Student housing hell: Poor landlord and letting agent practice leaves students at risk

03 August 2015

Landlords and letting agents of student accommodation are putting their tenants’ lives at risk by failing to fix serious safety hazards, according to new research by a leading safety charity.

Electrical Safety First has discovered that a worrying number of landlords and letting agents ignore safety concerns reported to them, leaving their student tenants vulnerable to electric shocks, electrical fires and even electrocution. 

Research commissioned by the Charity suggests that a staggering 37%[i] of landlords and letting agents failed to fix exposed wiring when reported, 35%[ii] never rectified damp, condensation or flooding around the electrics, whilst 30%[iii] left issues with scorching around sockets and light fittings unresolved.

“These figures are unacceptable,” says Emma Apter, Head of Communications at Electrical Safety First. “Students should not have to compromise on safety, but these worrying figures suggest that poor landlord practice is putting lives at risk.”

An unresolved electrical hazard is something that Matthew, a student in Oxford, is unfortunately all too familiar with. After moving into a rented property, he was alarmed to discover exposed wiring where a wall socket should have been in one of the bedrooms.

Matthew reported the potentially lethal hazard to his letting agent and found that they were reluctant to take action. “I couldn't believe how negligent letting agents could be when it came to this kind of thing. It took me many conversations over several days to convince the agent to get it fixed.” 

“Cases like Matthew’s emphasise the unnecessary and dangerous situations that students are being exposed to by landlord and letting agent negligence,” adds Emma. “Nobody should have their life put at risk because a landlord refuses to make a repair.

“There are of course cultural stereotypes surrounding student accommodation, but our message to students is this: you do not have to accept living in substandard or dangerous accommodation. Inform your landlord or letting agent straight away if any hazards arise and if they fail to act then your local authority is there to assist.”

Shelly Asquith, National Union of Students Welfare Officer, added:

 “Students should be able to focus on studying and enjoying their educational experience instead of worrying about whether turning on a light switch or plugging in a toaster could kill them.

This prioritising of profit over safety is just another example of how students across the country are being taken for a ride by greedy housing providers.”

Electrical Safety First has produced a short film, hosted by former student and Made in Chelsea star Andy Jordan, giving a series of tips to students to help them adapt to moving away from home and in with new housemates. You can watch #DearStudent and read the charity’s advice for students at


Editor’s Notes

  • Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at
  • All consumer research, unless otherwise stated, was conducted from 19 – 25th June 2015 by the National Union of Students (NUS) on behalf of Electrical Safety First with a sample 1,161 university students between the ages of 17 and 60.
  • Other electrical hazards reported that were not fixed despite being reported include: constant tripping of the fuse box (26%)[iv], broken sockets or light switches (24%)[v] and broken, damaged or overheating appliances supplied with the property (23%)[vi].
  • Electrical Safety First’s findings further underline the poor state of student housing that was first revealed in an NUS report Homes Fit for Study, released in 2014 which found more than three quarters of students experienced at least one problem with the condition with their current accommodation.
  • Landlords have a duty to keep electrical installations in proper working order and to ensure that any electrical appliances supplied with a property are safe, as set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
  • Electrical Safety First’s is calling for mandatory electrical safety checks every five years in the Private Rented Sector and a visual inspection when the tenancy changes hands.

For more information please contact:

Blaise Marshall e: t: 020 3463 5130


Christina Copp e:  t: 020 3463 5129

End notes

[i] Of the 120 respondents who experienced exposed wiring, 37% said the issue was never rectified by the landlord or letting agent.


[ii]  Of the 112 respondents who experienced damp, condensation or flooding around the electrics, 35% said the issue was never rectified by the landlord or letting agent.


[iii] Of the 46 respondents who experienced scorching around sockets or light fittings 30% said the issue was never rectified by the landlord or letting agent.


[iv] Of the 144 respondents who experienced constant tripping of the fuse box, 26% said the issue was never rectified by the landlord or letting agent.


[v] Of the 267 respondents who experienced broken sockets or light switches, 24% said the issue was never rectified by the landlord or letting agent.


[vi] Of the 105 respondents who experienced broken, damaged or overheating appliances supplied by the landlord, 23% said the issue was never rectified by the landlord or letting agent.