‘I don’t feel safe’ – ceiling collapses in student house for the second time in nine months


By Teddy Coward, Co-Editor-in-Chief

A University of Bristol student has said felt ‘scared’ yesterday after the ceiling in her student house collapsed – the second time this has happened to the property, managed by student letting agents Digs, in the space of nine months.

Nadia Sajir, a Film and English student in her final year, has said she was ‘lucky to only have one headphone in’ and moved out of the way before her bedroom’s ceiling ‘fell down with a massive “bang”’ at around 8pm yesterday evening as a result of a leak.

The roofing’s insulation also came down which, Nadia explained, ‘went all over the room – it was in my eyes, filling my throat. It felt like there was glass in my throat.’

The incident occurred despite Nadia requesting last month that the problem with the property’s ‘ceiling leaks’ be addressed. As she told Digs in an email: ‘it looks like the ceiling is going to collapse’.

Nadia says she was ‘lucky to only have one headphone in’ and move out the way before the ceiling fell / Nadia Sajir

After the ceiling fell, Nadia said she struggled to receive prompt support.

She explained to Epigram: ‘We don’t actually have an emergency contact number for the property, even though I’ve been asking for one, so I tried to get an [emergency contact] number from people in a different Digs property, including via the 'Clifton and Stoke Bishops Tickets' page.

‘One number picked up and told me: “we don’t cover your property, it’s not our responsibility, we only do the other side of Princess Victoria Street”.’

Whilst some landlords do provide a number for an emergency call out service, some choose not to and there is no such legal requirement to do so for privately-rented accommodation.

Digs were eventually notified of the incident at 23:43pm, and contacted the landlord and contractor at 6:50am. The two were both on-site by 9:30 this morning, 15 June, before making the ceiling ‘safe’ and tidying the room.

This is not the first time such an incident has happened to the property.

In September, a similar episode occurred in a different room of the house, prompting Digs to send the tenants a dehumidifier.

Following that incident, Nadia and her housemates were assured by Digs that the property was safe.

‘I think the issue with Digs,’ Nadia adds, ‘is that a lot of students just take it. For me, I’m a care leaver – I don’t have another home, just my University home.

‘The fact that I’ve not been able to comfortably live here throughout the entire tenancy because of maintenance issues has given me great anxiety. Living in this Digs property has made me anxious. I don’t feel safe.’

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Digs have said that 'extensive roof works were carried out' after the incident in September and the ceiling collapse from yesterday 'is a different issue that has manifested itself and will now be dealt with quickly'.

In response, Digs have also said: ‘We take this, and any similar incident, extremely seriously. The Landlord himself and the contractor attended first thing this morning to deal with the situation. The Landlord spoke directly with the tenant whose room it was and she said she was prepared to move into the next door room while the ceiling was repaired.

‘If this was not possible she would have been offered alternative accommodation. There were no reports of any issues with any of the bedroom ceilings since the previous incident. The tenants did report a leak in the lounge area and this was fully investigated and any necessary repairs were made.

'The tenant did have the direct number of one of the maintenance contractors that had previously carried out works at the property. She has contacted him directly before in the past. On this occasion she did not call this number but emailed us instead.

‘We have spoken with the landlord today and as a result we are arranging a delay in the start date of the upcoming tenancy for this property, to enable contractors to get full access to all roof and internal areas to ensure there is no chance of any repeat of this sort of issue in the future.

‘We and the landlord completely sympathise with the tenants situation and we are doing absolutely everything we can to resolve this issue quickly and with the least disruption to the tenants in the last couple of weeks of their tenancy.’

At the end of March, a rent strike was called against Digs following an email from the student letting agents that told tenants to pay 'full rent' 'regardless of when student loans come in and the current situation with COVID-19.'

Featured image credit: Nadia Sajir

Have you ever experienced a similar incident and had difficulty with your letting agents? Let us know.