NUS is urging students to stop and think before making a decision about renting too early this Christmas.
In recent years, there has been increasing pressure placed on students by exploitative letting agents and landlords who suggest that they will run out of time to rent a flat and will end up without a place to live if they leave it until after Christmas, despite the fact that many of them will not actually be moving into properties until the following September.
Renting early can create huge problems for students who are tied into contracts long in advance, meaning that even if their circumstances change they are committed to covering the rent for that property.
Many students encounter problems, for example when friendship groups change, or students drop out – or just when they realise that what they thought was a good deal wasn’t so great after all. In these circumstances, students are still legally obliged to meet the rent for that property. In some cases, students who have signed joint contracts (as well as their parents if they are acting as guarantors) can be chased for rent that has not been paid by another student.
Exploitative Landlords a Real Problem
This is a growing and long term problem. NUS’ Homes Fit for Study research from earlier this year found that a fifth of all students rent seven or more months in advance of moving in. The reasons for this are clear; 40 per cent of students were worried there would be no house for them to move into if they didn’t rent quickly, while a further 36 per cent of students were worried that best houses would be taken if they didn’t rent quickly. Ironically, the towns and cities where students feel most rushed by landlords and agents, are often those where there is actually a surplus of housing leading to increased desperation on the part of landlords or agents. In these kinds of markets, students would do much better to hold out until later in the year, when they would be likely to get a much better deal.
NUS is deeply concerned that the letting agent sector continues to be almost completely unregulated and agents are free to use increasingly aggressive marketing tactics to push students into renting too early, in some cases even paying students to give them ‘shout-outs’ in lectures. Our research indicates that last year, 20 per cent of students felt under pressure to sign a contract. Furthermore only a third of students who experienced aggressive marketing were satisfied with their accommodation later on in their tenancy.
Colum McGuire, NUS Vice President (Welfare), said:
“We have long seen a student housing industry which preys on students who are desperate to find a great place to live. Letting agents get away with the type of scare tactics and aggressive marketing which wouldn’t be legal in any other industry”
“Students are often first time renters and this type of pressure colours every subsequent experience they have of the private rented sector. They can start to feel that it’s normal to be pressurised and to have to make snap decisions about where to live. Of course this isn’t the case, and it’s far better to wait and think about where to live before committing several thousands of pounds, as well as a year of your life to a property. There is no proof that students will lose out on a decent house if they wait to rent”