Students expected to survive on £1 a day after rent

  • Average student rent now £566/month, leaving just £36 of Maintenance Loan to cover ALL other living costs
  • 44% of students admit they can’t keep up with housing costs
  • 1 in 3 believe accommodation is poor value for money
  • Poor conditions and invisible landlords are common but housemates cause biggest headaches

The cost of accommodation sees many students facing financial hardship – and it’s leaving them stressed and unable to study.

Findings from this year’s National Student Accommodation Survey show almost half of students (44%) are struggling to keep up with the rent, with Student Finance no match for housing costs.

The disparity means many are barely scraping by, with 45% saying it affects their mental health and 1 in 3 finding their studies disrupted.

Marianne, a third-year student at Swansea University, explains:

“[Rent is] a big chunk out of my funding that often puts me back in [my] overdraft as soon as I’m out of it. It also means that I end up struggling to budget myself from week to week when making sure I’ll have enough to last me till next student loan.

It’s a constant pressure and my mental health takes a big hit whenever I overspend for whatever reason – an occasional night out or because I use junk food/takeaway to deal with my feelings (an unhealthy coping mechanism, I know).”

For Charlie, a second-year student at Napier University, the pressure to cover costs means less time to study:

“I’m having to work a lot of extra hours, more and more often … I’m not much of a spender, which really gets to me as I don’t go out at all really and still struggle to pay rent and bills fairly regularly.”

The average Maintenance Loan payment* from the government comes in at £602/month – but with the average student rent standing at £565.89/month, it leaves almost nothing for food, transport, toiletries, books and, in some cases, bills.

In fact, while ONS data shows UK renters spent less than a third of income on rent in 2017, student rents can swallow 95% of the monthly Maintenance Loan instalment (and that’s on top of an average £509 in upfront fees and deposit). By comparison, students who opt to stay at home contribute just £167/month – and no fees – to parents.

Unsurprisingly, students in London face the highest rents (£222/week on average), although regional differences can still hurt. Rents start to rise south of the Midlands, with the South East, South West and even Wales stung by higher average costs, but without the location-weighted loan allowance that students in the capital get.

“I have two part-time jobs to supplement paying rent as my Maintenance Loan doesn’t cover it” – Queen Mary University Student

Student houses do at least come with some perks. On average they’re just 20 minutes away from campus, and more than half of all students say their rent includes bills. However, that doesn’t guarantee satisfaction: 1 in 3 students reckon their accommodation is poor value for money.

No matter how much they pay, almost all students (90%) are left with housing issues, ranging from damp and lack of heating/water to rodents and bed bugs. If that wasn’t bad enough, a third wait longer than a week for problems to be resolved.

Kel, a second-year student at the University of Kent in Canterbury, comments:

“I didn’t have a working fridge, washing machine, bath or shower (all of which were included in the tenancy agreement, in other words I was paying to have those amenities) for the first 2 months of living here. They didn’t fix it until I refused to pay any more rent until it was all fixed.”

Julia, in her second year at Sheffield Hallam, pays £493/month but says living conditions affected her health:

“Damp, sewage flood, dripping ceiling, carpet covered in 2cm of toilet water. Broken window that wouldn’t close in the middle of December when it was snowing so [it was] extremely cold. Condensation on window flooding desk and destroying uni papers, damaging laptop … This went on for 6 months, I developed several chest problems and colds during the time and believe it was related to the damp/mould/leaks.”

Despite some shocking stories about the condition of student housing, the most common issue for young renters is other housemates: 52% say noisy housemates are a real headache, while more than a third complain about other residents stealing food.

The 10 biggest issues for student renters

  1. Noisy housemates (52%)
  2. Damp (38%)
  3. Housemates stealing food (37%)
  4. Lack of water/heating (34%)
  5. Disruptive building work (22%)
  6. Rodents & pests (18%)
  7. Inappropriate landlord visits (14%)
  8. Dangerous living conditions (8%
  9. Break in or burglary (6%)
  10. Bed bugs (4%)

Jake Butler, student money expert from Save the Student, says:

“The fact that the maintenance loan barely covers students’ rent is shocking. Students are forced to get a job at the expense of their studies or rely on their parents who may struggle to support them.

It’s quite clear that the sheer cost of just having a roof over their heads is putting a huge strain on students across the country, exacerbating mental health issues and the temptation to drop out of university.

Forget about tuition fees and high interest rates – now that the government are finally reviewing the student finance system, a fairer maintenance loan should be at the top of their agenda.”

Wendy Bainham and Ani Bailey from the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) comment:

“Everyone deserves to live in accommodation that is safe, secure, and affordable. If these factors are not in place, financial and emotional stress can have a significant negative impact on students and their ability to focus on their studies and achieve their best outcomes.

The National Association of Money Advisers run a campaign each year to raise awareness of student issues, and this year the ‘Where I live’ campaign being run in February as part of National Student Money Week was an opportunity to hold activities, information sessions and promote the support that money advisers offer.”

* Average Maintenance Loan (2017/18) is based on household income of £35,000/year for students living away from home but outside London.

 Breaking News post shared by: David Pask-Hughes – david.savethestudent@gmail.com

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