Students paying hundreds for 'mouldy' flats

Ceiling with hole in roofImage source, Handout
Image caption,

The ceiling collapsed at one student's house

  • Published

University of Bristol students say they are forced to work 20-hour weeks to afford 'awful' housing, a new survey has found.

Some students say they are paying an average of £700 a month before bills for often "mouldy" flats amid a housing crisis in the city.

Bristol Student Union's (BSU) living officer Izzy Russell commissioned the first housing survey in a decade and said her third-year home "was a death-trap".

A University of Bristol spokesperson said they have been working with Bristol City Council to create new "purpose-built student housing".

They added people can access support from the student accommodation team, which offers financial support packages, bursaries and scholarships.

The BSU's survey was launched on 29 January to gain a deeper insight into the Bristol renting crisis, with 570 people responding.

In 2014-15, similar research by BSU found 75% of Bristol students had experienced mould and damp in their accommodation and paid an average monthly rent of £396.

Ten years later, only 4% of survey respondents paid below £500. In 2024, 32% reported paying between £600 and £700 before bills per month.

One student told the survey: "The condition of student housing is appalling, properties lack maintenance, the majority contain mould which is extremely dangerous."

Image source, Bristol Student Union
Image caption,

Students shared pictures of mould spreading across their walls as part of the survey

The Bristol Living Rent Commission, external found the average private rent is growing in the city by 12.9% annually.

A student reported they worked a 20-hour week alongside their studies to be able to afford rent, bills and living costs, which "severely impacted their health".

"I had to miss classes when we were house-hunting," Ms Russell said.

"You would get a message to say somewhere new was on the market and if you didn't go straight away, you would lose it."

She added everywhere she lived had "issues", but her third-year home was riddled with mould and when the hall ceiling collapsed, no one repaired it.

'Appalling conditions'

Ms Russell continued: “The university plays a role in the current bed shortage crisis, by continuing to expand student numbers without increasing support.

"The national government also hold responsibility – student loans should be raised to reflect rising rent and rent caps should be implemented."

Another student told the survey that the "process of securing a rented house is very classist".

"If you do not have a guarantor, you cannot rent the house," they said. "Those from less privileged backgrounds will not have the same opportunity and access to high incomes."

Image source, Bristol Student Union
Image caption,

Students on average are paying £700-a-month for homes that are often "covered in mould"

A University of Bristol spokesperson said demand for private rental properties has been increasing.

“We have been working closely with Bristol City Council to implement a plan of new purpose-built student housing," they said.

"This will increase supply in parts of the city where student housing investment is beneficial to the local community and relieve pressure on other parts of the housing market.

"For example, we have new developments planned with partners in the Temple Quarter and Bedminster Down.

“We have increased our hardship funding and students with money worries can talk to our trained money advisers during daily drop-in sessions."

A Department for Education spokesperson said the government is "increasing loans and grants for living and other costs".

Ministers have also frozen tuition fees for the seventh year running.

“We have also increased the student premium for 2024-25 by £5m to top up the help universities are providing through their own bursary, scholarship and hardship support schemes," they added.

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