Students face increasing rents in houses advertised for the next academic year.
Many student houses are being advertised for significantly greater rents than last year. One home from Bill Free Homes, in Claypath, was £130 pppw last academic year, but is advertised for £145 for the next year. Another, let by Hope Estates in the Viaduct, faced more substantial increases. In 2021/22, the house cost £130 pppw, an increase of £5 from the previous year. But it is advertised for £150 pppw for the 2022/23 academic year.
Data collected by Palatinate shows that on the 26th October, the median rent price of houses was between £120- 140 per person per week (pppw), with just 15 houses costing less than £80 pppw, though this had increased to 27 on 4th November. More than 42% of houses cost over £140pppw.
One Bill Free Homes house in Gilesgate, was £93 pppw in 2019/20. For the next academic year it is £118 pppw. The deposit for the house also increased, from £320 per person to £590. A Harrington’s house in the Elvet area was £129 in 2020/21, and advertised for £149 for next year.
Students were aware many houses had increased their rents this year. Tansy Adam explained how it felt like landlords were taking advantage of increasing numbers of students in order to put their prices up.
Emma Clarke noted that living in college is also very expensive, so is not a good option for many students. The cost of a single room with a shared bathroom in college is currently set at £7,724 per year.
Bill Free Homes confirmed that rental prices had risen this year. “Rents have increased this year but then inflation is at 4% and the cost of wages and building materials are soaring also. One bigger factor is gas prices.
“I am sure that no one likes cost increases of any sort, but without them houses cannot be heated or repaired effectively. I am deeply sorry that gas prices have risen as they have but it is not our fault.”
Bill Free Homes expressed: “We are a commercial operation, and have to balance the demands of our clients (landlords) and our customers (students).”
One landlord Palatinate spoke to confirmed that prices had increased, and say that while there are multiple factors, including the pandemic, Brexit, and increased gas and electricity bills, “the shortage of houses in Durham City Centre is also the major [reason] why they’re getting increased”.
The landlord also indicated that they thought the problem might be spreading throughout Durham. “In certain areas of Durham, you aren’t allowed to have any more student properties.”
“I think that’s probably the reason why house prices in the likes of Gilesgate and the surrounding areas are going up.”
The Durham housing market has historically struggled to accommodate for the expansion of the University and the student body. Last year, the SU Welfare and Liberations Officer Ewan Swift re-launched the “Take Time to Sign” campaign, with the aim of educating Durham students about the housing situation and delaying the rate at which freshers sign houses.
Durham agents have historically used signposts and adverts stressing the importance of finding housing quickly to encourage students to sign early on in the year. Last year, the SU spoke out against this practise, arguing that “landlords and letting agents use those particular messages to create a sense of panic that the number of houses in Durham is much smaller than it is.
“Letting agents are often under enormous pressure from the landlords whose houses they are signing on behalf to get the properties signed as soon as possible, but it’s definitely true that more housing appears on the market from January onwards.”
A survey conducted by the SU in 2019 reinforced the existence of pressure on students to sign houses early, with responses including: “Sorting housing for next year was extremely stressful. There is a huge amount of pressure to sign a house early.”
41.1% of students felt that this pressure to sign early was driven by other students. A large number of other respondents selected “multiple factors, such as other students, uncomfortable marketing techniques and pressure from landlords or agents”, as also contributing to this culture of pressure.
Students often face challenges with privately rented housing. In surveys conducted by the SU in 2019, it was found that 21% of landlords or agents had entered students’ properties without prior notice. This is a breach of their rights as tenants under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Another 22 respondents said they felt threatened or harassed by their landlord or agent.
There were also complaints about estate agents, with a student commenting that “dealing with the estate agent has been difficult”, and they had found them “inflexible” as “they often ignore my emails and requests for issues with the property.” Another student commented that their estate agent had been “rude and treated me as though I was a nuisance.”
Image by Mark Norton