‘We lived on a building site for most of the year’: Second-years tell of their accommodation hell
A representative for Sulets said the issues were ‘certainly out of the ordinary’
Sulets are a student accommodation agency and non-profit charity, owned by DMU and UoL student’s unions. According to their website they aim to “raise standards in accommodation” and to be “honest, transparent and fair in our actions and to enhance the student experience”. With this in mind, this article will depict and describe the experiences of one group of students over the past year and further aims to serve as a warning to students against the “only agency recommended by Leicester and De Montfort University”.
The five tenants of number two Lorne Road filed an initial inventory one month prior to their move-in date, detailing all the cleaning and repairs they wished to be carried out. Upon moving in in September, no changes had been made to the house and the first formal complaint of many was launched.
In an attempt to resolve the issues with Sulets, the house asked for an apology and the acceptance of the refusal to pay the final instalment of rent, equating to £550 per person. The tenants received no response to this.
In a meeting in April 2016, Sulets offered the group two and a half weeks of rent as compensation, which was refused. The pictures below prove this to be a fair and wise decision.
From the beginning of the tenancy, there was water leaking from an upstairs bathroom into electrical sockets on the walls of the floor below. In addition to this, a faulty fire alarm was left beeping for a week before someone came to fix the wiring – showing that the property had not been inspected before the new tenants moved in.
A contractor who works for Sulets said “he would not let his children live in the property”.
Sulets made promises to provide adequate furniture e.g. office chairs, desks, dining chairs and bed frames as well as a “deep clean”. However, the house was furnished with broken chairs, a broken freezer, and in one bathroom, a porta-shower/caravan shower. There was also mould covering multiple walls of the house and the oven can be seen below.
Having a makeshift and highly inadequate shower would be bad enough for any student, but the broken locks on all the bathroom doors made matters worse. Such damage to a property is easily surveyed and fixed and this oversight by Sulets shows continued lack of care for living standards and contractual agreements by the agency.
Work on the property continued slowly and to an unsatisfying standard throughout the whole tenancy. The house were left with one broken shower and one leaking shower until well after the Christmas break. When contractors did finally begin work on the various issues, they carelessly threw the tenants possessions into hallways and into the broken toilet. The constant in and out of workmen caused a break on the already fragile front door and the disruption of constant and loud work was an undesirable disruption to university work, as well as causing a lack of privacy and comfort in their own home.
Dangerous work tools were left callously around the house, adding to the poor standard of living and the overall despair of the living conditions of these five students.
The Sulets employer who was in charge of the case sarcastically told the tenants that “repairs do take a while”. This was after promises that repairs would only take two weeks turned into months and months of living in conditions not fit for human inhabitation.
The students were left living in a dangerous tip and work site for the most part of the year. The portable caravan shower can be seen in the picture above, filthy and far below the standard anyone would hope to shower in.
The leaking toilet, which was left in a state of disrepair for months, led to an overflow of sewage across the hallway and into adjoining rooms. Despite constant complaints and urges by the tenants to SULETS, there was never any haste shown when working to right the wrongs of the house. Throughout the whole ordeal the group sought advice from the Legal Advice Clinic within the Law Department at the university of Leicester, the Environmental Health Agency and the Property Redress Scheme (the latter of which is now the body dealing with the complaint).
Sulets’ Marketing Manager, Ian Blackmore, responded:
“The issues at Lorne Road were certainly out of the ordinary and not a reflection of the experience students are likely to have when they come to Sulets.
“The work that was required to take place at the property included the replacement of two bathrooms after a leak was discovered and the landlord spent around £6,000 on this. This is something which was very much above and beyond the usual ‘maintenance’ service provided by Sulets.
“A contractor was appointed to undertake the specified work, however, due to both the dissatisfaction of the tenant and ourselves, we will not be using said contractor again in the future. Compensation was given to all parties involved for their inconvenience as a gesture of good will. Sulets takes complaints from our tenants very seriously, as a not-for profit organisation, the comfort and happiness of our tenants is very important to us. This is reflected in the National Student Housing Survey Quality Mark which awarded to us this year after we achieved greater than 90% satisfaction.
“Given that this agency states itself to be recommended by both DMU and UoL and is run by both student’s unions, the complete and utter lack of concern for students’ living conditions presented above is wholly unacceptable. This article aims only to serve as a warning to prospective tenants of SULETS and wishes to share the experiences of one group of students who have suffered a stressful and quite frankly disgusting ordeal during their second year of university.”
Promises were made by SULETS prior to the signing of the contract and the moving-in date that all repairs would be completed and that the house would be given a “deep clean”. These contractual agreements were not fulfilled and this breach of contract could lead to serious consequences as the case passes through the Property Redress Scheme.