With research confirming that half of Britain’s undergraduate students are struggling to pay their rent, is it fair to say that students are being exploited in the rental market? Sophie Waeland looks into this idea.

The majority of adults outside of education see students as having an easy life: many are unemployed, we have a reputation of choosing to party and binge-drink over attending lectures, and we can get away with not doing the washing-up for questionable periods of time. We also have some financial benefits, such as the loans and grants from the government, and the numerous student discounts and offers on the high street and online. In reality, however, we are faced with severe financial issues, ranging from extortionate rental rates, to crippling debt and overdrafts.

The student housing charity Unipol found that student rents rose 25% between 2010 and 2013. With this in mind, why is it that student houses are known for being unhygienic, stripped to the bare necessities, and unreliable in terms of working appliances and infrastructure? Surely there should be a correlation between rent prices and quality of property, but this doesn’t seem to exist for students.

Personally, I have dealt with neglectful and rude letting agents, and, with a deceased landlord, had no one else to turn to. My student house had a severe problem with mould in the bedrooms and mushrooms in the shower. Me and the girls I lived with had to buy dehumidifiers to tackle the mould, and sealant to fix the leaking shower as we saw no action from our agents after numerous emails and calls. Instead of fixing the broken ignition on our hobs, they instead shoved through our letter box a used and almost empty handheld lighter for the cooker. On top of this, they were condescending and belittling in their email replies. For all of that, we paid a rent far beyond the worth of the property, as well as a large deposit sum, and were even offered a bills package that would have left the agency with a huge profit (we obviously did not take them up on their offer).

This kind of poor treatment would be completely unacceptable if the recipients were non-students. But young people tend to be unaware of standard rates for rent, or their legal rights, letting these agencies and landlords get away with ripping them off. With three universities in Canterbury – the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, and the University for the Creative Arts – student housing is in high demand and landlords can charge high rents and still have interest in their properties.

With the news that maintenance grants are to be replaced by maintenance loans in the following academic year, it does not bode well for students, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds who will not be able to receive support from family and care givers.