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Students must take responsibility for housing problems

Students must accept some of the blame for their housing woes

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A survey conducted by Nouse last week confirmed what we all know - students and their landlords have a tumultuous relationship.

Thirty-six per cent of students at the University of York believe they are currently not receiving value for money, which is not all that surprising when you consider that 23 per cent have experienced vermin, infestation, or both.

Thirty-four per cent would judge the level of mould in their house to be excessive and one in five have not been provided with everything their contract promised. But this isn't the whole story. We are all guilty of getting too comfortable in these borrowed houses.

Both students and agencies are at fault and each situation needs a fresh assessment. Not all houses from a certain agency are going to be biohazards because the one two doors down is. Nor will every student respect their house to the same degree.

The findings of the Nouse survey are certainly suggestive of an exploitive relationship.

Letting agencies know that freshers are naive and that they will eagerly jump at the chance to keep living with their new found family. The others are already hooked into the system, likely to stay with that company because all the others seem just as bad and there might be a discount on the admin fee in exchange for loyalty.

This is not to say that we are entirely blameless. There are plenty of steps we could take to protect ourselves. We would not let a relationship of this nature to continue in other situations - so why do we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of?

Part of the reason is an ignorance of the letting system. I doubt that before university many people had first hand dealings with letting agencies or estate agents.

Looking back, I'm shocked how little I knew when I signed up. Admittedly it was all a whirlwind - a space came up and I jumped at the chance to live with people who weren't my current housemates.

In any other situation, I would have taken time to educate myself on how to get a decent house and the things to look for. Learning more about the process before entering into a pretty serious commitment sounds logical.

Students are not left to fend for themselves at York. The Accommodation Services advertise properties which come from agencies complying with their code of best practice. Furthermore, their website outlines what is expected of the student as a tenant, and what we should expect of the letting agencies. However, clearly not all the properties are maintained to the highest standards.

Mould is a reoccuring issue, something which both parties certainly should take the blame for. Both property owners and letting agencies have a responsibility to keep their properties safe. Students have to keep the growth at bay.

Opening windows might sound like a simple solution, but they seem to have forgotten we live in York and it's not all sunshine up here.

My bathroom doesn't even have a window. Black mould has been slowly invading the woodwork, walls and shower since we moved in last July. Ventilation is impossible, removing it does not solve the problem and if we did not take proper care of the bathroom, I would not be suprised if someone got ill eventually.

How this dispute is going to eventually be resolved I do not know, but I do know I am not willing to let the agency take advatnage of my urgent need to return south once I've graduated in a few weeks.

Some might say that some of the dissatisfied students only have themselves to blame - they didn't educate themselves in the letting process, then they trashed the house and are frustrated that their Mum can't clean up after them.

The Nouse survey found that 15 per cent of students had already been fined this year, and 44 per cent did not receive their full deposit back last year. Some of these fines must be justified - the agencies are not a total con.

I'm sure the frequency with which 'How to clean sick out of a carpet?' is Googled is alarming (especially on a Thursday morning). The people who ask this question need to sort themselves out. I sympathise with the agencies who have to clean out their houses at the end of the year; they must go home with some real horror stories.

As a student body we are too quick to demand we are looked after - ask yourself, have you been as well behaved in your house as you could have been this year?

The University do make efforts to protect us, but we are big enough to look after ourselves. Take care of the house, the letting agency will take care of you and what's more, the experience will eventually improve for students in years to come

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