Written by Jenny Li

(The following article reflects the writer’s own, personal experiences and opinions.)

In my search for accommodation for first year, I came across a building linked to a well-known student accommodation property management company in Leicester. I found the perfect studio room, with a decently sized bathroom, double bed and a washing/dryer machine in the room as well as, many other features. This is just the standard studio room. I paid my deposit of £300 and signed the contract. The price was relatively cheap compared to other studio accommodations in the area at the time, the price of £147/week, 48 weeks contract and I was on a monthly payment scheme which meant I was paying £641.45/month.

I moved in around late August/ early September 2019 and during the first term it was a comfortable place to stay. I’m not the decorating type so I left the room pretty bare, apart from buying diffusers and scents to build up a relaxing vibe. I also lived alone which I had already predetermined, since I was paranoid about the type of flatmates I would get living in dorms and I’ve just always preferred having my own space to go back to after a lecture, as it is a short walk to and from the Clephan building. If you’re not a fan of being completely independent or alone, you can share a studio with another person in most cases, providing you let the building management know, or there are other room options to pick from. Furthermore, if I needed to delay rent or any other issues, the finance department in my building was relatively quick to help. Safety was also top priority for me as with everyone else and in the building I lived in, as there are cameras in corridors and around all the gates and main access to the building is via key card, which is comforting to know.

However, like some people, I ran into a few problems at my accommodation. The first issue came three weeks into my second term. In late January 2020, the flat above had flooded which in turn affected mine, leaking in and damaging a few wires and plugs which ultimately caused a blackout in my flat. At the time, I was home for the weekend and was not alerted at any point about what had happened. I took a train back to Leicester on a Sunday evening and to my horror, came into a room smelling of burnt plastic and mould! There was evidence someone from maintenance had attempted to fix the tripped switch but to no avail.

Luckily, I’m a bit of a polymath and knew how to fix a tripped switch. I got all the electricity in my room back on without the need of a handyman. Tip: learn to fix a tripped switch, you never know when it might be useful. When the lights came on, I saw the full damage of the room and it was mostly water staining on the ceiling and causing a light to flicker. This was also an issue in the bathroom so, I had to turn the switch in the fuse box off for the lights and air out the room all night (yes, I slept in the damp cold in January all night). It was quite the melancholic atmosphere. The next day I explained to maintenance the damage that needed fixing and went to the finance office to let them know and talk about reparations. 

My concern at that point was the staining on my ceiling and it potentially becoming mould, however nothing was done by finance whether it was reducing my rent or anything else. Often with many accommodations this is the issue, the landlords or companies don’t fix things right away, or no attempt is made by maintenance to follow up on problems concerning students. With this in mind, I was worried about them taking my deposit over a problem completely unrelated to me, I just unfortunately had the coincidence of living below people who can’t turn off taps. I have not had any more news of the situation so far.  

Though the stains remained, it still seemed fine to live however, the COVID-19 pandemic had gotten worse and by mid-March universities were all stopping in person teaching, so naturally I went home and took all my stuff a week later. This is where another issue arose with my building management company. They issued emails stating that everyone was still liable to pay rent until the end of our tenancy, regardless of whether we have left or moved out of the flat as well as, not fully taking into account personal circumstances like job loss. Many other accommodations at this point waived 3rd term rent, even if people decided to stay. 

I had become jobless in the COVID crisis and didn’t have enough for even half a month’s rent at the time, unless I went into my overdraft or waited until my next instalment of maintenance loans. However, I and many others, rely on that money for needs like food and taking care of immuno-compromised relatives, or even paying off other expenses. Not wanting to go into a vicious cycle of repaying and taking out money in my overdraft, I decided to email my building management for more clarity and relay my circumstances to them.

These issues and earlier problems I had with my room were relayed to management and they responded to me by reiterating that rent is still payable as, the government has not issued any further statement on it, especially in regard to payment of rent. But said, even if we cannot pay for rent, they will not evict as they understand the situation. Moreover, said they are trying their best to answer all queries and emails as quickly as possible. They made the point that Student Finance England (SFE) will still be giving us our next instalment of loans.

Although it seemed they were being reasonable and providing support, the company was still banking on the fact that we were still scheduled payments from Student Finance England or some other loan company. This was not a response I expected, and the company did not seem to want to change their stance on rent payment, despite being in such an unprecedented situation. But I will say, this is a unique circumstance, and some may never experience any problems. Yet, I question the company’s ethics and, if they have really considered the well-being of students and each individual case. My next instalment of maintenance loans will not be enough to cover the remainder of my tenancy and without a job it will be even more unlikely.

My overall experience staying with this company is that if problems do arise then expect substandard communication between yourself and the company. Also, in terms of sound isolation, it’s not bad but bear in mind this is a student accommodation so there are frequent blasts of music during the week and on weekends. I also lived directly opposite the back door, a heavy door that does not close so smoothly so this is quite a niche experience. Despite all this, if you’re planning on getting a studio here, then it’s definitely worth it compared to many in the area and if you don’t run into any problems during your stay then even better. All in all, nice room bad service like a 3-star hotel.