Update from Meg: a response to Durham’s housing situation

Thursday 08-11-2018 - 10:56

Durham has, for many years, had a culture of panic when it comes to housing. Students sign contracts earlier and earlier every year, trying to secure the best houses in Durham. I want to make it clear where this panic comes from and how signing too soon can actually mean you end up with a worse deal.


Estate agents ultimately want you to sign for their houses as soon as possible, and so artificially create an atmosphere in which students believe they must secure homes as quickly as possible. This is a marketing and competition tactic that does not benefit students. Not only does this atmosphere make you rush into a decision you may regret, there’s a good chance you will also end up paying more than the house is worth. Durham is of course not the only University City in which students sign up for properties very early in the academic year, and evidence from other university towns like Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham suggests that early lets pressure students into unnecessarily paying a higher market value for their home, as they cannot compare its value against other properties throughout the year.


And the truth is there are lots of homes and shared flats available in Durham every year. Though it’s tempting to want your housing sorted early, taking your time to sign helps make sure your housing situation is one you are totally happy with. For example, viewing various homes carefully means you’re less likely to be caught out by poor quality. It’s also hard to know right at the beginning of the year, who and how many people you want to live with. Your housemates can be really significant to your wellbeing, so you want to be certain you’re completely comfortable with who you’ll be living with. You might even decide you’d rather live on your own!


Take your time to check through your housing contract before signing it – you don’t want to accidentally miss anything important. You can find a contract-checking tool on our website or attend a contract-checking workshop to make sure you’re confident in what you’re signing. Knowing your rights and being certain you’re happy to sign is far more important than how quickly you secure a home.


You may well be aware that students recently camped outside estate agents to ensure they could sign for properties the very day they were available. As I’ve outlined above, this isn’t necessarily the best decision for your housing situation, but it’s also not good for your health and wellbeing. Please look after yourselves as you look for a home, and remember that your health and safety is important.


Admittedly, looking for a house can be a stressful process, especially as it’s something many of us have never done before. I hope the resources on our website and our workshops will help make it as simple as possible, and help you take the time to make a housing decision that is right for you.


Meg - Welfare and Liberation Officer

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Housing, Meg Haskins, Welfare and Liberation Officer,

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