Landlords and letting agents of student accommodation are putting their tenants’ lives at risk by failing to fix serious safety hazards, according to new research by a safety charity.
Electrical Safety First has discovered that a worrying number of landlords and letting agents ignore safety concerns reported to them, leaving their student tenants vulnerable to electric shocks, electrical fires and even electrocution.
Research commissioned by the charity suggests that 37% of landlords and letting agents failed to fix exposed wiring when reported, 35% never rectified damp, condensation or flooding around the electrics, whilst 30% left issues with scorching around sockets and light fittings unresolved.
“These figures are unacceptable,” said Emma Apter, head of communications at Electrical Safety First. “Students should not have to compromise on safety, but these worrying figures suggest that poor landlord practice is putting lives at risk.”
An unresolved electrical hazard is something that Matthew, a student in Oxford, is unfortunately all too familiar with. After moving into a rented property, he was alarmed to discover exposed wiring where a wall socket should have been in one of the bedrooms.
Matthew reported the potentially lethal hazard to his letting agent and found that they were reluctant to take action. “I couldn't believe how negligent letting agents could be when it came to this kind of thing. It took me many conversations over several days to convince the agent to get it fixed.”
“Cases like Matthew’s emphasise the unnecessary and dangerous situations that students are being exposed to by landlord and letting agent negligence,” said Apter. “Nobody should have their life put at risk because a landlord refuses to make a repair.
“There are of course cultural stereotypes surrounding student accommodation, but our message to students is this: you do not have to accept living in substandard or dangerous accommodation. Inform your landlord or letting agent straight away if any hazards arise and if they fail to act then your local authority is there to assist.”
Shelly Asquith, National Union of Students welfare officer, said: “Students should be able to focus on studying and enjoying their educational experience instead of worrying about whether turning on a light switch or plugging in a toaster could kill them.
“This prioritising of profit over safety is just another example of how students across the country are being taken for a ride by greedy housing providers.”