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House of horrors: NI students share stories of squalid accommodation

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Northern Ireland students have sharing 'house of horrors' stories of squalid accommodation. (Picture: Twitter).

Northern Ireland students have sharing 'house of horrors' stories of squalid accommodation. (Picture: Twitter).

Northern Ireland students have sharing 'house of horrors' stories of squalid accommodation. (Picture: Twitter).

Northern Ireland students have shared stories of nightmare conditions in their accommodation as part of a new ‘house of horrors’ appeal.

The National Union of Students and Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) has been flooded with responses, both past and present, after asking students about “dark, cold, damp with mouldy walls and infestations”.

Responses on the St Mary’s Belfast Student Union showed a video from last year of one flat with ‘indoor rain’ as the living room was sodden with a leaking rooftop.

It was apparently caused by rain coming through a ceiling which the landlord refused to fix.

Another showed extensive mould on the walls of a neglected student flat. 

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Commenting on the appeal, the SDLP Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin said: “Too often students are exploited as cash cows and very little done to repair accommodation, despite high rents.

"We talk a lot about Dublin being a horror housing story but we see the same starting to happen in Belfast. Action needed now.”

SDLP councillor for Belfast, Gary McKeown, also recalled his own traumatic memories of student digs.

"House windows sealed closed by layers of paint on frames built up over the years – landlord advised us to put a chair through the window to get out if the house went on fire.

"Kept a big chunk of the deposit at the end of the year, arguing: ‘I jave to make money some way’”.

One former student commented: “My student flat was so cold the water in the toilet bowl froze during the winter. That was over 30 years ago and disgracefully, things haven't changed any”.

The NUS-USI President, Ellen Fearon, said: “Some of the student housing stories I hear would give you the fright of your life. Rats, mould, leaks, bare electrical wires hanging out of ceilings. My own ceiling came in last year on a rainy night and it took our landlord weeks to fix it. Everyone has a student house horror story and that shows just how deeply engrained the problem is.”

She explained that the student population would always have unique needs as renters as they move more often and become at risk from landlords who aren’t seeking to build a long-term relationship.

“That’s why we’re calling for a Student Renters Bill that guarantees all students safe, affordable, good quality accommodation.”

According to the NUS-USI, one of the lowest private student accommodation rents in Belfast is £119 per week, which amounts to £4,522 for a 38 week lease.

This compares to the maximum student maintenance loan available at £4,840, meaning 93% of non-means tested student finance is spent on rent.

Students from a low income background on a full loan and maintenance grant can receive a grant of up to £3,475 which amounts to a total income of £8,315.

This would still mean over half (54%) of that income is spent on an annual rent of £4,522, while on average UK population spends 27% of income on rent.

NUS-USI has launched the Students Deserve Better campaign, outlining five key asks for candidates in the next Assembly election.

This includes a Student Renters Bill which would guarantee all students affordable, safe and good quality accommodation in both the private sector and student accommodation.


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