Homes Fit For Study: student experiences of the private rented sector

In 2014, our Homes Fit For Study research revealed that over three quarters of students had problems with the condition of their home.  We've investigated this further in 2017, looking specifically at energy, and here's what we've found out...

2017 research

In 2017, we focused our research on student experiences of energy in the private rented sector, following our earlier finding that over half of respondents had felt uncomfortably cold in their homes.  We received funding from the Eaga Charitable Trust to investigate these experiences through a literature review, online survey and a series of focus groups.  We received 2509 responses to the survey from students living in the private rented sector, which was completed in January-February 2017.  Participants in both parts of the research told us about how energy featured in their experiences of finding a property and then living in rented accommodation, revealing that:

  • 29% had requested an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) but didn't receive one - and those who reported being uncomfortably cold in their accommodation were less likely to have done so.
  • 42% struggled at least from time to time to pay their energy bills, and those who reported feeling uncomfortably cold were more likely to say that paying bills was a struggle.
  • Energy bills and rent payments were the most commonly reported type of payment that respondents had found themselves unable to pay (7%).
  • 38% had experienced damp or mould on walls or ceilings in their current accommodation, and those who lived in cold homes were more likely to report this experience.
  • 9% said they didn’t have any control of the heating where they lived, with some focus group participants noting that control was retained by their landlord.
  • 55% said their accommodation was much, or a bit colder, than they would have liked over the winter, and 49% had felt uncomfortably cold in their accommodation.
  • 43% had turned their heating off even though they would have liked it on because of concerns about energy costs.

To find out more about the research, please click on the links below.

Summary research report

Full research report

Appendix 1 - Online survey

Appendix 2 - Focus group discussion guide

Appendix 3 - Literature review tables

 

2014 research

Over half of students have condensation; almost half have mould, and a quarter have slugs, mice or another infestation in their current home.

Added to these grim health and safety concerns, over a third of students are getting into debt to meet upfront costs to secure a property. The same amount struggle with energy bills, with almost a quarter unaware of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

We used the report to call for proper regulation of letting agents as well as proposing that an end to letting fees, as has happened in Scotland, would ensure that students have a better idea of the overall cost of renting in the private sector and can then budget accordingly.

Read the 2014 report here.