By Conor Hogan, Second Year, Politics and International Relations
It was a cold November evening after the Prime Minister had announced a second national lockdown. My flatmates and I sat down to watch and couldn’t imagine the nightmare that would ensue.
Finding a house to rent in Bristol is difficult at the very best of times - last year we were fortunate to find our place very early on, but there was to be no such luck this time. What began as a relaxed search on the Rightmove website once every few days, transformed into a frantic 7-man scouring of many different websites.
Finding a house we liked on the site was difficult enough and the thrill of searching quickly faded each time we discovered that although a house was listed, it was unfortunately, most probably, already under offer. Little did we know, this was only the start of the nightmare of looking for housing during lockdown.
We became increasingly concerned as the days went by. Not only were viewings limited because of COVID restrictions, but some places would only allow online viewings, making it extremely difficult to judge properties.
As was the case with most students, our troubles were further compounded by the announcement of Bristol’s travel window between the 3rd and 9th December, meaning we were scattered across the country, communicating intermittently via the WhatsApp housing group chat.
After weeks of fruitless searching, eventually a property did come up that we all liked. It felt like a minor miracle. We were excited yet apprehensive, and we were right to be.
I can only sympathise with those students still searching for housing
Despite the landlord telling us to come and view it, and two of us driving tens of miles to see this house, upon leaving the property and trying to apply for the house within minutes of the viewing, we were told another group had reserved it already. The WhatsApp group pinged with disbelief; our luck had once again failed us.
However, was it luck or something more sinister? The agency, clearly already knew a group had reserved the property before we left for our restricted viewing, and yet neglected to tell us this fact, no doubt using us as a fallback option.
In the winter of a global pandemic where students are getting into thousands upon thousands of debts for a unique rolled-back experience, having landlords treat us like that left a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.
As we entered 2021 in a more draconian third national lockdown, a sense of urgency hit us. As many but not all of us returned to Bristol, the old problems returned. “The property is under offer, thank you for your consideration” became daily reading. In what was one of the lows of our experience, upon politely calling one agency, we were told to ‘not call us again’ and hung up on.
January wore on and the spectre of exams began to loom just over the corner, but we finally found a property that we liked and was affordable. This is no easy task in Bristol during a pandemic.
I fail to see how my experience is any different to that of other students, so I can only sympathise with those students still searching for housing at the mercy of the sometimes opportunistic landlords and incompetent agencies. In the midst of a global pandemic, the true colours of some are revealed.
Featured Image: Epigram / Jack Crockford
Have you find it difficult to find student housing this year? Let us know!