By Katherine Wheeler | Comment Editor
November 1st is a special date, and not because it’s the day after Halloween. On November 1st, Cardiff student lettings agencies open their doors to student house hunters.
CPS Homes and Cardiff Student Lettings are just two of the agencies with banners already up. On one banner, a smiling model stands in a too-clean kitchen, advertising tips for tenants. The advert looks attractive enough, though in reality, CPS Homes has recently been the centre of national attention. An investigation of the agency in May 2020 brought CPS into the spotlight on Channel 4’s ‘Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back’. During research, the TV team talked to thirty students who all claimed they had been charged for damages they didn’t cause.
Freshers signing on houses this November will likely be subject to similar practices. Though this year, with in-person viewings back on, maybe students will see more of what they’re getting themselves into.
Signing contracts for houses this early in the year is a waiting game with some tenants waiting almost a year before they actually settle into their new houses. As is the case with many horror stories, some students will end their first year on non-speaking terms with future housemates. Perhaps worse still, some will move into half finished and potentially dangerous accommodation.
This was Becky’s problem. Along with nine others, she moved into what the agency had promised was a normal house. Upon arrival, it became clear that it was anything but. A large hole in the kitchen ceiling made life impossible and worse still, it leaked. After four months of begging their landlord to contact a handyman, being ignored and told that the problem would take days to fix, Becky and her housemate threatened legal action. ‘He shouted down the phone telling us to just leave the property.’ She says. ‘We were paying collectively £3.5k a month’. What had been framed as a big job by their landlord turned out to take just a couple of hours. Once the workmen arrived, they also claimed they hadn’t been contacted until two days previously.
Becky’s situation seems to indicate a problem with student housing as a whole. Students move in large numbers, paying landlords rent in the thousands. Since the vast majority are first time renters, tenants don’t have a grasp of their rights and may not understand the ins and outs of their contract. Unions such as ACORN are aiming to combat this, as well as house review sites like Moove. Resources are becoming more available but an early house-hunting season means students are still rushing to make decisions.Katherine Wheeler Comment