HYBR: the Bristol-based housing service fixing the ‘toxic’ student rental market


By Nadja Lovadinov, Third Year Geography

Finding the perfect home is a dream far from reach for many students. With January nearing closer, the housing scramble hastens, and floods of students fall victim to the hostile student rental market. Epigram investigates a potential solution.

The inspirational 24-year-old Hannah Chappatte, CEO co-founder of HYBR and former Bristol student, is mending this ‘toxic’ student rental market. HYBR has seized the student letting scene by force, collecting awards left, right and centre. Closing in on £500,000 funding, HYBR is shaking up the housing status quo by providing an original and personalised customer experience.

For students, the buzz and excitement of moving out and independency is crushed by the heavy odds stacked against them. According to Chappatte, students ‘waste valuable time that could be spent studying or having fun locked in battles with landlords and lettings agencies or trawling through disappointing properties’, ‘every year this cycle repeats – it doesn’t work for anyone and has created a toxic market where students don’t trust landlords and landlords don’t trust students.’

'Students don’t trust landlords and landlords don’t trust students.’

In an interview with Epigram, Chappatte identified the root problem; poor communication and respect between students and landlords. There is an imbalance of power and the exploitive market targets underprivileged students who do not have wealthy or house-owning guarantors.

Chappatte elaborated further that students are not viewed as clients. The relationship is one sided and dismissive. Students are expected to put up with threats of eviction by chancy landlords cutting corners and evasive agencies who do not answer calls.

HYBR is changing this, by providing a centralising customer experience, looking after students’ interests, and breaking the ice to help nurture sustainable relationships between students and landlords. Yesterday students scrolled through fluky Facebook listings, today HYBR ushers in a new way forward.

Using HYBR services are free and simple. Students can book consultations, and are guided by a centralising, personal experience. From requiring cutlery when moving in, to organising a taxi from the airport. Needs are listened to and fulfilled.

Their service offers free housemate matcher events, help with contracts, a great ‘guarantor replacement scheme’, and legal support. If anything goes wrong, they are here to talk, offering impartial advice on everything from deposits to maintenance issues.

HYBR is attractive as it has been built by young people and is locally founded. It started in Bristol, finding its feet in the Basecamp Enterprise Team within the University of Bristol Careers Service. Its empire is expanding into university cities across the country, including Exeter, Liverpool and Sheffield. Stuart Johnson, the Director of the University’s Careers Service, said: ‘HYBR is the archetypal disrupter. Hannah and her team saw a market that needed change and set about making that happen in dogged fashion.’

'Hannah and her team saw a market that needed change and set about making that happen in dogged fashion.’

More than 1,000 students have found houses through using the service, and HYBR student ambassadors are scattered across the country keeping HYBR’s finger on the student pulse.

Chappatte offered her top three tips to Epigram for students attempting to manoeuvre through the market.

1. ‘Take your time.’ With January looming ahead there is a real rush and panic for students to accept anything, but Chappatte advises to make sure you are satisfied with your property and your living group.

2. ‘Know who you are getting into bed with.’ Do your homework and look into reviews of landlords, letting agencies and potential horror stories experienced by students.

3. ‘Remember to treat the landlord and agent with the same respect you want to receive.’ Students should avoid sending aggressive messages, as landlords might be less inclined to help. HYBR offers communication support by creating email templates students can use.

So, whether you are signing contracts that feel like selling your soul away, or haven’t started even started the search, HBYR offers a unique opportunity to feel more in control of making the right choices for you.

Featured Image: Epigram | Tom Taylor