The NUS welfare chief says student living standards are “appalling” and universities should do more to improve access to acceptable housing.
Eva Crossan Jory, vice president welfare at the National Union of Students, said education providers had a “role to play” to better the accommodation provision for poorer students.
The comments came as the NUS launched its Homes Fit for Study 2019 report, which claims four in 10 students who rent privately live in hazardous properties, with damp, mould and pests topping the list of complaints, as well as electrical and gas safety concerns.
More than a third of the respondents said their properties were responsible for feelings of anxiety or depression, with 17% claiming it had exacerbated an existing health problem and 12% saying it had brought about a new health complaint.
Half of student renters are paying more than three-quarters of their monthly income on a home. Fewer than two-thirds said they had been provided with the appropriate paperwork to prove their deposit was safely protected.
Education providers have a role to play in ensuring that students from low income backgrounds can access decent affordable housing
Crossan Jory said: “Students are living in appalling circumstances, in some of the worst housing stock in the country. For too long, they have been taken advantage of by bad landlords who rely on students not knowing their rights, or what to expect, when they rent their first home. Living in damp and dangerous properties is not a right of passage for students coming to college or university.
“We are calling for better enforcement of the law to protect tenants’ rights, because it’s no use educating tenants about their rights if landlords aren’t forced to improve standards.
“Education providers have a role to play in ensuring that students from low income backgrounds in particular can access decent affordable housing – widening participation isn’t just about offering bursaries or scholarships, it about ensuring students aren’t held back by over-priced sub-standard accommodation and the knock-on impact it has on their health and ability to study.”
The survey had 2,237 respondents. The total number of students in higher education stood at 2,343,095 in 2017/18, according to HESA statistics.