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The Student’s Annual Housing Survey: How do students fare in the wild world of flat hunting and private landlords?

ByOlivia R. Nolan

Apr 6, 2017

The Student circulated a survey last week which garnered over 500 responses from students across the University of Edinburgh. The goal of this survey was to gather information about the housing experiences of students while studying at the University; to see where they are living, what issues they have faced and what they might want to change.

A strong trend illustrated by the survey’s results was that a majority of students feel the flat hunting experience is incredibly stressful and that there are few resources made available to them to make this process easier. One respondent commented that it was “very stressful trying to find housing. Group viewings are unnecessarily stressful and put pressure on students to take flats for too much money, in unsuitable areas and without being able to see all aspects of the flat.”

Another respondent described how they felt that “landlords and agencies don’t accord the same respect or level of seriousness to student tenants, which may be partly justified, but I feel that some of the things I’ve experienced over the last four years have been excessive, and =would not have happened had I and my flatmates not been students.” One respondent went even further to call the whole system a “price-gouging market perpetuated by ignorant tenants and predatory landlords.” While there were some students who expressed that they did not experience a significant amount of hardship or stress in finding their flat, this did not seem to be the overall consensus.

Another notable trend in the survey was that the area of Marchmont did not prove to be the area
with the highest student population in the city, despite the commonly-held perception to the contrary. This idea was perpetuated by a campaign run this year by the Students’ Association called ‘Anywhere But Marchmont’,  which aimed to make students more aware of other areas of the city in which they may be able to find housing. It was in fact Newington which took the prize for highest student population according to The Student’s survey, with 35 per cent of respondents reporting living there, in comparison to Marchmont’s 26 per cent.

The survey also found that some respondents reported discrimination on behalf of their landlords, due to race, gender, income, and nationality. One student reported that they “experienced so much racism in my first accommodation that I had to be transferred to other University halls.” They continued, stating that they are moving into the Student Housing Cooperative next term, where they are “optimistic” about having less issues with discrimination.


A very strong majority of respondents living in the Marchmont and Morningside area of Edinburgh reported that their flat finding experience was extremely stressful, with more than 90 per cent ranking their experience a one or two out of five. However just as strong a majority reported that their current living situation was quite enjoyable, ranking a three, four, or five out five. The majority of students living in this area were either second, third or fourth years, and a great deal of these students used a private letting agency to obtain their flats. However this area also boasted the largest group of private landlords used out of all the areas of Edinburgh surveyed.


Most respondents living in Fountainbridge, Merchiston and Bruntsfield were very stressed during their flat hunting experience, with the majority ranking their experience a one or two out of five. The survey also found that the majority of students living in this area were second years, with the next most represented year being fourth years, followed by third years, postgraduates and then first years respectively. It was also found that the majority of respondents from this area rented their accommodation through a private letting agency, however some used independent landlords and the Student Housing Cooperative as well.


Out of the respondents who reported living in the Lauriston and Tollcross areas, an even amount stated that their flat finding experience was stressful with those who reported it as being stress-free. There was also a clear distinction between those who found their current living situation enjoyable and those who did not, with more than 80 per cent of respondents from this area ranking their current living situation a three, four, or five out of five. Almost all of the students living in this area used a private letting agency to obtain their flats, with less than one per cent using another means of securing their tenancy.


Similar to the rest of the areas surveyed, the majority of student residents in New Town, Stockbridge and Leith reported that their flat hunting experience was unsatisfactory, but that their current living experience was mostly enjoyable. It was also found that these areas had the lowest student population out of those surveyed, being home to only two per cent of respondents. This area was however the only area boasting a majority of flats found through independent landlords and not private letting agencies. This area also had a tied majority of both first and fourth years as residents.


Southside and Old Town are often overlooked as parts of Edinburgh for students to live given the high tourist traffic and large number of hotels, expensive restaurants and historic attractions. Surprisingly however, many respondents reported living in this area, more than in New Town, Leith, Lauriston, and Tollcross. Supporting the trend seen across all areas of the city surveyed, a majority of students reported their flat-hunting experience to be unnecessarily stressful, but their current living situation to be enjoyable. This area also boasted a strong majority of students using private letting agencies over any other type of landlord, such as University housing or independent landlords. However the University Accommodation Service’s new investment in studios around South Bridge is demonstrated in the data, with this area becoming the second strongest area for students using University housing.


The survey showed that Newington is the area with the highest student population this year, beating out Marchmont despite the widely-held assumption that most students choose Marchmont flats over those in Newington. Newington also boasted the
largest number of respondents reporting that their flat hunting experience was not altogether stressful, with 60 per cent of respondents ranking their flat finding experience a one, two or three out of five in terms of stress and hassle. Similarly, over 70 per cent of respondents reported their current living situation as a three or four out of five in terms of enjoyment and happiness. This area, while hosting the most postgraduate students out of any other area surveyed, also had the strongest majority of first, second and third years living there, in comparison to the other groups represented in this area.

Thank You to all the students who responded to our survey this year. Keep an eye out next March for the survey in 2018!

Graphics: Olivia R. Nolan

Image: Edinburgh Sites

By Olivia R. Nolan

Olivia is the current News Editor for The Student newspaper. She is a second year History and Literature student hailing from New York City.

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