My dear, dear daughters
AM IN THE fortunate, or unfortunate, position of having twin daughters at university. Fortunate to have them; unfortunate in that everything comes at double cost.
This includes paying rent for their accommodation. We have only just managed, yet again, to find them somewhere to live for their final year.
It is the third year in a row that I am being ripped off by greedy landlords who line their pockets at the expense of students desperate for somewhere to live.
Both daughters are doing a four-year course — one at Reading, the other in Norwich — with a year in France. For the year abroad, one was offered accommodation that resembled a prison cell block. For the other daughter no accommodation was available and we had to rent a studio. We did not just have to rent it for the academic year, but for 12 months at approximately ￡350 a month with two months’ deposit up front. When French students come to my daughter’s university here, they are given places in hall; it is odd how rarely reciprocal agreements exist.
During their first year they stayed in hall, as is customary. During their second year we had to pay inflated rent for a room in a rundown house in Norwich, and for a room in a more upmarket house in Reading.
But I thought, after the rent we paid in Paris, that was the end of it. We were home and dry. I had expected both daughters to go back into hall for their final year and just pay residence fees by the term, meaning that I was not paying deposits, or rent for July and August and for Christmas and Easter holidays.
I was wrong. So it was back to the drawing board, telephoning agents. In Norwich there is an area euphemistically called the Golden Triangle. The only thing golden in this part of the city is the lining of the private landlords’ pockets.
We found a two-bedroom terrace house, rather grubby and in need of a coat of paint but otherwise sound. We did not have to pay for July, which was a bonus, but we did get stung for 75 per cent of the rent for August and the whole amount of ￡600 for September, even though the house was not occupied until the end of the month. There was also a further ￡600 deposit to stump up and we had to sign a contract until the end of June, when, no doubt, some other poor student will be forced to take on a 12-month lease to make sure of having somewhere to stay for the following term.
I hope that in future, when applications drop — and I believe they will because of the sheer expense — universities will respond by shortening their courses and trying to control the spiralling costs of having somewhere to live.
Until then, how many other individuals will fall prey to private landlords and experience the frustration of having to pay through the nose for their children to live in sub-standard digs?