New research from Mojo Mortgages has found that students in Manchester and a number of other UK cities are paying higher than market price for their housing, with prices being inflated by agencies who rent properties either exclusively or mostly to students.
A comparison of prices on popular house pricing websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla with prices quoted by student letting agencies for the same properties found wide disparities in pricing in a majority of major university cities, with Exeter, Norwich, and Newcastle the worst offenders.
Mojo Mortgages looked specifically at 30 different four-bed properties in each of the cities surveyed and found there to be a difference of at least £10 per person per month between the online Rightmove price and the quoted price from a student lettings agency.
Manchester found itself on the upper end of the spectrum, with an average £17 increase by student lettings agencies, which in the context of a four-bed house would amount to £816 over the course of the year. With a house of four being somewhat less than the usual size of most student houses, with many colossal ten-bed properties on offer around Fallowfield, the figure of £816 would be much less than what most students can realistically expect to be overpaying during a year of study.
Other nearby cities such as Leeds and Nottingham made an appearance just above Manchester on the list, with average rent increases of £49 and £27 per person per month respectively. Liverpool and Sheffield appear right at the bottom of the list, with students in these cities paying a few pounds under the quoted Rightmove prices. Rounding off the bottom of the list was Bristol, where student house prices sit at a remarkable £40 per person per month below online prices.
Mojo Mortgages also included data on the outright most expensive student areas based on average rent per person per month, with Manchester falling just outside the top ten with an average cost of £390.50. Lancaster was the most expensive city in the North West with an average cost of £406. Liverpool, Leeds, and Sheffield all appeared below Manchester.
The data released by Mojo Mortgages earlier this month should come as no real surprise for Manchester’s students, many of whom struggle with finding affordable housing that meets all of their needs. A second year student currently living in Fallowfield, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Mancunion: “We had to buy our own microwave and kettle, and they only just put a table in the kitchen.” This house costs £105 a week, including full summer rent and a substantial deposit.
Another second year Fallowfield student described house prices in the area as “generally too high”, highlighting the exploitation common with including bills in a property’s rent. “Landlords are aware that students are not knowledgeable in how to organise bills and how much they should cost, so they often do them as an inclusive price which is more than they will actually spend on bills, so make profit.”
While it can be argued that the extra fees would cover the convenience of not having to manage bills between students, the attitude of maximum profits many landlords seem to have comes at the expense of financially-stretched students, many of whom already take a great financial risk in coming to university in the first place and have to get part-time jobs to support their studies.
Students are ill-equipped to tackle the full scale of housing issues presented to them so early in their university lives. As soon as two months into their first year, there exits immense pressure to not only find a fair, affordable house to live in but also a whole group of people to populate it with. This social pressure only adds to the panic of wanting to secure the perfect house, and makes the barrage of new information, subtle fees, and lengthy contracts incredibly overwhelming for students who find themselves at the mercy of lettings agencies. With Mojo Mortgages’ research highlighting the exploitative raising of rent, the question of accountability must be raised.
There is definitely a sense of impermanence that helps support exploitative rent practices, as most students have just two years of rented housing in their time as a student, meaning there is little incentive for landlords to retain tenants due to high demand. Students find it easy to change their housing situation for something more favourable in their third year, but that doesn’t negate the thousands paid to a dishonest letting agency in the meantime.
Information is certainly out there in the form of Facebook groups denouncing certain landlords and university-approved landlords from Manchester Student Homes, but these are all too easy to miss for freshers eager to live out their Fresh Meat-inspired student fantasies and have somewhere other than the green walls of Oak House to display their proud collection of event posters.
A University spokesperson said: “Manchester Student Homes runs a number of accreditation schemes for student landlords. To be part of our scheme, landlords and accommodation providers must commit to a high standard of property and tenant management, and we use feedback to ensure we only promote accredited landlords to our students.
“If problems do arise at any stage of the searching or letting process – from disrepair to deposit disputes – Manchester Student Homes can help students, and conduct open and transparent investigations when code complaints are made. Students are advised to source their accommodation through our accredited providers.”
More information can be found on Students’ Union Advice Service website.