Page 1

Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

fb

Page 0


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Contents Executive Summary Key findings Recommendations Introduction Students’ experiences of finding accommodation How do students find accommodation? How does the method of house hunting impact on students’ experiences during their tenancy? How selective are students when house hunting? How do other house hunting behaviours impact on the service students receive during their tenancy? What are students’ experiences of tenancy deposits? How are letting agents perceived during house hunting? Students’ experiences during their tenancy How satisfied is the average student tenant? Who manages students’ properties and what impact does this have on the experience of student tenants? How much do students pay for accommodation on average? Does paying a higher rent result in a better experience overall? What are the most commonly experienced problems for students? Students’ experiences after their tenancy Return of deposits Recommendations Greater regulation of those renting out properties Establish voluntary accreditation schemes as an interim measure Use publicised research to drive up standards Establish local award schemes for landlords & letting agents Improve communication to prospective student tenants Appendix A: Sussex & Brighton University Code of Standards Appendix B: Unipol Housing Code of Standards

2 2 3 5 6 6 7 7 9 9 10 11 11 12 14 15 17 17 18 18 18 18 19 19 20 21

Table of figures Figure 1: How did you find your accommodation? ........................................... 6 Figure 2: Why did you reject potential properties? ........................................... 8 Figure 3: How would you rate the person/company that manages your porperty? ........................................................................................................ 11 Figure 4: Was the service provided by your landlord satisfactory? ................ 13 Figure 5: Weekly rent costs ........................................................................... 14 Figure 6: Was your deposit returned to you? ................................................. 17

www.sussexstudent.com/rateyourlandlord

Page 1


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Executive Summary Rate Your Landlord is an annual survey looking into the experience of students living in the private rented sector in and around Brighton and Hove. This report explores students’ experiences of both before, during and after the start of their tenancies and uses the key findings to make recommendations for how positive change in the sector could be achieved.

Key findings 

Those who found their properties via StudentPad (the website advertising housing lists for both Sussex and Brighton universities) were most likely to be satisfied with the service they received during the tenancy.

Students who found their property via StudentPad were typically almost three times more likely to rate their landlord’s service as ‘very good’ compared to those who had used a letting agent.

Meeting the landlord prior to signing a tenancy agreement meant tenants were more than twice as likely to have a satisfactory experience overall.

Experiencing pressure to sign a contract meant tenants were four times less likely to have a satisfactory experience.

A third of respondents didn’t know if their deposit had been placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme1, and these were particularly likely to be international and first year students.

An average of four months’ rent was reportedly requested up front from those who were unable to provide a UK-based homeowner as guarantor although some were charged up to a year’s rent to secure their tenancy.

Respondents whose property was managed by a landlord were more than twice as likely to consider the service received ‘satisfactory’ compared to those whose properties were managed by letting agents.

According to the various satisfaction indicators used, landlords were between twice and four times as likely as letting agents to be rated ‘very good’ in relation to the various elements of their service such as helpfulness, politeness and speed of problem resolution.

The average rent paid by respondents was £85 and £89.99 per person per week, though many paid over £100. Higher rents were more common among international students and first years. Generally, students paying

1

Tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes guarantee that tenants will get their deposits back at the end of the tenancy, if they meet the terms of the tenancy agreement and do not damage the property. Landlords must protect their tenants' deposits using a TDP scheme if they have let the property on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) which started after 6 April 2007. See Directgov website for further details

Page 2


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union more for their accommodation seemed to be less satisfied with what they received for their money. 

The survey identified six key problems which students report encountering during their tenancy:      

mould and damp problems not being resolved; feeling exploited by their letting agent or landlord; a poor standard of communication on the part of the letting agent or landlord; visits from landlords, letting agents and repair workers with little notice; moving into houses which have not been cleaned adequately; and long delays between reporting repairs and getting the problem resolved.

Just over a fifth of respondents received their deposit back in full at the end of their tenancy. Many tenants who did not receive some or all of the deposit at the end of their tencancy reported not receiving an adequate explanation of why their deposit was withheld, poor inventory practices leading to difficult disputes, and landlords and letting agents not fulfilling their obligation to place the deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.

Recommendations 1) National regulation of landlords and letting agents (with particular emphasis on the latter) to ensure higher standards of rental accommodation and greater accountability to student tenants. 2) More voluntary local accreditation schemes to encourage an elevation of the standards of properties being let to students and others in the private rented sector. 3) A more prominent role for surveys such as Rate Your Landlord in the student rental market, in order to encourage competition based not simply around getting a contract signed, but also in providing a good level of service throughout the tenancy. 4) Local award schemes to be established to provide ratings for landlords and letting agents based on tenant satisfaction. 5) Further work to be done on the part of universities and Students’ Unions to ensure that students are provided with the information they need to make informed decisions and be discerning customers in the private rental market.

Page 3


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Top 5 things to do

Top 5 things to avoid

Find your property through StudentPad rather than an agency because the landlord has to abide by a code of standards.

Signing for a property when you feel under pressure.

Look out for whether landlords are signed up to any kind of code of standards.

Settling for substandard property for fear that nothing better will be available.

Always try to meet your landlord before signing a tenancy agreement.

Landlords and letting agents who do not provide a thorough and correct inventory.

Ensure that your deposit is being placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme.

Signing for a property without knowing the average rent price for the area.

Try to get your tenancy agreement  checked before signing it.

Properties with serious damp and mould problems.

If you’d like any further details about the survey or its findings, please contact the University of Sussex Students’ Union Welfare Officer - welfare@ussu.sussex.ac.uk

Page 4


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Introduction Rate Your Landlord is an annual survey conducted by the University of Sussex Students’ Union and this year, for the first time, in partnership with the University of Brighton Students’ Union. First launched in 2009, the survey aims to gather a picture of the student lettings situation in and around Brighton and Hove, and to drive up standards in the local area by encouraging competition centred around level of service to students2. Conducting the survey together with the University of Brighton Students’ Union for the first time this year, as well as working closely with the University of Sussex Housing Office resulted in a record number of respondents, with a total participation level of 638 students. While students and ‘studentification’ are often portrayed in the media as causing many problems within the local community, the survey reveals that many students feel poor practice among landlords and letting agents is a causal factor in the problems they have experienced in the private rented sector. We hope that the findings of this survey will feed into discussions on both a local and national level about what can be done to drive up standards in the private rented sector for students, and rectify many of the recurring problems highlighted by the survey results. We call for the government to implement greater regulation of landlords and letting agents to ensure that an adequate level of service can be fulfilled in all properties and that there is landlords and letting agents can be held more accountable to their tenants.

2

Following the release of this year’s survey results, the letting agent with the top satisfaction rating has already updated their website to report this. Although the rating is still much lower than would be desirable, this is an early indicator of the survey having a positive impact on the behaviours of local letting agents. It is hoped that with further work, the title of ‘top rated letting agent’ will become sought after and this competition will result in an improved level of service to students.

Page 5


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Students’ experiences of finding accommodation How do students find accommodation? Letting agents were the most commonly reported method of finding accommodation: more than twice as many students found their property in this way than the next most popular method. Many students used StudentPad, the accommodation finding service used by both universities, this is likely to be due to a high demand for the number of properties available through StudentPad, which is widely publicised to students by both the Universities and their Students’ Unions. Both the Universities and Students’ Unions advocate StudentPad as the most advisable way of seeking accommodation, as all properties listed are subject to the a code of standards based on those of Unipol3 (see Appendix A). Websites such as Gumtree were also a popular resource for finding accommodation, particularly among European Union (EU) respondents. The remaining students found their properties either through a friend, or via Facebook.

Figure 1: How did you find your accommodation?

3

Unipol is a charity which works nationally to improve training and standards in student housing – please see www.unipol.org.uk for further information

Page 6


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

How does the method of house hunting impact on students’ experiences during their tenancy? As might be expected given the thorough nature of the Code of Standards, students who found their property via StudentPad were more satisfied across the board in terms of their experience than those who secured accommodation through other sources. StudentPad landlords were more than twice as likely to be considered ‘very good’ in terms of helpfulness, politeness, availability, clarity of contract, delivery of promises and value for money. StudentPad landlords were also more than three times as likely to be considered ‘very good’ with regard to the standard and speed of repairs and problem resolution compared with those who had found their property through a letting agent. The only area where there was little difference between students who’d found their property through StudentPad and other methods was in the quality of the property. Properties found through websites such as Gumtree produced satisfaction responses lower than StudentPad properties, but higher than those secured through letting agents. In contrast, respondents who found their property through the recommendation of a friend broadly displayed a similar or higher level of satisfaction than those who had found their property through StudentPad. This indicates that satisfied students can be a powerful resource for landlords and letting agents. Overall, letting agents generated around half the proportion of students who were satisfied with the overall level of service they had received, when compared with all other methods of finding property.

How selective are students when house hunting? The most common time to sign the tenancy for a property appears to be the Spring Term: 31.5% of respondents reported signing a tenancy agreement in this period. Many students viewed large numbers of properties, with 24.5% viewing more than five before signing for one – the main reasons cited for such a long search were poor condition of property, unsuitable property, poor location and price (see Figure 2 below). Interestingly, it seems that those who looked at more properties tend to be less satisfied with their chosen property than those who looked at fewer, although the reasons for this remain unclear. 40.4% of international fee paying students did not look at any properties at all before signing, although this did not seem to have an impact on their satisfaction levels. This year 31.6% of first year students did not look at any properties prior to signing a tenancy agreement.

Page 7


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Figure 2: Why did you reject potential properties?

The high number of first years signing without viewing the property first may be a reflection of the specific situation this year in which there was a significant housing shortfall at the beginning of the academic year. At the University of Sussex, this shortfall was largely attributed to a growth in student numbers, meaning that the University was unable to accommodate a large number of new students in University managed accommodation. Due to this many students had a short window in which to find somewhere to live before starting their course of study. Many affected students were unable to come to Brighton to house hunt before starting their courses, due to living at a distance from the area, in other parts of the UK or indeed the world; and reported therefore signing for properties without viewing them, meeting the landlord, or meeting the other students they would be living with. Although there seems to be no direct correlation in the results between viewing properties and satisfaction levels – something which could possibly be partially attributed to a lack of expectation due to a lack of rental experience – many report in the ‘open comment’ sections that failing to view their property prior to moving in caused a variety of problems including houses not being as described, deposits not being placed in the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, and rents being significantly higher than those of other similar properties.

Page 8


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

How do other house hunting behaviours impact on the service students receive during their tenancy? Just under half of students met their landlord before signing their tenancy agreement, and these students were almost twice as likely to be satisfied overall than those who did not. Just over three quarters met co-tenants prior to signing. International students and first years were significantly less likely to have met either the landlord or their co-tenants and this suggests that many of those who had failed to do these things may have been affected by the housing shortfall this year. 39.6% of respondents sought a tenancy agreement check4 prior to signing it, and this did appear to result in a significant increase in satisfaction with the service they received, although to a lesser extent than meeting the landlord. It therefore appears that meeting the landlord is one of the most important behaviours to encourage prior to signing a contract. However, the most telling statistic is that students who experienced pressure to sign a contract were more than four times less likely to be satisfied overall compared with those who didn’t report experiencing any pressure. Overall, only 13.7% of those who reported having experienced pressure prior to signing their contract classed the level of service they received as ‘satisfactory.’

What are students’ experiences of tenancy deposits? There is still clearly some work to be done with regards to tenancy deposits to ensure that students know their rights: around a third of respondents were unsure if their deposit had been placed in the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. International fee paying students and first year students were less likely to be aware of the scheme, or to have received a receipt for their deposit; there may therefore be some specific work required with these groups of students to ensure awareness in this area. 72.4% of respondents were required to provide a UK based homeowner as guarantor to avoid paying larger deposits up front. It is worrying to note that the average amount of rent requested up front from those who could not provide such a guarantor was four months which, given that the average weekly rent falls in the £85 – £89.99 per week range, means that these students were generally expected to provide well in excess of £1000 in order to secure a place in a property. Some respondents reported being charged much more, including some cases where students were charged the full year’s rent up front. This practice results in many students being forced to rent with live-in landlords (who often do not require such substantial deposits) resulting in reduced choice and privacy for those students, while others may 4

These are offered by both the Students’ Union Advice and Representation Centre and the Housing Office at the University of Sussex and involve a trained professional looking through a contract prior to the student signing in order to verify that there are no unreasonable terms that the student may not have been aware of.

Page 9


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union borrow large sums of money from family and friends in order to meet these extortionate deposit requirements.

How are letting agents perceived during the house hunting process? The main comments received about letting agents prior to moving in related to: Misinformation – particularly about what furniture would be provided, what level the rent would be set at or what work would be done to the property prior to the move in date Pressure to sign – some agents using large group viewings to encourage competition, hurrying students by saying that others were interested Lack of information/contactability Rude and unhelpful behaviour Large deposits required for those without UK guarantors – some of up to a year Feeling like a captive market which was there to be exploited Little concern about health and safety – particularly damp There were no negative comments about finding accommodation through other methods and many reported high positive experiences with landlords at this stage.

Page 10


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Students’ experiences during their tenancy How satisfied is the average student tenant? The overall picture of students’ experiences was very varied, with some evidently being very satisfied with the level of service received, and others clearly extremely dissatisfied. The area which in which landlords and letting agents seem to be most significantly underperforming was ‘speed of problem resolution’, for which just under a third of letting agents and landlords were rated ‘very poor’. Cost of agency fees (for those who had had to pay them) were also most likely to be deemed ‘very poor’ out of the areas of service listed. While satisfaction in other areas appeared to be slightly better, none of the areas of service were considered to be either ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’ by much more than half of all respondents. This result was confirmed by the overall satisfaction question, to which just under half of all respondents answered positively that the service they received was satisfactory. This was also the case with regard to delivery of promises, where 46.3% felt that their landlord or letting agent had delivered on promises they made.

Figure 3: How would you rate the person/company that manages your porperty?

While the overall statistics of students’ experiences are helpful in understanding where the primary concerns of students lie, this broad-brush approach can obscure many of the factors that lead to different students

Page 11


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union having different experiences; the rest of this section will explore some of these factors further.

Who manages students’ properties and what impact does this have on the experience of student tenants? Although more respondents found their property through a letting agent than any other method, properties were most commonly managed by a landlord (56.1% of responses), with letting agents managing a smaller proportion (37.9%). This can be explained by the fact that 27% of properties found through a letting agent were reportedly managed by a landlord on a day-today basis. There were also a small group of respondents whose property was managed by their University – this represented only 3.4% of respondents as this survey was not primarily aimed at this demographic, but rather focused on the private rented sector outside of the University’s jurisdiction. The differences in satisfaction levels between those whose properties were managed by a letting agent and those which were managed by a landlord was stark with landlords outperforming letting agents in all areas of their management service. In comparison with letting agents, landlords are:          

Almost four times more likely to be considered ‘very good’ in the area of helpfulness Almost three times more likely to be considered ‘very good’ in terms of their politeness Almost three times more likely to be considered ‘very good’ for availability and ease of contact Almost four times more likely to be considered ‘very good’ for the clarity of the contracts they provide More than twice as likely more be considered to have provided a ‘very good’ quality property More than three times more likely to be considered ‘very good’ for the speed of problem resolution such as repairs and complaints More than twice as likely to be considered ‘very good’ in terms of the standard of repairs More than twice as likely to be perceived to have delivered on promises More than twice as likely to be considered to have provided good value for money More than twice as likely to be considered satisfactory overall in terms of their service

These results show that across the board, private landlords provided a significantly better service than their letting agent counterparts. A significant factor in this is likely to be the fact that many landlords were found through StudentPad, and are therefore signed up to a code of standards which ensures an adequate level of service for students. This is demonstrated by Figure 4 which illustrates satisfaction with landlord-managed property, broken down by method of house hunting. Respondents who found their landlordPage 12


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union managed property through StudentPad were almost twice as likely to answer that the service provided to them was satisfactory compared with those who found their accommodation through a letting agent. This higher level of satisfaction is reflected elsewhere in the survey, with StudentPad landlords receiving much higher ratings across the board than landlords found through other means, generally being rated ‘very good’ between twice and four times as much as landlords found through letting agents.

Figure 4: Was the service provided by your landlord satisfactory?

This clearly demonstrates the positive impact of the Code of Standards (which all StudentPad properties have to adhere to) on the experience of students living in the private rented sector. This positive impact highlights the need for greater regulation of all those letting property in the private rented sector, and particularly for letting agents as the evidence suggests that this is where much of the poor practice is currently occurring. Although there was a very small sample size (just 3.4% of overall respondents), University managed accommodation received positive reviews, with the results generally falling in a similar range to those properties managed by private landlords. However, the Universities were significantly more likely to be considered to have delivered on promises with 82.4% of respondents feeling that this was the case. There was also a marginally lower proportion of respondents who felt that University managed accommodation provided value for money when compared with those renting from landlords.

Page 13


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

How much do students pay for accommodation on average? Does paying a higher rent result in a better experience overall? The average rent both in terms of both mean and mode fell between £85 £89.99; however, the results showed a wide variety of rents, with some paying under £70 a week and a significant number spending over £100 a week. Given these high weekly rents, it is perhaps not surprising that only 34.4% of respondents felt that their landlord or letting agent provided good value for money. There are some very interesting demographic trends within this data – particularly with regard to international students. While only 5.9% of UK students paid over £100 per week, 30.3% of EU students and 36.4% of nonEU international students paid rents in this range. Interestingly, these groups of students were also significantly more likely to pay rents in the very low range of under £70 per week, with 11.4% of non-EU students and 6.1% of EU students falling into this bracket, compared with just 3.5% of home students. This appears to suggest that while some international students are willing to pay a lot for accommodation, conversely many may be unable to afford expensive accommodation. This may be due to the fact that 71% of international students are at least partially self-funded.5

What is your weekly rent per person?

4.5% 5.0%

0%

10%

12.2%

22.3%

20%

Under £70 per week £90 - £94.99 per week

30%

22.8%

40%

£70 - £74.99 per week £95 - £99.99 per week

50%

18.2%

60%

£75 - £79.99 per week £100 and over per week

70%

£80 - £84.99 per week

3.7%

80%

UKCISA/Unipol Managing Accommodation for International Students: A Handbook for Practitioners, p. 8

Page 14

90%

£85 - £89.99 per week

Figure 5: Weekly rent costs

5

11.3%

100%


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union Another interesting demographic trend with regard to rent levels was the differences in rents paid by students in different years of study. First year students appear to be significantly more likely to have paid over £100 per week, (24.3% of this year group paid rents in this range), compared with 8% of second year, and just 2.7% of third year students. There may be a variety of reasons for this, including this year’s housing shortage leaving many new students without accommodation shortly before the start of their course. The resultant flood of the rental market at a time where very few properties were available is likely to have pushed up rents due to the scarcity of supply and heavy influx of demand. Lack of awareness of what an average rent should be may also be a key factor for both international and first year students, as they are more likely to be renting in the UK for the first time and therefore may not have a sufficient idea of average rent levels to ensure that they are seeking property in an appropriate price range. In addition, University is often the first experience of living away from home for many first year students, and a resulting lack of budgeting experience may also be a key factor. In terms of the impact of the level of rent on students’ overall experience, there are some interesting findings that can be drawn from the survey – there seems to be an inverse correlation between the level of rent paid and the level of satisfaction. While 66.7% of students paying under £70 per week felt that they had received a satisfactory level of service, only 53.3% of those paying £100 or over felt that this was the case for them. This difference is more pronounced in other areas of their experience, with those paying £100+ around half as likely to feel that the speed of problem resolution and the helpfulness of their landlord or letting agent was ‘very good’ when compared to those paying under £70 per week. Unsurprisingly, those paying under £70 per week were almost twice as likely to feel that they had received good value for money compared with those paying £100 and above. It is not clear whether this difference in satisfaction levels stems from higher expectations among those paying more, or exploitatively overpriced accommodation managed by disreputable landlords and agents.

What are the most commonly experienced problems for students? From the ‘open comment’ sections, we have established the following as the key problems faced by students during their tenancies: Mould and damp – Many students reported having moved into properties with a pre-existing mould or damp problem which whoever managed the property either failed to resolve or blamed the tenants for. Many also reported being given dehumidifiers as a solution to the problem, this ‘solution’ often failed to be effective and cost the student significantly in terms of electricity usage. This is a significant health and safety issue and many reported having associated health problems due to the damp in their accommodation.

Page 15


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union Feeling exploited – Many students reported feeling that despite paying what they perceive to be extortionate levels of rent, the market conditions means that they were forced to rent property of a poor standard and receive inadequate service from their landlord or letting agent (though this complaint relates largely to the latter). This leaves many feeling that agents in particular have taken advantage of students as a ‘captive market’, there to be exploited through increasing rents and decreasing standards. Many also expressed feeling that when they came to look for their first privately rented property, their naivety was exploited – this was particularly the case for students starting at University this year as insurance or clearing candidates who had a lack of experience of the private rented sector. Once into the tenancy, some reported having to ask their parents to contact the agents on their behalf as they felt that they would not take them, as students, seriously. Poor standards of communication – Again, these comments largely related to letting agents who were deemed to either fail to provide adequate information, be uncontactable or slow to respond, or to be rude and unwilling to help. Some respondents reported delays of several weeks between making initial contact about an issue and receiving a response of any sort. Lack of notice given for landlord/repair visits – Several respondents reported being expected to let the agent or landlord enter the property with little or no prior contact, as well as visits for maintenance works being carried out without notifying the tenants in advance. This is in contravention of the Landlords and Tenants Act 1985 which states that 24 hours prior notice should always be given. Houses being handed over without being cleaned – There were a variety of comments which stated that when tenants had moved into their property the landlord or letting agent had failed to have it cleaned. Tenants had often been informed that a thorough clean would be happening prior to them moving in. Length of time taken to carry out repairs – Many reported a long lag time for repairs to be done, with some fairly urgent repairs such as broken boilers during winter months taking several weeks to be dealt with. Some respondents reported that they had to make contact with the letting agent or landlord repeatedly before anything was done to resolve the situation.

Page 16


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Students’ experiences after their tenancy Return of deposits Of those respondents whose tenancy had come to an end, only 24% had their deposit returned to them in full, while another 57% had it partially refunded and 19% did not receive any back at all. Was your deposit returned to you?

19% 24%

Yes Partially No

57%

Figure 6: Was your deposit returned to you?

Of those who had part or all of their deposit withheld, only 30% felt that they had received a reasonable explanation of why this was. Some reported not having received any explanation at all; others claimed to have been charged for problems which had existed prior to them moving in, and therefore felt that they were being expected to leave the property in a better condition than they had found it. Only 24% of those for whom part or all of their deposit was disputed had used a Deposit Dispute Resolution Service6 – of this small sample, a third found it helpful. Just 19.3% of those who had some of all of their deposit returned felt that this had occurred promptly, with many reporting being compelled to chase the landlord or agent for the return of their deposit for several weeks, often leaving them with cash flow problems. Some reported problems with the inventory leading to deposit disputes, where the landlord claimed for items already damaged before the tenant moved in. 6

These help to resolve any disputes about the allocation of a deposit arising at the end of the tenancy.

Page 17


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Recommendations On the basis of these findings, we have a number of specific recommendations to improve the experiences of students living in the private rented sector. Such improvement would not only be beneficial for students themselves, but would additionally result in a positive impact on local community cohesion.

Greater regulation of those renting out properties Given that private landlords appear to be providing a far superior service than letting agents in the local area, which can arguably be attributed to the large number of these landlords are found through StudentPad (and therefore subject to a Code of Standards based on those of Unipol), we recommend that there be greater regulation of all those renting out property privately in order to elevate standards in the sector and ensure consistency of service to tenants. As long as accreditation and adherence to key principles of minimum standards of service are voluntary, students and others renting privately will continue to be a ‘captive market’, and where demand exceeds supply, landlords - and particularly letting agents - will continue to be able to provide students with substandard service with little practical recourse for tenants.

Establish voluntary accreditation schemes as an interim measure As an interim measure before full, national implementation of a regulatory scheme, we recommend that local councils establish voluntary accreditation schemes and that these are widely publicised to students and the wider population in order to enable house hunters to be more discerning, making more informed choices about who to rent from.

Use publicised research to drive up standards Greater use of surveys such as Rate Your Landlord could serve to generate competition based on tenant satisfaction throughout the tenancy, as opposed to the current situation where the only thing that appears to matter to many letting agents is getting a contract signed. This skewed focus arguably results in aggressive marketing tactics and high levels of dissatisfaction among students. Students are often seen to be a transient community, and it appears that letting agents and landlords feel that providing an inadequate service to students once their tenancy has begun will have little impact on their future success and profitability. Greater use of satisfaction surveys and better publicity of the results could help to produce a culture change in this area.

Page 18


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Establish local award schemes for landlords & letting agents Together with accreditation schemes and publicised research, a local award scheme for landlords and letting agents could be established based on tenant satisfaction in addition to accreditation based on adherence to a minimum level of service standard.

Improve communication to prospective student tenants Clearly there is a need for improved communication to prospective student tenants regarding what to look for and what to expect in terms of rent prices, standards of property and accreditation schemes; and an additional need to build awareness of the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. This seems to apply particularly to international students and first year students, who are less likely than other student groups to have sufficient awareness of these issues prior to looking for accommodation. It is vital that universities and Students’ Unions help to enable all students to make informed decisions when seeking accommodation, in order to ensure that students have satisfactory experiences during their tenancy – this is evident from the first section of this report, illustrating that students’ habits in finding accommodation have a significant impact on their experiences later on in the tenancy. Encouraging students to be more discerning customers is also likely to help drive up standards among landlords and letting agents.

Page 19


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Appendix A: Sussex & Brighton University Housing Code of Standards The Code of Standards is used by both Sussex and Brighton Universities. It is based upon the Unipol Code of Standards (see Appendix B) and is a voluntary accreditation scheme which requires landlords to adhere to various principles and duties in addition to the minimum legal requirements. The key requirements of the code are: 

Current landlord/home owner Gas Safety Record (required by law and when registering)

Domestic Electrical Installation Periodic Inspection Report (required when registering)

An Energy Performance Certificate (required by law and when registering)

A Code of Standards declaration listing applicable properties (required when registering)

House in Multiple Occupation Licence (HMO) where applicable. Please check with your local authority

Adherence to the equal opportunities policy

Deposits registered with deposit protection scheme (if assured shorthold tenancies)

Furnishings that comply with the Furniture and Furnishing (fire safety) Regulations 1988

A fire blanket and fire door in the kitchen

Carbon monoxide detectors for each gas appliance if in different rooms

Gas appliances to be checked annually

A minimum of one smoke detector on each floor, in the lounge and a heat sensor in the kitchen which must all be interlinked mains powered Grade D

All locks should be to British Standard with a thumb turn release on all external doors

Locks to windows in basements and ground floors with keys available

Adherence to repairs and maintenance guidelines

Copies of tenancy agreements provided to students

An inventory

A rent book if your tenant pays weekly

HHSRS risk assessment for nonlicensed premises.

For further details, please see www.sussex.ac.uk/residentialservices

Page 20


Rate Your Landlord 2011 – University of Sussex Students’ Union

Appendix B: Unipol Housing Code of Standards The Unipol Code of Standards is a national accreditation scheme for shared student housing in the private rented sector. The scheme is approved by many universities and Students’ Unions. The key areas which the Code of Standards addresses are described as: 

clearly written, reasonable terms with no catches and no hidden costs, given in advance of signing a contract

a guarantee of no demands for deposits or rent before signing up

a guaranteed opportunity to view properties

a copy of all agreements to be supplied to tenants by the owner

accommodation facilities and furniture to meet a set standard of comfortable living and study needs

safe energy supply and safe accommodation which permits hygienic maintenance

the owners' undertaking to get reported repair work done quickly and efficiently

set rules, notified in writing to tenants, for issuing receipts, for ending tenancies and for gaining access to do maintenance inspections

the owner's commitment to courteous, professional dealings without racist, sexist or other prejudice

framework for dealing with complaints and resolving disputes

a starred standard for a higher amenity level

For further details please see www.unipol.org.uk/Leeds/COS/

Page 21

Rate Your Landlord 2011 Report  

Rate Your Landlord is an annual survey looking into the experience of students living in the private rented sector in and around Brighton an...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you