Column: Sheffield’s rental market needs a deep clean

The Wicker Arches. Picture: Andrew Roe
The Wicker Arches. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Last week I packed my life into boxes and moved across the city but finding somewhere to rent that wasn’t covered in a layer of mould and dirt proved difficult.

As a 25-year-old I have been privileged to be able to rent on my own - it ate up all my wages but I just couldn’t face moving in with strangers who might steal my food and play terrible thumping music late into the night when I have to work an early shift. Someone else’s dirty dishes are just not what I wanted to come back to after a long day of hard graft.

But most of my friends in the city, are still doing just that, living in pokey rooms, in dilapidated houses with multiple people because they can’t afford anything else.

Research announced earlier this year by union GMB showed that average earnings in Sheffield have dropped by almost £2,000 per person since 2008 while but I haven’t seen rental prices change all that much. The average rent in the city for a two bedroom property is about £645 pcm.

When I was looking around for place to live I was shocked by the sorry state of properties that were paired with sky-high prices. I was shown around one house that had rubbish dumped in a shared yard out the back. Old sofas, broken electrical and a mattress with some very dodgy looking stains were strewn across the ground - and there was no discount for the privilege.

Inside, the walls were encrusted with mould and there were large patches of damp on the ceiling. Dirt and hair covered the bathroom tiles. At least the letting agent showing me around was embarrassed by the its condition. But I was worried - because of the high demand for accommodation, someone was bound to rent that house - and sure enough it was taken off the market within the next week.

Since starting work for The Star’s Action Desk, day after day I have people phoning in about poor living conditions in rented properties. From mildew and mould, to leaks that landlords take weeks to fix, there is no end to renters’ problems - both in private and council properties. And we often feel that there’s not much we can do. A few years ago I rented a house through a private landlord. He didn’t respond to my increasingly desperate phone calls about a leaking tap for more than two months.

Landlords need to take responsibilty for their properties, and make sure they are fit for people to live in. And renters - learn your rights. If you know what you are and aren’t responsible for you have more ammunition to fight for a better place to live.