Bidding wars and blanket bans: Students told to not enrol amid renting crisis

Students looking to take their places at one of Scotland’s oldest universities have been instructed not to enrol in their courses if they do not have housing secured amid an intense demand for flats.

Despite securing a place at Glasgow University, students could miss out on their “top choices” due to a lack of assured places for them to live.

A spokesperson for the university, which is one of Scotland’s four ‘ancient universities’ and the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world, said a “significant contraction in the private rental market” meant they could not guarantee accommodation.

There has been no significant rise in the number of students attending the university, which has also increased rooms for students by 25 per cent, yet some have also been advised to pause their studies.

Those that have enrolled describe gruelling searches which have left them short of hope and embroiled in bidding wars.

Masters student Louise Gorse, 23, has been on the hunt for a one-bedroom property she could share with her partner since June before starting her course at Glasgow University.

Knowing she would need accommodation from September onwards, the couple believed that three months would give them ample time to find a flat.

“We have tried to get a viewing for every flat that has been put up that is under £700,” the student said, revealing that she and her partner would be happy with ‘a two-hour walk’ to university and extending their search to the outskirts of the city.

Despite enquiring for upward of 50 flats, they only managed to secure four viewings during the summer-long search.

“We’ve still not found anywhere,” she said. “The main issue we are having is just the massive demand.”

“I can’t say I’m hopeful,” the student and Living Rent member added.

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The student’s course has now started, leaving her to commute from Edinburgh, where the couple have been temporarily living with her boyfriend’s parents.

One flat first advertised on a Saturday afternoon had received over 215 inquiries by the time the letting agent opened its office on Monday morning, she said.

Despite sending an inquiry on a Saturday evening and calling at 9am on Monday, she did not get to view the flat.

But it is not just demand that has been halting the flat search, “blanket bans” on taking in students is also an issue, especially when the university itself warned there was “no guaranteed accommodation”.

Some letting agents have also started including a ‘proposed rent’ box on the application forms to suggest a monthly figure above the one that was advertised, pushing modestly-priced properties out of reach.

“The letting agent said that because of demand being so high, some tenants have been offering to pay more than the advertised rent.

“I don’t know whether this comes from the letting agency or the landlord, but the letting agency said so many people have been doing it that they’ve had to put the box on the form. “It seems very wrong,” she added. “You’re being outbid and sometimes this is without even viewing the flat.”

Alongside bidding wars, she said “lot of places have been going to people who pay three months’ rent in advance”.

“So, thousands of pounds upfront which obviously not all of us are in the position to do. The whole point of renting is that you don’t have to pay this massive upfront fee, otherwise, everybody would just buy.

“Renting is for people who get their income every month and then spend it on rent. It just completely defeats the purpose of looking for somewhere to rent.”

She added: “There has to be some regulation on it.”

HeraldScotland: Archive image of University of GlasgowArchive image of University of Glasgow

A councillor, himself experiencing issues finding a rented property, said it was “incredibly disappointing to see the universities essentially lure, invite and coerce people to come to study” without being able to provide housing.

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Greens councillor for Newlands and Auldburn, Leòdhas Massie said the lack of student accommodation that is affordable and available “has a massive impact on the rental market for everybody”.

“It’s obviously not the students’ fault,” he said. “I find it even harder to try and get a long-term tenancy, because there’s a massive influx of students.”

“In a normal world, first-year students should have student accommodation that’s affordable and it should be available to move into.

“It is at the moment, neither affordable nor available to a lot of them.”

A Glasgow University spokesperson said: “Regrettably, due to a significant contraction in the private rental market, demand for rooms continues to be substantially ahead of expectation both in Glasgow and more broadly across the UK. Like most urban universities, we cannot guarantee accommodation for returning students.

“As part of our efforts to address the issue, we have increased the number of rooms under University management by 25 per cent for this academic year.

“We have focused – as is our usual policy – on providing accommodation to first-year undergraduate students who live at a significant distance from our campus. There has been no significant increase in student numbers for this year.

“To address issues with the availability of accommodation within Glasgow, we are already taking steps to increase accommodation provision for future years and we are continuing to engage with private providers and with local government on issues with the city’s private rental market.

“We understand the concern students have about finding accommodation for the new semester, and we are taking a number of actions to support our students and ensure continuity of learning wherever possible.

“In some cases, our advice may include pausing studies for this academic year while ensuring students continue to have access to University systems and services. Comprehensive advice is available from students’ advisers of study and the Students’ Representative Council Advice Centre.”

Have you been experiencing issues trying to rent in Glasgow or Scotland? Email [email protected] if you want to share your story. 

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