Although a firmly established ‘student town’, students in Brighton face difficulties when it comes to renting. There is a shortage of affordable and liveable student housing, juxtaposing the abundance of student letting agencies listing old, damp and frequently unsanitary homes on their books. This, combined with the rising number of students, points towards increasing figures of rent, without the corresponding increase in standards of living. Although this and the issue of damp remains prevalent within all properties in Brighton, student homes are notoriously ill kept by both students, and the landlord or agency. Students are known to leave dirty properties to fester all year, and letting agents mirror this mind-set, so do not adequately prepare houses for the next tenants, presuming that they will treat the property in the same way as the previous tenants. This back-and-forth has created a situation in which the large majority of student homes are run down.
The difficulty in this is that students are restricted to renting student properties only. So this cycle is difficult to break. Most of the properties available to students are owned by various estate agencies across Brighton and Hove, although some are owned by private landlords.
The University of Brighton sets the average cost of renting a student house at £110-£145 per week (The University of Brighton). This is a huge proportion of a student’s average budget. And what exactly are students getting for their money?
I spoke to a few current and previous students of Sussex and Brighton about their experiences with renting student accommodation:
Luke, 23, a recent graduate from the University of Sussex, told me about his experience renting a property in Bevendean in second year:
“As students in the area, we would be blamed for everything, Any disturbance, any issue. When seagulls got into the bins, our neighbours blamed us, and the landlord backed them up. Even when we left the property, money was taken from our deposit for things that were broken when we moved in. And there was such a lack of organisation in the agency we were with, we would have several people from the office calling up and asking us the same questions – despite already answering them.”
Sarah, a 22 year old ex-student, told me of her experiences with a student property on Lewes Road:
“When we moved in, we discovered the property had a rat problem, and had had for some time. Our estate agents wanted very little to do with the problem, and even denied their own knowledge of the pest issue – despite the old trays of poison the exterminator later found. We were lucky enough to have an incredibly helpful landlady who helped us deal with the problem that the agency had dismissed, but not all students are. When the rats died, we had infestations of flies, which, again, our agency told us was out of their hands.”
Meghan, 20 and a current student at the University of Sussex, said:
“the agency I dealt with in my second year were completely unprofessional, they had a blasé attitude about all the problems we had within the house, and took money from our deposit without doing any repairs to the house. They believed as we were ‘ignorant’ students we would take it on the chin. However, after months of arguing I decided they were not worth my time. I am now far more cautious in regards to who I am renting with.”
Of course, students, on average, are not the cleanest, or tidiest, of people, and there are plenty of landlords and agencies that have witnessed their properties being destroyed by their student tenants. But this expectation is used to justify students experiences like Luke, Sarah and Meghan’s.
And what can students do to avoid experiences like these? For new students, the web of housing can be hard to navigate around. With many of the large agencies in Brighton receiving mixed reviews, it can be easy for a new student to be sucked in with a bad agency. Both the University’s of Brighton and Sussex recommend WhichPad, an online estate agents directory, with reviews by other students. The universities also offer to read through any housing contracts with students before they sign. Besides this, new students are left to fend for themselves in the daunting Brighton student housing market.
But, at least we have the beach.