Posted on Mon 26 Sep 2016 at 16:50 by Anna Warren
I was elected on a promise to cut the cost of living for students in Leeds. I put that at the heart of my manifesto in last year’s Leadership Race. Part of this has to be about looking at our biggest day-to-day outgoing cost as students: housing. So, as a first step, we’re working to get letting agencies to get rid of their signing fees, as voted in as union policy last year.
This policy idea, proposed by students, called for LUU to stop promoting letting agents and landlords who charge students rip off admin fees when signing a housing contract. These organisations will no longer receive invites to our housing fair or be able to advertise in LUU. And guess what? We’re already seeing the benefits of the work we've been doing. Spencer Properties and Pickard Properties, two of the biggest student letting agents in Leeds, have announced that they will drop their signing fees for students, bowing to pressure from us here at LUU. This is a huge win for students and we hope to keep up the pressure on other agencies to give us a better deal.
It’s unquestionably wrong and unfair that any tenant should be charged as much as £250 (each!) in some cases just for the privilege of signing on that dotted line. The average student forks out about £80 on signing fees. And it’s often unclear where this chunk of money is being spent.
I’m working with other local organisations and I’m lobbying the council to do more to put pressure on letting agents because it’s time we ended the renting rip-off that pinches money out of our wallets every single year.
Spencer Properties have told us that they’re “pleased to announce that we will no longer charge administration fees. We have listened to what students want and acted upon this.”
Matthias De Ruyver, the student who proposed the policy to LUU, said: “Letting fees make house hunting complicated and expensive. Rents can't be easily compared and you pay more upfront. When I learnt that Scotland banned them, I wanted to push for the same change here.”
So many students face real financial difficulty over the course of the term. After paying their rent, the average student in Leeds is left with roughly £900 of their student loan every term. Paying a letting fee puts a further strain on our budgets for the term. This a big, fat rip-off if there ever was one.
As students and as consumers, we are more powerful when it comes to house hunting than we realise. It’s simply unfair that some agencies often feel confident in taking advantage of our relative inexperience in looking for a home.
Over the last few years, LUU has worked in collaboration with Unipol, on projects like Rate Your Landlord to give you more control when looking for a student house. We’ve brought in a Ready to Rent scheme to let you know all the do’s and don’ts of house hunting and we’re constantly working to save you money. House hunting isn’t something worth worrying about at all until the letting season starts in January! However, in the run up to this, we hope to continue a friendly relationship with landlords and agencies who look out for students and, as your Community Officer, I’ll continue to help make your money go further.