Last week, I attended the Student Union’s Assembly on behalf of my society (POLAIR). I can’t say I was thrilled to spend my free evening sat in the freezing union square, but our SU officers did quite well in sweetening the deal with some pizza (Thank you Emma and Carrie!). But I came away from the assembly hearing about this new scheme called Rent Right. I had no idea what it exactly entailed (apart from, you guessed it, renting & housing).
But I wanted to know more, so I could write my own post about it and gain some personal advice for myself. To tell me all about it, I was lucky enough to speak to our SU President, Amy Moran, herself!
So how did the Rent Right scheme come about? Was any of it based on your own previous experiences?
Amy: In previous years, there have been no services offered by the SU or University that focused entirely on the issues of both university accommodation AND private housing. People often went to the welfare or accommodation teams, but these departments didn’t necessarily cater to all their problems. In the end, the students would come to the union and bring those problems to us, and we in the office or on reception would just have to give our own personal advice on how best to deal with their situation.
We also noticed that a lot of our generation are going to be living in rented accommodation due to the lack of housing for much of their lives and we want our students to be as competent as possible in dealing what could be a lifelong problem.
A lot of the motivation for the scheme came from my own experiences in private housing. I signed a house contract for 2nd year in October of my first year, which was quite early. The problems first started when someone in my house dropped out of the contract in the December, which meant I had to find someone else to fill the gap, which was another job I didn’t need. When I moved in at the start of 2nd year, I didn’t get on as well with my housemates as I’d hoped. For third year, I ended up moving with a set of strangers, and I actually became really great friends with them. So I wanted to set up a scheme that would empower students to know their rights when it comes to university and private accommodation.
So what are the different aspects of the scheme?
On the union website, you’ll find a page set up for the scheme. This includes sections on Flatmate Finding, Budgeting, Advice and tips on how to make your House into a Home. Flatmate finder has some tips on the kinds of things you might want to discuss with any potential housemates, like cleaning or TV licenses. There’s also a budgeting calculator, and a section on the best ways to make the most of your house. Something as simple as placing tin foil behind your radiators means a lot more heat in reflected into your room. That would have been especially useful for me to know in 2nd year when I was in the freezing attic!
Does the Flatmate Finder have any presence on social media, like Facebook?
Actually, there is a Facebook group set up that’s entirely devoted to anyone who wants to advertise a room or if they want to let people know they’re looking for some new housemates! We’ll also be running some Flatmate Finder events in December and January so anyone can meet, get to know others, and we’ll have free snacks of course!
So you’ve talked about students working with students, what about students working with landlords?
Under our advice column, we’ll be publishing stuff like template letters to landlords, so that if you’re having any issues with your landlord but are worried to confront them, you can have a look at that and write your own letter. There’s a scheme run by the Welsh Government that’s a landlord accreditation scheme that we’d really like to push on a local level. And we’re really looking forward to the abolition of letting fees, which was included in the Queen’s Speech this year.
Will you be working with any other schemes/societies on this?
Yes, so we’ll be working with Shelter in Leicester and Labour students, who run their own scheme ‘A Place to Call Home’.
Is there anything students can do right now to give feedback to the scheme?
Yes, students can fill out our Big Housing Survey on the union website!
Overall, I think the scheme will be received quite well by students since this is an area which the union nor the university has managed to address well yet. I encourage all students to get involved in the Rent Right scheme if we’re to fare better in the future.