Following the new Scottish laws which ended fixed-term rentals, many students in St Andrews have felt frustration with the treatment by their letting agencies, including issues with rent.
The laws, enacted on 1 December 2017, ended the previous way students rented in St Andrews, enabling students to decide the end date of their lease, rather than committing to 11- or 12-month leases unnecessary for a nine-month academic year.
ESTATE AGENTS IN ST ANDREWS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR TENANTS BY OVERCHARGING AND USING LEGAL LOOPHOLES
One of the predicted benefits of the new law was that it would lower student expenses since they would no longer be forced into paying year-long leases and could cut down on three months of rent.
However, it seems this is not the case. To avoid losing money, many landlords have changed leases to start in the summer or raised rent prices.
Additionally, many students feel that letting agents will take any opportunity to extort money from them.
Alexandra Holker, a third-year art history student, felt that “estate agents in St Andrews take advantage of their tenants by overcharging and by using legal loopholes.”
Many students must pay deposits for houses and flats for the following academic year weeks before leases are made available. One student, who did not wish to be named, confirmed having to pay over £1000 to Rollos for a two-person flat for the following academic year, despite not having signed any kind of form or agreement.
Letting agencies, including Stonehouse Lettings, have recently begun to charge between £24 and £30 for references, something which did not occur until this renting season.
Another issue affecting students each year is the unwillingness of letting agents to make any provisions for students returning from years abroad, despite the huge number of students that decide to study or work abroad each year.
Lara Marcuccilli, a third-year modern languages student, is currently working in Spain and has been dealing with difficulties from renting agencies.
Ms Marcuccilli said, “While a few estate agents were helpful to me, the majority seemed to have the most impossible process for renting if you are a student currently on a year abroad – from refusing to email their list to insisting on me viewing the flat.”
Another student, also working in Spain, told The Saint, “It’s really frustrating that I’m not in St Andrews to do the traditional flat hunt that every-one embarks on at this time. This adds another level of stress to an already stressful period of time. Alongside the uncertainty of everything at the moment, it makes me feel a bit lost.”
Though some students have chosen to rent through private landlords for the greater simplicity and more personal experience than a letting agency, students currently renting through private landlords have dealt with similar issues as the students renting with letting agencies.
One student, wishing to remain anonymous, recounted her issue with the raising of rent due to the new fixed-rate tenancy law.
Wishing to keep their same place next year, she and her four housemates were informed on 1 February that their rent was to be increased by 20 percent, an extra £100 per person per month.
She told The Saint, “I feel an added financial strain as someone who works during the term and over the holiday periods to support herself. I feel that the rise in all rent prices that I have seen is putting self-sufficient students at more of a disadvantage than ever before. The landlords and letting agents in these cases do not appreciate the fact that we are still people and students, many of whom support themselves financially.”
She also felt pressure since she is currently working abroad and got the notice of rent late in the process, not-ing she did not have the option to look for a new flat as most of the lists had been released early February.
One second-year student renting with a private landlord said that her housemates were asked to pay the entire year’s rent upfront before they had moved in, reducing one of her housemates to tears over the phone.
A third-year student complained that since she moved into her flat in January, many appliances have not been working, including a light that hasn’t been fixed for almost a month. She feels that big-name letting agencies are able to take advantage of students through methods like these.
The rise in all rent prices is putting self-sufficient students at more of a disadvantage
She said, “Having experienced living in a flat with Stonehouse, they could be rude and slow, but we could always speak to someone else about our issues and eventually it would be sorted. However, with a private landlord, they have total control over the situation, and if they don’t want to do anything about it, then that’s it.”
In Rector Srdja Popovic’s manifesto, he states that his aims are not only to ensure students have access to affordable accommodation, but also to improve the standards and quality of student housing.
He proposes creating a comprehensive list of landlords in St Andrews, and allowing students to “rate and review landlords in terms of services provided and cost of rent.”