Newcastle students are living with mould in their houses and it’s completely unacceptable

Estate agents are threatening to withhold deposits from students who are living in homes with black mould

For some reason, people see “students” and “adults” as different – and this is reflected in how students are treated. Young people are reporting that they’re being routinely ignored and treated with disregard, just because they chose to study for a higher education. This is particularly exercised in how students are being treated with regard to renting property in Newcastle.

We spoke to students living across Newcastle who are suffering from horrific damp and mould in their student houses and who have been given little to no support from their landlords and estate agents. Many students are simply left out to dry by the same individuals who rushed them into signing contracts and handed them keys to homes which are absolutely unfit for living in. One of the most common complaints was from students who had been promised a resolution but have been ignored for weeks at a time and believe their landlords are holding off until they give up trying or eventually move out at the end of the academic year. It is absolutely unacceptable.

Esme, a second year student at Newcastle University, told The Tab of her struggles of solving issues of damp through their landlord. She said: “We’ve been in contact with our landlord who is very much aware of how bad it is. When we first moved it he gave us a dehumidifier and £20 for the running cost of it. However, there’s three of us and we all have the damp in our rooms.

“We had to tell him how bad it was getting about five times before he sent someone to put sealant around only one of the bedroom windows. He decided it was due to the windows without even seeing the damp, which doesn’t make sense as there’s damp everywhere, including the bathroom which doesn’t have windows. He never looked at any of the other rooms in the house.”

“He has done something but it is very much bare minimum and hasn’t sorted the problem at all because it’s causing black mould to appear. Everyone in my house has been ill numerous times since moving here because of the damp and mould. I’ve contacted him a few times since regarding other problems in the house and there’s yet to be a response.”

A third year Newcastle University student said told us of their struggles in trying to solve a leak through their letting agents. They asked to be anonymous in fear of their landlord’s reaction. They said: “There’s been an ongoing issue with damp in our property since we moved in last year and they gave us a dehumidifier for the room to help with the mould.

“There’s a leak in the roof that they were meant to fix in September and they didn’t. It rained more and the water came through the roof again. I came back from work and my ceiling and walls had water on them and they just said they’d send a roofer when it stopped raining.”

They added: “A few days later they took the dehumidifier back while I was out because they decided we weren’t using it. Two weeks past so I asked them what was happening and they said it would be back soon, then finally brought one round.”

When asked whether they felt they had any support in tackling issues in their property, they said: “There’s not really any support and they definitely don’t take it seriously. I had to chase the dehumidifier up multiple times and the leak was meant to be fixed in September and it’s now December”.

Multiple students have been told that household mould is their fault and have had little support in finding a resolution. Some have turned to the council for help but have found their letting agents are stalling, all the while leaving them in inadmissible living conditions.

An architecture masters student, who requested to be anonymous, told The Tab: “We originally reported the damp issues to the agency and supplied photographs of the evidence. Soon after moving in this September we had painters come round and repaint the bathroom. They did an awful job and just tried to paint over the damp patches.

“Within a couple of weeks the paint was already flaking and peeling off and damp patches have soaked through. One bedroom wall next to the window is completely saturated and the walls beneath the bay window are wet to touch. Excessive mould has been forming on the walls and on her clothes in the wardrobe. It’s absolutely awful!”

“We had a damp specialist turn up as well as a very senior member of the agency team. All the walls were checked and we were then told that almost all the damp and mould issues were our fault for not having the heating on long enough and if the damp and mould was to get any worse then we as the tenants would be held liable for any damages to the property.

“My flatmate made them aware we already had the heating on in the property and no amount of domestic heating could get rid of the damp as it was pre-existing when we moved in and from external breaches in the walls. Architecture is quite an intense course so we’re usually out of the house most days between 9am and 6:30pm, so it’s hard to grasp paying for all this heating when we’re not even there. They said we would need to have the heating on for minimum of 6 hours a day which is something we can not afford to do.

“At this point the matter has been left with a loose threat of us being charged for the damp that is not due to our negligence. If anything we are doing our upmost to prevent and limit its spread, we have increased the hours of our heating as much as financially possible and that is becoming a stretch. We have also got a dehumidifier which runs for hours throughout the day. We are worried that things will get worse over the Christmas holidays when we return home and are not there to monitor and manage the situation. I feel awful for my flatmate as she is the one living in this room which can not be good for her health and well-being.”

We also spoke to Northumbria University student, who again preferred to remain nameless as they worried that their landlord might be angered by their comments and make their living circumstances even more hostile than they currently are.

We asked about their living conditions, to which they said: “We reported the damp three months ago and that never got resolved. Now it’s at the point where it’s so bad and my bedroom has no windows that open.

“I work in an estate agents part time so I know problems that come up and how to resolve them however certain estate agents clearly just push these problems under the carpet. There are ways to deal with these things and a lot of students really don’t get the support they need from their landlords or estate agents.

“It’s down to communication at the end of the day and being able to give the support when needed.”

A second year student at Newcastle University had a similar experience, feeling that they hadn’t been taken seriously at all by their estate agents. They said: “We have had contractors round to assess the situation and are waiting on work to be done, however it has been a few weeks.

“It feels as though we have not been taken seriously at all and that the estate agents have tried to keep us quiet. We have been promised a lot from the estate agent but they have continually failed to deliver on their promises.”

A final year masters student at Newcastle University who encountered problems with damp in their property last year told us of their situation and how it was resolved. They also wanted to remain anonymous, in fear that their complaints over their inhabitable living conditions last year may affect their current tenancy agreement in their new property with the same letting agents.

They said: “I had mould appear at the start of my tenancy and kept raising it with my estate agent. They just kept saying we had to heat and ventilate the house properly and it was a tenant issue to “wash it off”.

“I definitely didn’t feel like I was taken seriously and I had no idea what to do! We ended up just cleaning it ourselves every day and living with it which resulted in me having horrendous migraines the entire year. At the end of the tenancy they even tried to take some of out deposit off us because of mould damage!”

Some students reported that “we’re doing our absolute best to document and make the landlord and estate agents aware of the issue and doing everything we can to help but I feel like they don’t want to accept the problem”. Many students also told us their worries of losing their deposits or facing extra charges after being blamed for allowing the damp to get worse, including a student who has mushrooms growing out of his window ledge.

With the country in the midst of a cost of living crisis, the negligence of landlords and letting agents towards students living in Newcastle is astounding. The death of Awaab Ishak sparked national conversation about conditions in public housing, yet students are yet another demographic who have literally been left high and dry by landlords and letting agents alike.

If you are currently struggling with housing issues, you can seek help via NUSU here, or via NSU here.

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