Rats, mould, and a crisis: The Tab investigates over 20 per cent rent hikes for Durham students

One student reports paying £220 for a house in Gilesgate

In an investigation into the costs of student housing, The Tab recently asked Durham students for information regarding their current and future housing prospects for next year.

After weeks of seemingly endless overnight queues outside Durham’s estate agents, and the house-signing panic setting in, there are ever-growing concerns for the state of student housing in Durham, as prices hike and availability appears scarce, which the University has admitted is partially due to it accepting too many students.

We found that of those surveyed, just over a third of students had bills included in their rent for next year, leaving 63.4 per cent of students surveyed to weather the storm of ever-increasing gas and electric costs.

This year the average cost of rent without bills for those surveyed is £122 per person per week, whilst the average rent without bills for next year is £143.43 per person per week. This is an increase of over £20 per week.

As for rental agreements with bills included, the average reported cost this year is £154 per person per week, and next year this average goes up to an eye-watering £192.88 per person per week. This is an increase of nearly £40 per week. 

These figures value bills at just under £50 per person per week, compared to the average rental cost without bills. As of 1st October 2022, British Gas expects bills for a three-bedroom house to be £208.32 per month, and a five-bedroom house to be £291.08 per month. This suggests that in some cases landlords are over-charging students considerably more weeks worth of bills than are in a month and goes far beyond the rate of inflation.

A number of these students report having signed for houses with rents in excess of £200 per person per week, prices astonishing and unheard of before now. Even areas such as Neville’s Cross typically known for cheaper rental prices are included in the price hike – one student reported a price increase of 51 per cent in a house with “mould and no clear attempts at renovation”. Another student reports an increase of over £1000 for a house in Neville’s Cross next year.

Mould in a student wardrobe

The rent hikes are not a new phenomenon for just this year. Another house in the viaduct which “had rats” cost £110 per person per week for the 2021/22 academic year and has seen a sharp increase to £139 per person per week this year. This is without bills, which in the cost of living crisis will cost the student a significant amount more per week.

Another student living on Claypath, which is typically seen as a cheaper area to live in Durham City, reports that the price for their current house would have gone up by a further £10 per person per week along with all the other houses on their street if they had signed a week later. Fortunately, they re-signed their current house in week two of term, which costs them £140 per person per week this year without bills, and will cost them £159 per person per week next year, also without bills. If they had waited a week longer, this would have been an over 20% increase.

Until today, the Durham University website still advertised that students could expect to spend between £60-100 per week on rent. This web page riddled with syntax errors now redirects viewers to a page titled ‘Househunting [sic] Tips‘, and no longer gives a guideline price on what students can expect to pay.

The page also says that students can expect rental properties to be released from November, when The Tab reported estate agents releasing properties in early October this year.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Durham students left to sleep on the streets overnight to sign houses during housing crisis

15 things that are easier to do than signing a student house in Durham

• I’m a fresher and the Durham Uni housing crisis is especially frightening for us