News from Lynne Jones MP

I issued the following press release on 10.11.04

Students urged to get top-class houses for their top-class rents

Hard-up students in Birmingham are forking out top dollar rents for their new homes – yet still getting potential death trap accommodation that could leave them with the biggest hangover of their lives.

Research from British Gas and the National Union of Students has shown that, despite landlords demanding rents on a par with those paid by better-off tenants, many students get a raw deal in houses where basic gas safety and other life-saving measures are often overlooked.

Now, British Gas is urging all students to follow a simple 5-point checklist to make sure their winter at university passes off safely and they get the property they are paying for.

And that call is being backed by local MP, Dr Lynne Jones.

The latest figures show that student rents in the region have now risen to an average of 195 per month for rooms in shared houses, but higher rents have not led to higher standards of safety or quality. The research showed that:

        More than half admitted they had not been shown the Landlords Gas Safety Certificate which shows that gas appliances have been checked in the past 12 months and has to be made available by law.

        One in five (19%) said their house was infested with rats, mice or slugs.

        Over half reported damp in at least one room.

Now, as the weather gets colder, British Gas is issuing vital safety information highlighting the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, some of which are headaches and sickness and can be mistaken for a hangover.

Chris Bielby, the company’s Head of Quality and Standards, said: “Despite in many cases paying top-level prices, too many students are still getting bottom-end houses for their money.

“The law around safety checks is there to help save lives. It’s totally unacceptable that they still aren’t getting the standard of homes everyone else takes for granted. 

“But that just makes it more important than ever that they and their parents take every possible step to make sure this university year and every one passes by safely.”

NUS Vice President for Welfare Helen Symons said: “For those students living in the private rented sector, living in low quality, often dangerous accommodation is often seen as a rite of passage.

“The NUS urges students to take note of this checklist– so many of these issues could be cleared up and sorted out by landlords at minimal cost. We are continuing to lobby the government to ensure the Housing Bill gives adequate protection to students.”

Accommodation offices at many universities already carry out checks on the properties they include on their housing lists but British Gas and the NUS are urging all students to carry out simple checks of their own just to be sure.

Five point check list

1.       Check with your landlord that the gas appliances in the property were professionally installed by a CORGI registered installer, such as British Gas, and that the gas appliances in the property have been professionally serviced in the last 12 months? This is a legal requirement and your landlord must be able to provide a Landlord’s Safety Certificate as proof.

2.       Check the property has functional smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both of these are vital safety measures that could save lives.

3.       Check with your landlord that the furniture is fire resistant. Landlords are required by law to provide fire resistant furniture. And in case there’s a fire, check that you know the quickest way out and that the route is kept clear.

4.       Check that all electrical appliances have been properly wired and check electrical sockets and switches for signs of burning or scorching? Ask the landlord for proof that a qualified electrician has checked the wiring.

5.       Check that the property seems secure, ie. do the ground floor windows have safety catches, do the external doors seem solid?

For further information, please contact the British Gas Press Office, North and Midlands on 0113 245 9338

Notes to editors

On-line survey carried out for British Gas and NUS among students across Britain in April 2004.

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