Feature

International students face potential housing debts

house renting

 

International students are being warned of future visa problems if they leave rented accommodation without sorting out bills and deposits.

Some walk away from the tangle of utility bills and the last month’s rent thinking their deposit will cover it but that is not the way the system works.

And they could be risking their right to return to the UK if they are sued for outstanding payments.

Siddharth Narayan from India says:“Many students refuse to pay the bill, because they may not receive the bond and the gas company will ask house agency for the bill, so they just leave the country without paying bill, without getting deposit money. It seems fair and reasonable.”

But a spokesman for Cardiff agency Umbrella Homes warns: “Do not do this. Last year, we sued a Chinese tenant, because she didn’t pay the bill and last month’s rent with this excuse, but it links to visa. In the end, she could not come to this country again.”

Many students renting property during their studies face further problems as the end of lease looms because landlords or house agencies are expecting to bring prospective tenants for viewings at short notice several times a week.

Letting agencies are allowed to enter at any reasonable time with 24 hours’ notice, while most contracts put no limit on the number of viewings per week.

Jiang Nan, who lives in a private house near the student union building, said: “It is quite annoying that strangers could enter your house every two days a week even if they give you a letter the day before. At the end of last year, we could receive a letter every day from different house agencies.”

“I think it is because it is a student city. There is way more demand so they are ruthless to have more business and beat the competition.”
Pedro Rodrigues from Portugal had the same experience.

He said: “In this house where I am now I had several times people barging into my room on Saturday mornings while I was still in bed or asleep, which is ridiculous.”
Many students said there is nothing more they can do about this, because they sign a contract in which house viewings are compulsory.
Professor Duncan Bloy of Cardiff University suggests students protest their rights, saying:” You should write them a letter and say you understand that under the legislation and the contract that you are obliged to allow them to come in but reasonable times which means, you can determine the reasonable times, but also you believe that nothing in here that says how many times they can come in any one week. If they come in two or three occasions without your permit ion and that is unreasonable and they are agreed you the legislation in 1998. You could also write to inform the house agency that the time they have specified is inconvenient and ask to contact again to agree a suitable time.”

One of the managers in Umbrella Homes said: “Landlords and us could view the house a thousand times if we want if we notify you 24 hours beforehand according to the contract.”

Coming to the end of semester, students also worry that they may lose most of their deposit, though it is held independently under the new scheme since 2012.

Siddharth Narayan from India says: “Though the house viewings are very disruptive, I care more about my bond money. In last year, I paid £540 to rent the house, but just got £80 back after complaining three times.”

“The agency has thousands of reasons to take your deposit in the end. For example, they said my mattress was not the same as the one they gave and that punished me £100. And I am worried about my deposit this year.”

A manager in Umbrella Homes responded: “Your bond is protected by the government agency, called My Deposit. Both tenants and house agency could argue and complain to them about your deposit fee with evidence, so your money is secure.”

But Mr Narayan said: “It is hard for us to win the argument, they have lawyer defending for them, but we do not have, either keep silent or pay a sum of money for a lawyer.”

A spokesman at Cardiff Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB),  said: “We offer free service to solve these problems and we have voluntary lawyers on behalf of students and offer advice, so it is the best way for students when facing these problems.”

 

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