Flat competition in Edinburgh is the highest in the UK, with an average of 22 people vying for each room, according to a report from SpareRoom.co.uk.
The report also pointed to Edinburgh as one of the most expensive cities in the UK, at an average of £466 a month per tenant.
“The situation is far from ideal”, said Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.co.uk.
“Those affected by the shortage of student accommodation are now facing a mad scramble to find somewhere to live.”
“Huge shortage of accommodation”
Letting agencies have acknowledged the scale of the issue.
Speaking to The Student, a representative of Edinburgh Letting Solutions said: “Students start to look at flats around March-time but before it reaches May all of them are gone. By June-July, many students struggle. There’s a huge shortage of accommodation.
“When demand comes, rent goes up. About 9 years ago when I was a student, a flat was about £450 per month, now it’s gone up by about 50% to be £650 per month – quite shocking really.”
Steve Coyle, Operations Director at Cullen Property, also voiced concerns over the stressful process of student flat hunting.
He told The Student:“We stopped using the first-come-first-served method some time ago as we were concerned that it was leading to potentially dangerous situations…It also means that students rush through the viewing and don’t properly look at the flat or have the chance to ask questions about it.
“We changed our system and now hold a ballot draw, at the flat after the viewing, for any groups who are interested in taking the property. This eliminates the need to queue early at the flat or office and stops the rush to secure the property. It also means that the viewing can be done at a leisurely pace and can be fully seen before committing to a year-long lease.”
But Coyle added that such measures could only do so much.
He said: “Whilst it is a fair system, a lot of students are still missing out in flats after attending viewings, so we will be holding focus groups in the near future to find out what system best suits Edinburgh’s students.”
“Racing neck n’ neck”
Edinburgh students were quick to provide The Student with their own encounters with the problem.
University of Edinburgh Second-year student Tamara Turner-Distin recalled her flat hunting experience last year, in which she had to race in a cab to the letting agent’s office following a mass flat viewing.
“It was chaotic: my friend and I were racing neck ‘n’ neck with this other girl and we all ran into the agent’s office shouting “we were here first!'” she told The Student.
“It was kind of ridiculous but we were so lucky to get the flat in the end”, she added.
Giovanni Alcantara, a Second year student living within accommodation provided by the University of Edinburgh, also claimed getting his flat was not pleasant experience.
He said: “We entered the lottery that accommodation services held back in February and there were literally hundreds of students for just a few beds. We eventually got lucky and reserved a 4-bedroom flat even though we hadn’t seen it because we were desperate. We were lucky it turned out to be nice but as you can imagine, if the flat wasn’t good we would’ve been bound to it anyways.
“Overall, I think the University still doesn’t have enough properties to house all of its students and there were hundreds of disappointed students after the lottery.”
Asked if the University of Edinburgh should do more to improve the situation, he replied: “So far they are doing well in trying to improve the situation, as much more student accommodation is being built, but the high demand will always be there.”
Profiting from high demand
Landlords appear to be profiting from the high demand. An additional study conducted by property site Zoopla said that Edinburgh is the number one city in the UK for landlords to profit from students, as investors buy properties near the universities and rent them out to students.
“Many Scottish universities are now internationally renowned, with thriving undergraduate and graduate environments”, said Lawrence Hall of Zoopla.
“This means demand for rental accommodation in university areas is very high, as throngs of students compete to live near their campuses.”
Susan Porter, a landlord who has been renting to students for nearly 20 years, spoke to The Student about the gains for landlords.
“Student tenants give a rental all year long with no void, so that is a positive for landlords”, she told The Student.
Despite this, Second year University of Edinburgh student Rheanna Filmer recounted her positive experience with her private landlord.
She told The Student: “Before we moved in, our landlord offered to re-paint our walls but we decided not to so we could put stuff up. She’s been really helpful and actually I don’t think we’re being ripped off at all.”
Image: Flickr: ‘byronv2‘