Where, with whom, and the quality of accommodation in which students live has an undeniable impact on their overall experience of higher education; and this is not just about their first year in halls.
With an increase in students experiencing mental health difficulties during their time at university, universities are beginning to recognise the important role that accommodation plays in supporting overall student wellbeing. It is equally important to understand that these students will continue to need access to support systems once they enter the private rented sector in subsequent years.
As part of this developing support network, Unipol Student Homes and Leeds University Union launched the Rate Your Landlord website in 2016.
With over 30,000 accredited bed spaces in Leeds, students in the city had already been experiencing a higher than average accommodation standard. By introducing Rate Your Landlord, students are now able to access a peer-to-peer rating system that allows them to determine which providers and landlords are the best of the bunch.
Rate Your Landlord allows students to talk about their personal renting experiences and for others to learn from them; in turn creating savvy, safe and happy renters. Most students are brand new to the world of private renting, so others’ opinions and recounts of personal experiences are an invaluable tool. Students in Leeds are now able to signpost other students towards the best landlords and away from those with consistently bad reviews.
How does it work?
The website is self-explanatory, easy to use and goes from strength to strength, currently hosting over 3,300 live reviews. Students are actively encouraged to add reviews, sharing both good and bad experiences. Unipol works with the main institutions and students’ unions across Leeds to run campaigns that see over 1,500 new reviews submitted each year.
The website only displays reviews for the last three academic years, making sure that the reviews are always relevant. A robust moderation procedure ensures comments are reasonable and students are given guidance through the submission process. All landlords get the opportunity of a right of reply before any review goes live.
What do landlords think?
Rate Your Landlord is not a Hate Your Landlord site. Students are encouraged to reward their landlords where they have experienced a really good time with a good review. With all campaigns geared toward encouraging a balance of reviews, the results of this can be seen in the average scores of 3.7 to 4.2 out of 5 across all parameters. Landlords have been involved from the outset, are actively engaged in encouraging reviews and are now recognised for their good practice through an annual landlord awards ceremony.
Could it work in your city?
Rate Your Landlord can be a particularly useful tool for students to identify better properties where an accreditation scheme is not in operation.
Unipol is currently in talks with a number of students’ unions and universities across the country who are interested in bringing Rate Your Landlord to their city. Rate Your Landlord is the only successful website of its type in the student market and offers an excellent way to support students in their choice of accommodation.
In Leeds, Rate Your Landlord is a success story of collaboration between the institutions, the students’ unions and the local authority, putting the student experience and wellbeing at the centre.
If you would like to find out more about Rate Your Landlord, please get in touch with Nicola Brown at Unipol at firstname.lastname@example.org.