The Bath Student Rip-off

Some students in Bath will pay up to £150 more than others in letting agent fees this year.

Figures compiled by Oldfield Liberal Democrats show that many letting agents charge exorbitant fees to process applications by students to live in shared accommodation in the City.

Cllr Will Sandry said: “The student house hunt for Autumn 2013 starts this week and, I urge students to check out the non-refundable fees charged by the different letting agents in the city. You could end up paying £150 more than you need to.

To my mind these administration fees are hard to justify as most Agents charge the landlords for processing student applications too.

Sharing a home for the first time should be fun and exciting, but to avoid the common pitfalls, be sure to check out the information on house sharing produced by the Student Community Partnership.”

Related Story: Cllr Will Sandry calls for a national regulation scheme for Letting Agents.

Moving out 2012

The  summer 2012 campaign to advise students in our community about managing their waste and recycling before they leave for the summer has been launched.

Will who is Chairman of the Student Community Partnership said: “All too often landlords use waste left behind as a reason to withhold the deposit – even though they are slow to then deal with the problem themselves.

This initiative gives students in our community straightforward, practical advice before they move out for the summer. It helps students get their deposits back, and means that there is a lower likelihood of gardens being filled with refuse after the students have moved out.”

Follow this link to the Student Community Partnership – Moving Out information or click on the poster.

Is your landlord legal?

If you live in a shared home in Oldfield Park with 5 or more occupants and three or more storeys your landlord should have a licence to operate the property. The Council will prosecute any landlord who doesn’t have a licence. If the prosecution is successful, the tenants can apply for a rent repayment order and potentially get up to 1 years refund of the rent they have paid.

A home that needs a licence must have 5 or more occupants sharing a bathroom and kitchen and three or more storeys, for example a landlord would need to have a licence if 5 students were sharing a house with a loft conversion.

Cllr Will Sandry said: “I urge anyone living in this type of accommodation to check it is licensed. The Council will prosecute the landlord, and you could apply for a refund of up to 12 months of your rent payments.

Licensing is not the same as the voluntary Accreditation Scheme and is a legal requirement for this type of property.

If you think your home should have a licence, phone the Council’s Housing services team to check it out on 01225 396444.

See also:-

Recent news story when local Landlord was fined

Student Community Partnership accommodation advice

Housing Quality on the Agenda

The standard and quality of some Homes in Multiple Occupation has been a concern for some time.

Whilst many landlords are good and responsible, not all are. Usually poor living conditions come about when landlords do not invest in the property.

As well as introducing an Article 4 Direction to cap the numbers of HMOs in the City, the Council is considering an additional licensing scheme to drive up the quality of homes in the private rented sector. This may also be an opportunity to prevent the conversion of detached garages in to bedrooms.

The Council’s Housing Policy and Scrutiny Panel meets on Tuesday to discuss additional licensing. Click here for the agenda (Item 11).

Will, who is a member of the committee said: “I am fed up of seeing students and other young people in my community in sub-standard accommodation, with bad landlords who do not invest in the property. An additional licencing scheme for HMOs has the potential to improve the quality of accommodation in the private rented sector.

If used imaginatively, the scheme could also reduce the running costs of the homes for the residents by making requirements for energy efficiency and  insulation, in addition to the more standard fire safety, decorative order, and waste management requirements”

Article 4 and HMOs – What actually happened?

The Council’s Cabinet last night gave notice of intent t0 implement an Article 4 direction to cover the City of Bath within 12 months. If you are unsure what an Article 4 direction is, please see our HMO Q&A.

This decision has the effect of launching a formal six week public consultation at some point within the next 12 months.

After the consultation results and any other information that is required has been collected, the Cabinet will meet again to decide whether to:

  • Confirm (Go ahead with the Article 4 Direction),
  • Amend (Change bits, for example apply it only to some Wards / exclude some streets) or,
  • Abandon the Article 4 Direction.

The reason for giving this notice of intent is that it protects the Council from being sued by Investors if the final decision – to be taken in 12 months time – is to Confirm the Article 4 Direction

The Council also agreed to ask for evidence as to whether an Additional Licencing scheme should be applied to Homes of Multiple Occupation in the City. The HMO Q&A also explains what a licensing scheme could do.

Cllr Will Sandry made the following comments after the meeting:

“I am happy with the outcome, and was pleased with the engagement by students in our community (who spoke against the Article 4 direction) with both Local Government, and Oldfield residents (who spoke in favour).

In my speech I was clear that the universities have a corporate social responsibility not to take on more students than they or the city can accommodate.

Whilst I recognise the universities need to grow their businesses, they must engage with the Council so that we can understand their housing needs and help facilitate their aspirations for growth in a sustainable way.

The massive increase in the number of HMOs in recent years has had a long term impact on housing available in Oldfield Park for anyone not looking for multi-occupancy accommodation. The long term stability of a viable, diverse community is at a tipping point as a result of the rapid change of tenure.

Council also agreed to progress a licensing scheme for HMOs which has the potential to improve the quality of accommodation in the private rented sector. I am fed up of seeing students and other young people in my community in sub-standard accommodation, with bad landlords who do not invest in the property.”

Article 4 Direction

The Council’s Cabinet will debate a proposal to introduce an Article 4 direction to cover the City of Bath next Wednesday evening.

Additionally, this includes a proposal to introduce an additional licensing scheme which could improve the quality of shared housing in the private rented sector.

Will is aware that students in our community are concerned that an Article 4 direction may decrease the amount of choice that they have about where they live in their second and third years. Will has researched the Universites’ plans for building new accommodation and their projections for increased student numbers.

At present, Bath Spa University doesn’t have enough space in halls and its accommodation office block books streets in Oldfield Park for their freshers. The good news is that the University intends to create 550 study rooms on the Newton Park Campus: This will be enough for all its freshers to be in University accommodation, and should free up over 120 family homes in the city. This could increase to 200 family homes if they build the 1,000 rooms they have potential to by 2030.

Bath University have told us that they will increase their student numbers to just over 16,000 by 2020. There are currently just under 15,000 students at Bath University. As long as they build the 2,400 study rooms they have promised there will be a surplus of over 1,00o rooms. See page 10 of the masterplan, but beware it is a 9Mb document:

Further Information:

Houses in Multiple Occupation in Bath

Oldfield RooftopsA study considering the options open to the Council for regulating and controlling the future growth of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) within the City of Bath (including university student house shares) has been undertaken.

We know that many people have questions about the potential impact of such controls so we have prepared a HMO Questions and Answers section on this website.

A range of options have been identified by the Council which include:

  • Planning Controls to curb the increase in Houses of Multiple Occupation. Including the use of an ‘Article 4 Direction’ to trigger the need for a planning application when changing use from a family home to a small House in Multiple Occupation (with 3-5 unrelated people living together). A new Planning Policy would need to be introduced alongside this.
  • Extension of licencing by Housing Services to increase regulations and standards existing and future Houses in Multiple Occupation.

The Council has held a Stakeholder workshop in October 2011, click here to view a report of the workshop.

The issue has been considered by the Policy Transport & Environment Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel Report on 6th December 2011, click here to view the report.

Both the Development Control Committee and Cabinet are due to consider the options in March 2012. As always, please let us know your views on this subject.

Students moving out

Moving out leaflet 2011

Moving out leaflet 2011

The Student Community Partnership has launched its summer 2011 campaign to advise students in our community about  managing their waste before they leave for the summer.

Leaflets are being delivered door to door and information is also available on line. This is a great initiative because it helps students get their deposits back and means that there is a lower likelihood of gardens being left full of rubbish after students have moved out.

Follow this link to the Student Community Partnership Moving out information.

Our manifesto – responding to our community

We’ve had such a warm welcome on the doorstep in recent weeks and months and an overwhelming response to our survey.

We have analysed the results and have come up with four key areas you have told us we should focus on.

1. Improve Housing and Sense of Community

You’ve told us that there’s a good sense of community, but we want to:

  • Stop any more houses becoming homes in multiple occupation (HMOs);
  • Continue working with the Universities and Letting Agents to upgrade the standard of existing HMOs and promote a balanced and diverse community;
  • Support community initiatives such as litter picks, winter gritting and new Community Groups.

2. Work to improve Transport, Parking and the Environment

This is a challenge, but we want to:

  • Improve Home to School Transport options;
  • Support and protect the existing 10 and 17 bus services and Oldfield Park Station;
  • Continue to enhance Linear Park as an important local community space by promoting the new path;
  • Try to improve the parking arrangements in our area;
  • Reduce speeding along Englishcombe Lane and the “Rat Runs” through Moorfields.

3. Maintain Moorland Road as the heart of the South of Bath

Moorland Road is amazing, but we want to:

  • Improve the layout of crossings for pedestrians and fix the sunken pavements;
  • Secure the future of the Christmas lights;
  • Support the Post Office and Library and ensure that it remains a shopping street.

4. Tackle Crime and Anti Social Behaviour

We have some problems with crime and anti social behaviour so we want to:

  • Campaign for more visible police presence in our community;
  • Maintain the improvements made at Memorial Gardens and Sand Pits;
  • Continue working with SOMER and the Police to reduce the public presence of day time drinkers, and ensure that support is available to the people who need it.

Click here to read the Liberal Democrats Manifesto for the whole of the Bath and North East Somerset area.

Student Funding – A message from Vince Cable

The Liberal Democrats have always championed our universities. We have long fought for a fair deal for students.

Now in Government we are in a position to turn that campaigning into real action.

The higher education package I am announcing today will promote high-quality university teaching and research. It will guarantee fair access for all, regardless of background. It will deliver a progressive, sustainable funding structure.

The key points are –

1) The poorest 30% of graduates will pay less for university – access to higher education will always be based on ability, not ability to pay.

2) Graduate contributions will be capped – we have rejected Lord Browne’s proposal to allow universities to set charges as high as they wish.

3) Maintenance grants and loans will be improved – almost one million students will receive more overall maintenance support than they do now.

4) Student loans will be extended to part time students – no longer will they be ignored by the system.

Our plans are fair for students, fair for graduates and affordable for the nation. Please click here to read the full details of our proposals.

These plans represent an important first step to improving higher education in Britain and making sure that it remains open to all.

I hope you will join me in the coming months in getting this message out to people across Britain.

Thanks and best wishes,

Vince Cable

PS Click here to find out more about our £7billion education package recently announced by Nick Clegg to give a fair chance for every child.