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How To Spot a Bad Student Letting Agent or Landlord
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How To Spot a Bad Student Letting Agent or Landlord

Written by Sam | December 6, 2020

There are many student letting agents, landlords, and accommodation providers out there. They range from big companies to individuals who have invested in a student house as part of their pension and letting agents who invest in student accommodation because it is their business.

For clarification, I am including purpose-built student accommodation under student landlords. For the difference, please see this article

What Makes a Bad Student Letting Agent or Landlord

Firstly, a bad landlord or letting agent is a business or person that does something consistently wrong. As humans we can all make mistakes, properties are bound to need repairs at some point, however, the focus needs to be on what the business or person can do and influence and not what they can’t.

An example of this would be getting a water leak, they can prevent it by using quality products but it is likely to happen at some point. What really matters is the way the way the respond to the water leak.

Another point would be there service, at some point something in the system is likely to go wrong, we can’t all be perfect, it is how we react and prevent this actions from happening.

What makes a bad landlord or letting agent for me:

  • Poor service – This can sometimes be a perception but as a general rule they offer consistently good service. This is check-in, inspection, deposits, and contract signings.
  • Poor communication – Not keeping students in the loop. Today it is easier than ever, it can be trickier with lots of students and you can’t go granular with everyone, but just a WhatsApp or call can go a long way.
  • Repair times – If they are always long, even for emergency repairs. Make sure they stick to the given times.
  • Poor quality student accommodation – They have access to exactly the same materials and tradespersons as those who offer good quality student accommodation. This is a matter of choice and cost.
  • Deposits – This can be perception but those who consistently withhold deposits and take a long time to return them. You can check the percentage of returned deposits for an agency or landlord.
  • Too pushy – When selling a property they are literally forcing you to sign there and then. This shouldn’t be the case. Being sold to isn’t a bad thing, it happens everywhere, but being forced shouldn’t be a thing.

How Do You Spot a Bad Letting Agent or Landlord

When searching for student accommodation, it all starts with researching the landlords and letting agents in your area.

The university will have a list of ‘accredited’ (meaning they pay in to a scheme) landlords and letting agents. As you search please remember that some of the landlords who offer a fantastic service won’t show up on the first page because the big companies will target that heavily.

To start get a list of the letting agents and landlords that look like they have good student accommodation in the area, you can search Google, Facebook and ask your friends at university.

Secondly, go on to all their websites and look at what properties they have, write them down or save them in your browser and focus on the items that are valuable to you for example, location, amount of beds, price, en-suite or anything else.

Thirdly, if you can go and view these properties, more and more will have virtual tours, but these are a stop gap for not being able to physically view. By physically viewing them you can see the quality, room size, layout and furnishings of the accommodation.

By following these steps you will see the weed out the bad landlords and letting agents. For example at each step of the way you might find:

  • No contact numbers
  • Slow communications
  • Poor customer service
  • Out of date virtual tours
  • Poor quality student accommodation when viewing
  • Bad reviews
  • Bad rumours from friends
  • Out of date information
  • Bad furnishings
  • Being hassled to sign
  • Information no lining up
  • High rents or deposits and low return rate

What To Do If You Spot One Of These Signs

If you spot one of these signs this shouldn’t put you off automatically, but it depends on the severity of the sign. If it’s a terrible house, then I would personally view another and if that was the same, then I wouldn’t be using them.

If it is a slow communication but it does improve, then I would just note it and test it because the last thing you want when you need a repair is radio silence.

This is why booking a viewing is good because you can see the process, how efficient it is and what their service is like. If all of that is bad, then you don’t need to see the house. The accommodation only makes up part of the experience, the rest is made up by the service.

What To Do If You Are With a Bad Landlord or Letting Agent

At the start everything can be really good, it can seem like it’s all perfect and then all of a sudden the truth comes out, and then you don’t know what to do. I liken this situation to an interview, everyone is keen, eager, willing, and wanting to do their best, but after a few months, it can be very different.

I’m not a specialist in terms of rights, laws or anything legal, however, some tips that I have learned and seen might help.

  • Might seem obvious but seek help, try Citizens Advice or the Local Council if it is the quality of the accommodation.
  • Read your contract, this will detail the particulars and it might give you a way out if either you or the landlord are holding up your end of the bargain.
  • You can try the university or the Students Union, however, they aren’t well versed in law, however, they might manage the scheme the landlord opts in to and may give you some leverage.

This should then lead to the next steps. Please do not take to social media and start to slander the company, business or person. This can come back to haunt you for many reasons. Wait for everything to be settled and done and then you can leave an honest review of your experience or just simply not recommend them when someone asks.

Summary

To spot the signs of a bad student letting agent or landlord, you will need to do the research, go on viewings and test out their communications and processes. This doesn’t need to be drawn out and can take a week for all of it.

If you can, always go and view the student accommodation, this will give you the truth of the quality of the accommodation.

If you need guidance on how to search for your second year student accommodation then please use this article.

Discover. Trust. Review.