Durham landlords make special offers to students as 1,300 beds remain on the market

By and

Rent has risen dramatically in Durham over the past few years. In 2021, the most common price bracket of properties on StuRents in October was £120-140 pppw. In 2022, it was £140-159. In October 2023, the most common price bracket was £180-199. However, Palatinate analysis of StuRents suggests that the unaffordability of rent is starting to affect the market, with a higher number of properties still remaining to sign for 2024/25.

In February, the most common pricing bracket is £160-179, compared to £180-199 in October. The last months have also seen agencies such as Loc8me and JW Wood reducing the prices of their properties or offering special offers if students sign fast. 

The last few years have been characterised by an early rush for housing. For example, according to previous reporting, on 31st January 2022, only 68 properties were left on StuRents. The amount of accommodation still on the market this year is far higher. On 16th February 2024, StuRents advertised 334 properties remaining for 2024/25: suggesting around 1367 rooms are still available in Durham. 

Loc8me, one of Durham’s biggest student landlords, sent an email last week advertising properties with a £10 pppw price decrease, and offering students free Netflix and Deliveroo Gold for signing with them. They were also offering free burritos from Zaps for students who came to their New Elvet office. However, out of the four properties they advertised, the average price was still £173.50 pppw after the price reduction. A week later, Loc8me sent an email to its mailing list advertising that the prices for two of their refurbished properties had been reduced.

“We’re excited to announce that we’ve reduced the prices on two of our refurb properties!” the email stated, “It’s our way of making life a little easier and more affordable for you during your studies.” Both properties are now £160 pppw excluding bills. Loc8me did not respond to Palatinate’s request for comment. The letting agents has drastically increased their rents in recent years. For example, one Loc8me house – 2 Ferens Close in Claypath – has increased in price by 52% over the past three years. For the 2021/2022 academic year, Loc8me charged £126ppw. For the 2024/2025 academic year, the price is £189ppw: a 50% increase within just three years. 

On Tuesday 20th February, they advertised on their office window 63 Gilesgate as their “House of the Week”. This property is advertised as £169 pppw without bills. 

“Sign up for sweet incentives!” was also written on the window of Loc8me’s office. 

JW Wood has also been offering time-limited cashback offers on their properties. 

For example, on one 6 bedroom student house in Gilesgate, priced at £169 pppw without bills, StuRents offered cashback of £300 if tenants could pay their deposit, sign their tenancy and return Guarantor forms by 19th December 2023. On 24th January, a JW Wood property, a 6 bedroom house on Hawthorn Terrace in the Viaduct, charging £155 pppw without bills was advertising an £1000 cashback incentive if students paid the deposit, and signed the tenancy agreement and the guarantor forms by 19th January 2024. 

This cashback offer has now been removed from the listing. At the end of January, another house in Allergate, charging £165 pppw with no bills, was offering a £1000 cashback deal with the same terms.

JW Wood told Palatinate, in response to asking why they had increased their prices this year despite fewer students at Durham, “Our pricing reflects current market rates and we have let over 80% of our student portfolio.” 

“We understand that last year the University was oversubscribed, which caused increased pressure to secure properties quickly. We have also been made aware that the University and Student Union have both been advising first-year students to wait until the end of January before making a decision.” 

“These both will have had an effect on the rate of property applications.” 

JW Wood increased the price of many of its properties by 40% or more. For example, 60 Claypath cost £120ppw for the 2023/2024 academic year, but will be £180ppw for the next academic year. 8 Old Elvet cost £140pppw for this academic year, but will cost £200ppw for next year. 16A Church Street is rising from £140ppw to £201.92ppw, while 11a North Road is increasing from £115pppw this year to £165pppw next year. 

One private landlord who had advertised their property on a Facebook group popular with Durham students, Overheard, dropped the price of their Viaduct property from £202 pppw in October, to £170 pppw, and then again to £154 pppw. They did not respond to Palatinate’s request for comment as to why they had had to drop the price of their property. 

One Durham student Cyrus told Palatinate that they hadn’t secured a house next year yet, as “many of them are out of budget” They said that they were looking for a later housing release, or contemplating living in Newcastle next year, due to rent increases. 

One final year student said that “The housing crisis in Durham is the reason I have decided not to do a masters. It is also why I was unable to apply for the sabbatical role of Team Durham President, which was my original plan going into the year. I don’t believe that I would be able to find affordable accommodation with suitable housemates from March onwards, and wasn’t willing to take the risk to sign earlier.” 

“The housing crisis in Durham is the reason I have decided not to do a masters”

Matt from ‘Get My Deposit Back’, has been holding talks at Durham colleges, advising on them on how to navigate the housing market. Talking to Palatinate, he said that the recent offers and price reductions seen, are “a sign that the market is working,” however, “I wouldn’t say that there’s too much housing. The market has been completely overheated, there has been this complete ramping up of rent.” 

He also said: “From a landlord’s view, their worst nightmare is that the property is unoccupied, as well as getting no rent, they will have to pay the council tax, they might havea gas and electricity supply, there are many other costs that the landlord faces. I can imagine that they are worried.”

“I was hearing plenty of students who were looking at Framwellgate, and looking at commuting into Durham and then missing out on the college experience of sports and stuff – but that is what many will have to do.

“A lot of landlords may have shot themselves in the foot this year. 

“It doesn’t mean that the housing crisis has been sorted. I would be worried about that becoming the dominant message here because rent is a huge proportion of students’ outgoings. 

“This is not a sign that the crisis is over, but I think it is a good sign that the market is working. It doesn’t stop the panic next year. I really hope that firm solutions are put into place, so that the panic of the last two years does not take place again. 

“It’s putting students in a stronger position, even if that cashback offer has gone, if there is a property that you’re interested in, you’re in a position to negotiate. If the rent’s coming down, and you still can’t quite afford it: negotiate. And if the landlord is really worried about this, it may well be accepted, it doesn’t hurt to try. And yes, I think it shows that there is a bit more market power coming back to students.” 

Durham Tenants’ Union told Palatinate: “Even if students are signing later this year than last year, which very well may be true, this should not be seen in anyway as a metric of success on the part of estate agents or the University. Landlordism is fueled by exploitation and an imbalance of power in order to make profit, and therefore it is no surprise that landlords will try and use these sorts of cash-back schemes (and other similar measures) to try and overcome the cost barrier to renting that many students face, a cost barrier the landlords themselves impose. 

“Rents remain high, conditions remain poor, and estate agents offering ‘cash-back’ to sign earlier should not be seen as a victory, it should be used as motivation to push for an actually materially better deal for student renters.” 

Under their new Housing Hub campaign, Durham University has been telling students, “There’s enough student housing in Durham to meet demand so you don’t need to rush in before you’ve settled in.” However, some estate agents – who did not sign Durham’s new code of conduct asking agents to refrain from putting “undue pressure” on students to sign – offered students special offers to sign early, despite at least 1367 rooms still being available on the private rental market in February. 

“This is not a sign that the crisis is over, but I think it is a good sign that the market is working”

Matt, ‘Get My Deposit Back’

Student Cribs, who manage 62 properties in Durham, have a yearly “Rent Release Competition” where students can sign up for “exclusive early access” to yearly rents, and also offer a £1500 cash giveaway. 

One day into Michaelmas Term, Student Cribs also texted those on their mailing list asking them to “beat the queue and book a viewing”.

According to their website, all Student Cribs properties have been signed for the upcoming academic year. They did not respond to Palatinate’s request for comment, and they have also not signed up to Durham’s Student Lettings Code of Practice – a new initiative from Durham University, which has agents agree to “in all cases, working sympathetically and collaboratively with students to help them move their application forward without putting undue pressure on them.” JW Wood and Loc8me also did not sign the new agreement.

Image: Nigel Gresley

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