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Published article in The Nottingham Trent University Newspaper, 'The Platform'

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Published article in The Nottingham Trent University Newspaper, 'The Platform'
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Published article in 'That's Life' magazine

HOW RELIABLE IS YOUR LANDLORD?

HOW RELIABLE IS YOUR LANDLORD? Imagine yourself miles from home in a strange town, you’ve worked hard to make a few friends, settle into your studies, find out about how to pay your way and manage to be on time for lectures. After a harrowing day, you return to your digs to find the heating not working, a leaking tap, and a smell of burning in the electric cupboard of your rented house, all on the first day of moving in. This is a scenario, which can and does happen, perhaps not all at once, but very frequently.

A recent questionnaire asked students living in rented property about their landlords. It reveals that when encountering problems, the majority of students claim the landlord took a long time to respond. The survey’s aim was to find out just how reliable student landlords actually are. “Our landlord,” quoted one student, “lives a fair distance from us, is disorganised and seems unbothered about any problems we’ve had.” Problems for the student remained unresolved for several weeks.

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May 2005

Problems included burglar alarms going off randomly, ovens breaking, showers leaking and even mains electric boxes melting! A student claimed that it took two days before their landlord came to look at their faulty oven, but that he never fails to turn up on the first of every month for the rent.

One landlord stated he ensures his properties are “checked thoroughly before students move in” and has as many as thirty-nine properties, spending at least ninety thousand pounds on renovating each one. Before students sign the contract, he checks if they’re happy with everything on it, asking if there is anything else they require. In the past, he says students have requested, “double beds, new washing machines and televisions” and to ensure the satisfaction of his tenants, he agreed to some of their requests.

One landlord interviewed claimed the majority of his students were untidy, especially a group of four boys. They failed to clean the property as regularly as he would have liked. They wouldn’t vacuum, and left dirty dishes stacked up on the kitchen sides for weeks. Consequently, this led to vermin scratching around in kitchen cupboards, and the landlord having to call out the Local Authorities to get rid of them! It was only when the boys encountered mice a second time and the landlord started them at least once a week, that the boys decided to reform their ways and keep the property tidier. Since the boys weren’t actually doing any damage, or withholding rent, the landlord wasn’t allowed to evict them.

Another landlord complained that after his students had left the property, there were marks on the walls, a door had been punched in and the microwave and fridge were not in working order. Neighbours complained about noise levels and it was only after the landlord threatened to throw them all out that they stopped. Each of his tenants had signed an Inventory Agreement before moving in but the landlord figured there wasn’t any point in pursuing the students for the damage, as it was cheaper to pay himself.

A West Bridgford resident stated she had to wait months for a window replacement and a shower to be fixed. Most students living in West Bridgeford claim the amount they pay for their property doesn’t match with the overall condition of it. a student living with three others in Radford believes the rent is “too high.”

Other Radford students said it took “four months for the property to get to the standard that it’s at now,” claiming the toilet is “still blocked to this day.” It is only recently that the kitchen, bathroom and general décor have been completed with just months before this academic year comes to an end.

A group of students in Clifton stated they had to use a broom to remove their washing from the washing machine because it was giving them what they thought were static shocks. When they rang their landlord, he said he had too many other properties to see to and that he would come as soon as he could. Considering he lived nearby in Clifton, he was expected to come out straightaway.

They phoned him a second time but he simply instructed them to get a workman to diagnose the problem. On ringing a plumbing company, the customer service insisted they should get their landlord to replace the washing machine immediately. They weren’t getting just static shocks, but minor electric shocks. A week later, the landlord exchanged the washing machine. Their contract, signed and dated by their landlord before they moved into the property, stated that the landlord “agrees with the Tenants to keep the Property in a fit and proper condition and [to] carry out repairs as necessary within a reasonable time during the tenancy.” The washing machine was obviously a danger and the finer points of the contract were originally ignored!

Students in West Bridgford were experiencing ineffective heating because their radiators needing bleeding. After ringing the landlord several times, he turned up a week and a half later. On arrival, he realised he’d forgotten the radiator key. He returned half an hour later, then realised he’d forgotten his glasses. Being short-sighted, he relied on the students to inform him where the main power switch was so that he could isolate the heating system. He then began bleeding the radiators. Just as he was about to leave, there was the sound of gushing water upstairs. Finding the radiator leaking with water, the landlord, in a panic, tried to stop the leak with the key. Failing to do so, he then went out to get someone to help, leaving the students to attend to the crisis on their own.

“We had to hold buckets underneath the brown water that was spraying out the leak for at least half an hour,” said the flustered students.

One of the girls placed Blu Tack over the leak, which stopped the flow temporarily. They covered all the electrical appliances with towels and switched off the mains. They tried tightening the leak with the key as the landlord had done before he left, but unlike him, managed to do so. After fifteen minutes, the landlord returned, red-faced and helpless. Seeing the students had succeeded, he looked slightly embarrassed. Fortunately the television and CD player were in working order once they had dried out the next day!

The landlords interviewed claimed they have the interests of their tenants at heart. However, according to the majority of students questioned, landlords have so many properties, they don’t have time to look after their tenants properly or resolve the various crises that arise.

So with the questionnaire showing evidence of more negative than positive accounts about the way landlords deal with their tenants, why aren’t landlords fulfilling their role properly? Letting out student houses is a moneymaking scheme. It seems landlords aren’t qualified enough in what they’re doing, the way a landlord dealt with a radiator leak being a prime example. Landlords seem keen to call round for rent and if a tenant is late with it, the landlord is guaranteed to complain. However, if there’s a washing machine or an oven with an electrical fault, they stall with what would be the straightforward solutions to student safety.