Revealed: The Biggest Student Housing Problems in the UK

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Did you think you found the ideal student accommodation, but later discovered problems like damp and mould, security concerns, and unexpected deposit cuts? Don't worry; you're not the only one.

Choosing a place to call home for the next academic year is fraught with barriers – from finding your flatmates, to organising viewings. It’s no wonder students often forget to consider the problems they could face after moving in.

Here!, we believe all student housing should be of the highest quality, but our research revealed this isn’t the case. According to our survey of UK students, 99% experience at least one major mishap while living in an HMO shared house. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re Fighting for a Fair Deal For Students by taking the guesswork out of your student housing search. Explore our stats, resources, and tools to make you the savviest student renter around.

Read on to discover the biggest student housing problems in the UK:

Splitting bills

Bills are not just boring, they can also be a source of friction when it comes to working out who owes what in a house share. 

If you’ve ever found yourself squabbling with your housemates over turning the heating on or taking too long in the shower, you’re not alone. Our survey revealed that 43% of UK students struggle to split bills harmoniously.

This issue isn’t one with a quick fix – when you live in an HMO, utility bills fluctuate depending on your energy usage. Keeping track can be difficult, especially as house-share properties often don’t have smart meters fitted.

Falling out with your flatmates is one thing you don’t want on your mind while you’re focussing on studying hard and having the time of your life. Some house-share groups even set up a separate bank account to pay their bills from – an admin-heavy task when student tenancies tend to be short.

Keep your finances as simple and fuss-free as possible by avoiding surprise costs. Our guide to dodging hidden housing fees is your best friend when it comes to budgeting and keeping the peace.

Did you know? All-inclusive student accommodation is the perfect way to keep a grip your budget. Here!, all your utility bills and rent are covered under one handy payment, so you don’t have to worry about monthly fluctuations. That means less time squabbling with your flatmates, and more time enjoying uni.

Damp and mould

Shockingly, we found that 42% of students suffer damp or mould in their shared student house at some point in their studies. This is despite laws that make landlords responsible for preventing damp caused by structural defects to their property.

In some cases, damp is the responsibility of the student tenant, often due to a lack of knowledge of the causes. If this is the case, the issue is easily fixed by opening windows while cooking or showering, turning on ventilation fans, and heating the property properly in the winter. Avoid hanging clothes up to dry around your HMO house as this can increase the humidity – instead, try a local laundrette.

If you feel damp was present before you moved into your house share, the conditions are not improving after taking these measures, or the property does not have adequate ventilation measures fitted – contact your landlord. They may be legally required to make repairs to bring the conditions of the property up to scratch.

So, where in the UK are you most likely to find mouldy student housing?

Hull is the UK’s mould capital – with 67% of students from the city reported experiencing it in their shared housing. This is closely followed by Nottingham, Bristol, and Newcastle.

The best way to avoid damp and mould building up in your house share is to spot it before moving in. Consult our viewing checklist so you know what to look out for.

Did you know? Moulds damage our health by producing irritants, allergens, and in some cases toxic substances. These can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and respiratory illness. If you’re worried about the impacts of living with mould, consult advice from the NHS.

Lack of security

Safety is on the minds of many parents sending their (grown-up) kids off to uni, whether it’s for their first year or their third.

But how valid are parents’ worries? 

Our survey revealed that over one-third of UK students feel that their HMO property lacks adequate security measures

Lack of security in student housing can have very real consequences. People aged 16-24 years old are more likely to be burgled than any other age group, according to ONS statistics.

Here are some preventative measures to decrease your risk of being a victim of theft in a student house share:

  • Prepare for house parties – Parties easily get out of control and the guest list can expand from close friends to virtual strangers. Make sure to lock up and conceal your valuables, and keep the action to common areas like the kitchen and living room.
  • Lock up – It may sound obvious, but locking up all windows and doors when you enter or leave your house share can be harder than it sounds with multiple students living under the same roof. Getting into a routine of good security is essential.
  • Bedroom locks – Shared student houses are often social spaces by nature, with a range of people coming and going. As exciting as that may be, it also increases the chances of your valuables going missing. Putting a lock on your bedroom door may seem extreme, but it can give you peace of mind.
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Preventative measures aside, theft can happen to anyone. The best way to protect your belongings is with student contents insurance which covers any loss or damage if your HMO gets broken into. Take a look at our guide to finding the best contents insurance for you.

Did you know? 7% of UK students have been burgled, according to data collected in 2022 by Save the Student.

Landlords ignoring calls

When you have a problem with your shared house, be it a toilet that won’t flush or a major hot water disaster, your landlord is your first port of call to find a solution.

Unfortunately, not all landlords are as responsive as they should be. This can leave student tenants living without heating, light, or other essentials while they wait for repairs and maintenance. 

In our survey, 30% of UK students said their HMO landlord had ignored their calls to address issues with their housing situation.

According to Citizen’s Advice, landlords are required to carry out repairs in ‘reasonable time’. This flexible phrasing leaves some leeway as to how fast repairs will be completed once you report them. Unanswered calls can prevent you from reporting the problem, extending repair and maintenance times even further.

Students’ success with maintaining a good landlord relationship varies from city to city. Newcastle and Hull students were the least likely to have their calls ignored in our survey. Nottingham respondents fell on the other end of the spectrum. In fact, a whopping three-quarters of students in the city struggled to get a response from their HMO landlord.

Did you know? Your landlord is responsible for most major repairs when you rent privately. This includes plumbing, electrics, gas, the structural integrity of the building, and heating. Check out Citizen’s Advice for more details on how to get the repairs you need when renting from a private landlord.

Landlord withholding deposits

An HMO tenancy deposit is usually the value of around 4 to 6 weeks’ rent, paid at the start of your tenancy as a guarantee to the landlord that you will look after the property. 

If you or your housemates cause damage, fail to keep up with your rent payments, or leave the property in need of professional cleaning, your landlord has the right to deduct money from your deposit to make up for any losses.

From house parties to general mishaps, there are bound to be a few chips in the paint by the time you move out of your HMO house share.

It’s worth bearing in mind that your landlord shouldn’t deduct money for normal wear and tear. This refers to gradual damage that is hard to avoid, such as:

  • Wear and dirt on carpets
  • Faded curtains and soft furnishings
  • Scratches and discolouration to countertops
  • Scuffs on wooden floors
  • Chipped or cracked paint
  • Loose or worn fixtures such as handles and hinges

In our UK student survey, 23% of respondents said they had their deposit withheld at the end of their tenancy – whether fairly or unfairly. Losing your deposit is not only a headache, but it could also put you in a tough financial position when it comes to starting a new tenancy.

To avoid incurring unfair deductions, keep a record of photos from the day you moved in and the day you moved out showing the conditions of your house share in detail. If your landlord raises a complaint about any of the conditions you leave behind, you’ll have evidence to dispute if you feel you’re not to blame.

Wise up to the details of your tenancy agreement with our handy guide.

Did you know? If you have an assured shorthold tenancy,  your landlord must place your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme. This protects your money as it is held by an independent third party that handles any disputes or deductions fairly. 

Ready to avoid HMO house shares altogether?

After all the issues revealed in our research, we weren’t surprised that 85% of UK students consider, or have considered alternative accommodation options to house-sharing. 

HMO properties are far from the only student living option. 56% were considering managed student accommodation providers, while 52% were weighing up the benefits of living at home with family while they study.

At Here! Student Living, we believe current and prospective students should have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions about housing

We’re fighting for a fair deal for students. Discover what the most common accommodation issues are, learn how to get more savvy when dealing with private landlords, and share your student rental horror stories. Find out more.