and damp (41 per cent).

NUS Vice President Welfare, Colum McGuire, said ‘‘Although there’s a commonly held perception that poor quality student housing is a rite of passage, it is both disgusting and unacceptable that students should live in vermin infested housing in this day and age.  Our research has raised alarming health and safety issues and we are calling for more effective enforcement of standards to ensure students’ homes are fit for study.”

Local housing issues, such as vermin infestations, currently fall under the remit of local government. The NUS is urging the government to ensure that local councils are given sufficient resources and the capacity to deal with student housing problems.

Chief Executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, added, “no one should be forced to live in a home that is a danger to their health and wellbeing – so these findings are shocking.  This can’t carry on. The government must do more to improve our broken rental market, and make sure that every landlord provides the safe and decent home that we all deserve.”

One Cardiff University student said “We would often find slugs in our kitchen because the back door could often be left open. The problem was ignored by our letting agent because they blamed us, even though they should have taken responsibility.”

The NUS has announced it will be supporting students unions to work more closely with their institutions to improve the state of student housing, and to ensure that housing support is high on the agenda for both unions and universities.

Kieran Davey

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  • I read your article with interest and would agree that certain aspects of the student rental market are in need for improvement. Certainly I would argue that given the low average age of students, combined with their generally low level of maturity, letting agents and landlords should adopt a more parental style of management . From my experience as a landlord for over 26 years, the majority of students have no idea of what life is like in the real world, most of them have just left home and generally most of them I would not consider to be adults until they reach their mid 20’s, by which time they have moved on to other types of accommodation. Given these circumstances I think that it will be difficult to maintain a decent state of repair in a house without regular face to face contact between the student tenants and the letting agent/landlord, .
    I’d like to comment on some of the things you mention in the article:
    52% of houses have condensation – yet irrespective of the weather, should you take a walk on Coburn Street and Rhymney Street at a time when most students are at lectures, you will find that less than two in a hundred houses have an open upstairs bedroom window whilst more than a quarter will have condensation on their windows.
    47% of houses have mould – understandable if no effort to ventilate is carried out. Also, what is the problem with wiping a wall at the same time as washing the floor or hoovering?
    41% suffer damp – I can’t comment on that, damp needs a specialist for diagnosis.
    “We would often find slugs in our kitchen because the back door could often be left open. The problem was ignored by our letting agent because they blamed us, even though they should have taken responsibility.” Hilarious comment. In need of a servant to open and close your door?! Slug as vermin? Only if they eat what you are growing in the garden. I don’t think the answer is to concrete a garden in order to keep slugs away. Besides, either they are eating your dumped rubbish or there is soil and vegetation which usually equals biodiversity. Try a small amount of slug pellets outside your door and bag your rubbish properly.
    Mice – A years supply of mouse poison from the market costs £7. Split between 5 tenants that amounts to less than 13 pence per year per tenant. Less hassle than complaining to a landlord and then having to arrange access for someone to walk around the house to put the very same poison down.
    Rats – major problem. Walk around the streets of Cathays at 4am on the day of rubbish collection and you will see rats. No amount of effort by a landlord or an agent is going to stop that from happening. Unless tenants, the Council, the agents and the landlords can act in unison (which is never going to happen) then you’re more or less stuck with them on a fairly regular basis. My policy when I see a live rat on the street is to email the Council with the date and location of the sighting. Good luck.