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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 15:17 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

Students worried about the health implications of their accommodation are being urged to contact their
local environmental health officer if they feel let down by their landlord or letting agency.
It comes after one Cardiff University student contacted X-Ray for help saying he was forced to sleep in his living room because of the state of his flat.
Gareth's student flat in Cathays

Gareth Davies and two friends signed up to a contract in 2010 through letting agent, Kingstons Residential; bagging themselves a three bedroom flat in Cathays costing £680 a month for a year.

But when they took it over last summer unexpected problems appeared in Gareth's bedroom.
He told X Ray, “We saw mould behind the wardrobe and behind some other furniture. The wallpaper was peeling off as well in certain areas. It was a bit more disappointing than I was expecting.”

The letting agency said they would send someone out to look at it but when he moved in at the start of the autumn term Gareth said nothing had been done.

And the smell of damp in the room was getting continually worse, “It was a nightmare to be honest. As soon as you'd open the door [the smell] would just hit you.”

The students complained again and contractors did come out to quote and eventually they were told work would start – but this was six weeks after Gareth had moved in.

He began sleeping on the sofa and was eventually moved to another flat, with a group of strangers, for the duration of the work.

The work was expected to take two weeks but the room was still unfinished for several days after that.

X-Ray asked why it took so long to repair the damp. The director of the letting agency, Kingstons - Omar Moulani, said that according to the notes on their system the damp, “was only picked up in September”. He says they then tried getting the problems sorted. He also says that in this contract the landlord carries out all the maintenance.

Landlord Mr Mehmood has admitted there were delays while he got quotes for the work on Gareth's bedroom.

X-Ray asked environmental health officer, Julie Barratt to take a look around the flat. But she picked up on many more problems - including damp, condensation, a rotting window sill, filthy carpets and unsafe floorboards. 

She told the programme, “There are quite considerable problems with condensation [in the living room] which aren't going to improve unless you crank up the heating and keep the windows open - and I can quite understand why you can't afford to do that.

“It's effectively making the living room very difficult to be in.

“The issue with the floorboards up the stairs - that needs to be sorted because there's a definite tripping hazard.

“There's dampness upstairs on the wall by the bathroom. It's not certain what's causing it but it definitely needs some investigation because it's moving quite quickly across the wall.”

So what should have happened in Gareth’s case?

Julie says students must act fast and keep on the backs of their landlord or letting agent: “You'd want a landlord to act quickly and come round and see if there's a problem or concede that there isn't. But if there is you would want a schedule of works with some understanding of when that work is going to be carried out.

“If you're having a few difficulties get in touch with the Environmental Health Department. Get the Environmental Health Officers round here to do an inspection on the premises and they can talk to the landlord and, if necessary, they can serve a notice on the landlord requiring works to be done.”

Both the lettings agency, Kingstons Residential and the landlord, Tariq Mehmood have responded to X-Ray and say they will address the problems highlighted by Ms Barratt as soon as possible.

They have both also been in contact with the students to offer them financial compensation – but so far they haven’t said how much it will be.

If you would like to get in contact with X-Ray, click here to pass on your comments to the team.

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