by George Watkins
Some letting agencies are failing students, new research has revealed. Many commented on their experiences with mould, vermin and inadequate customer service. One student even noted that they found ‘drug needles’ in their carpet, being asked to pay for the cleanup costs themselves.
The research, carried out by Cardiff Students’ Union, investigated opinions and experiences of their letting agencies and the quality of their residences, from a maximum of 329 students. Over 40 agencies were rated, with the only data coming from those with over 15 replies.
Horizon scored the worst in the majority of categories, with no student being willing to sign with the agency for another academic year, but many other agencies did not score much better. The agency receives mixed reviews on various websites, with some criticising their customer service, others praising it.
This comes in light of an investigation by the Guardian newspaper this week into housing for young people, which estimated 338,000 properties are ‘hazardous’, risking medical attention being needed for around half a million people. This comes in light of an increase in rents by 15% in seven years.
The survey asked students to rate their letting agencies, ranking them out of a possible 5 for ‘very likely’. John Winter consistently succeeded, ranking at an average of 4.78, whilst Horizon plummeted to a mere 1. In their overall ratings of the agency, Horizon scored 1, with Kingstons coming second last, with 1.46. Cardiff Student Letting, run by the Students’ Union, scored a respectable 2.8, with John Winter in front by far at 4.33.
More worryingly, student experiences highlighted a range of problems, ranging from mould to rats. One respondent noted: “We had to move half way through the year as the council deemed the house an unsafe fire risk. The house resembled that of one which had been squatted in.”
Many recognised the problem of mould and damp, something that was also seen in the data. The average of the total data for students experiencing either problem was 70.6%, with Pinnacle topping the list with 87.5%. Cardiff Student Letting were the best, with only 50%.
Responses to these incidents varied hugely. Horizon was once more criticised heavily, with only 5.3% seeing their customer service as ‘good’, compared to the average of 45%, and not a single student suggesting that they were ‘good at resolving issues within the acceptable time frame’.
Charges were another hotly contested issue for many respondents. Only an average of 79.4% of respondents were aware of all charges before signing. Cardiff Student Letting was highest, with 90.6%, whilst, once more, Horizon were dead last, with only 36.8%.
An average of 55.7% of students found their deposits being disputed at the end of the year, and of those included in the data, only 2Let2 and Cardiff Student Letting fell short of this figure. Pinnacle, CPS, Horizon, Keylet and Kingstons all saw over 60% of respondents describing their deposits as disputed (John Winter do not require deposits).
Also noted by those conducting the survey were a number of seemingly false responses, praising particular letting agencies in a clearly fabricated manner. Each student number was verified before processing the data, but some were clearly falsified.