Exclusive: ‘It is unsurprising in an education system that continues to treat students like cash cows,’ University and College Union leader says
A university union said the findings – seen by The Independent – were “disgraceful” but “unsurprising”.
Eighty-seven per cent of respondents have lived somewhere that could be classed as “unfit for habitation” under The Homes Act 2018, the poll by Stint, a student study app, has suggested.
More than 40 per cent of student participants said they had lived somewhere with mould or damp, according to the survey conducted between mid and late August.
When it came to a broken door or window, nearly half said they had experienced this.
Just under 20 per cent of those polled had lived in a property with a broken smoke alarm.
“It is disgraceful that so many students have been forced to live in accommodation that this government’s own legislation would consider unfit for habitation,” Jo Grady from the University and College Union (UCU) said.
“It is however, unsurprising in an education system that continues to treat students like cash cows, such as during the last academic year when many were forced to either pay for accommodation they could not use or were trapped on campus after being promised a normal university experience.”
The UCU general secretary added: “After all the recent disruption caused by the government’s poor handling of the pandemic, students deserve better.”
Many universities waived rent payments or offered some form of refunds for students prevented from returning to university accommodation due to lockdown earlier this year.
But those renting in the private sector – who are estimated to make up most of the student population – were reliant on their landlord’s decisions.
A survey in 2018 by the National Union for Students found 40 per cent of privately renting UK students lived with damp and mould on their walls, while 20 per cent reported issues with vermin or insect infestation.
The government says The Homes Act 2018 was introduced to make sure rented homes and properties – which it covers – are “safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm”.
Problems including gas safety risks, damp or fire safety issues could make a property unfit to live in, according to the housing charity Shelter.
A government spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable for anyone to live in unsafe accommodation – we expect students to enjoy a decent standard of living and for university accommodation policies to be fair and transparent.
“We have announced major reforms to support tenants that will provide greater redress for residents, better regulation and better quality homes.”