So this is the first in what I intend to be a series of "Randomspot Reviews" where I review things in my typical unprofessional and really not constructive in anyway type of style. Some things other people may review, like films or games, and other things people may not review… like letting agents around Leicester.
I came to Leicester for university, and like any normal university student, you become something of a nomad, moving from house to house, being fucked over by letting agents repeatedly until you figure out exactly how to play them at their own game. If you are thinking of going to university in Leicester, or are currently looking for a new house in the area, please take a look the below snide comments about letting agents.
Halls: Halls were an interesting experience, and well worth doing for First Year students. You are thrown into a cramped apartment complex, with little natural light and no ventilation, to try and form some sort of bond with a group of 2-9 other new students, all of which have no clue how to live, think the washing up fairy exists, and thinks that toilet roll drops through a hole in space and time into your bathroom. The rooms are tiny, there is not enough storage space, and rent is massively overpriced. That being said, I HIGHLY recommend halls for one year of your life. You don’t have to worry about bills or internet, and you’ll make some great friends, and the maintenance guys tend to be really efficient (and you’ll need them what with all the damage your new friends cause). It’ll be shit, but you’ll have fun.
Leicester Student Lettings (LSL): I lived with these guys in my second year, when I was at my most vulnerable… and my god did they know it. My good friends from Halls and I put a pricey deposit down on a lovely flat opposite one of our favourite bars in March, ready to move in in September. In August, we get a call saying that they have sold the flats out from under us and are moving us into another flat that will cost us more. Obviously not happy about this, I took the lead of our rabble of second years and managed to get us a very small reduction on our rent. The new property was not as nice as the previous property, and had clearly been given to us because no one wanted it. Because of these changes, one of our party dropped out of living there, and LSL were told they could fill the space with a lone tenant. To which they moved in a known drug dealer called Ivan. This meant on many occasions we would have mysterious parcels, money, policemen, and even Ivan’s mother coming to the house trying to locate Ivan, who would drop off the face of the planet for months at a time. Also, the maintenance was abysmal. You would have to go to the letting agents in person, and tell them about any problems, and then they would send a little Mexican man round to do the repairs. This chap was dirty, very smelly, and didn’t speak a word of English, so explaining any problems (of which there were many) was particularly difficult. The fire alarms in their building continually went off, and then, after all that, they try very hard to hang on to as much of your deposit as they could after you leave. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND. They do however have a snazzy new website now and a building that isn’t above a creepy suit shop, but it’s the same guy who’s in charge, so I’d stay clear.
The Lettings Company: My partner at the time lived with these guys and all I can say is that they are money grabbing fiends with no customer service skills. If you have a problem, pay an admin cost to have them NOT fix it, and be prepared for a fight to the death to get your deposit back. AVOID AT ALL COSTS
Nicholas J Humphries/Barkers: My partner lived with these in his final year. They were pricey, but their properties were of a good standard, and so following a disastrous second year, 9 other friends and I moved into 2 5-bed adjoining houses with these guys. To clarify here, Nicholas J Humphries is the student branch of the firm. Barkers is the professional (non-student, normal person) side. These guys were much better. Friendly from the get go, and were there to listen when you had problems with the house. They only needed prompting once or twice if you had any issues, and would do their best to try and resolve them ASAP. A downside was that our house got burgled by someone with a key… but there is little that the letting agents can do about that save changing the locks every year, which is the landlords prerogative anyway. Their damage appraisal at the end of the tenancy was also very fair, they even get a person to come round before you leave to suggest what you may get charged for and to note any reasoning you may have around any damage. We were billed by the landlord for something that was unnecessary, and Nicholas J Humphries backed us all the way. It was really refreshing. Unfortunately, when you stop being a student, the Barkers side of the company really lets them down. The prices are even higher, and you don’t get the same level of customer service. A real disappointment after I graduated I must say. But students, I strongly recommend Nic J’s, It’s worth the slightly higher rent prices for a service you can trust.
Independent Landlord/landlady: This was a pleasant surprise, but is always a bit of a gamble. Those dodgy A5 bits of paper you see in windows that say “house to let – call 0116 **** ***” actually do give them a call because you might surprise yourself. My first year after uni, I moved in with some other friends, they were all still students and I had finished. The landlady was lovely about it and didn’t mind one bit. She helped me through paying my council tax, and was much more malleable when it came to changes to the property (like switching the internet provider, the cost of which came included in the rent), and I enjoyed it so much I stayed for 2 years! Obviously everyone’s experience with different landpeople will be different, but I would definitely say to not rule it out. With no agency fees for you or the landpeep to pay the rent is probably going to be a little cheaper as well! The only rule is make sure if you pay a deposit, it goes into a DPS (deposit protection scheme). Speaking to the landperson directly means you get a much clearer response if maintenance needs doing. Downsides to my landlady… she would always come round when I was cooking breakfast for a friend… and assume I was sleeping with all of them. But otherwise… none really. Just meet the landlord/landlady before you move in and make sure they seem reliable and proper. If they are gonna screw you over and you haven’t gone through an agent it is much more difficult to remedy.
Clarendon Estates: After moving out of the above property, a number of my friends moved into houses with Clarendon Estates. Overall the feedback from them has been great. Clarendon are really understanding of personal problems and difficulties, and will speak to you like an individual and will try and meet your needs, letting you make a rented house feel more like your home. The only negative comment I have heard about them is that again, big ongoing maintenance problems seem to get swept under the carpet. Still, Clarendon Estates come recommended if you can bare living with a few minor flaws.
Belvoir Lettings: Pronounced “Beaver” (it’s a Leicester thing… don’t ask). These are who I am with at the moment, and all I can say is the customer service is great on the outside… but the actual service they provide is quite bad. I’ve had to threaten to withhold rent TWICE to ensure they follow up work that should have been done on the house before I moved in. And also the contracting process if full of hidden admin costs. The reason I’m still there? They are dirt cheap. If you are looking for somewhere affordable to stay for longer than a year, Belvoir is not a bad bet, just expect some problems in the initial 3 months while they dither about on if they are ever going to actually bother to fix your heating.
The final line is: Students - Halls for first year, then Nicholas J for your final two. After Uni - Clarendon Estates is probably your best bet, bigger more established companies across the UK (like haart) seem to be a lot more expensive and have hidden costs. Never be afraid to try out some independent letters because sometimes they are a real treat.
…Or save money and move back in with Mom and the washing up fairy in the magic toilet roll dimension.