There are so many things students need to get right before coming to uni.
We have to make sure we have to make sure we have all the textbooks for the year ahead, enough money to scrape by on and that we bring everything we need from home!
But, there’s one aspect of student life that’s often overlooked.
Your student house is where you’ll inevitably spend most of your student life and getting the right house is key for health and in turn motivation.
Renting a damp house could have devastating effects on your health and finances, as I found out.
My single biggest mistake.
In June this year I made the biggest mistake of my student life.
I didn’t do the necessary checks, got excited by the size of a bedroom and ended up renting a damp house.
On the 8th of June I moved in, along with all my belongings to the new house.
What proceeded was the worst 2 months of my adult life.
First signs of damp
To start, everything appeared fine, I moved into a large space and all was well.
I unpacked, stored my things, opened a celebratory glass of wine and celebrated what I thought was a ‘gem’ of a find.
Smugly thinking I’d gotten a good space for the price I was paying, reality soon smacked me in the face.
Slowly but surely, over the next few weeks I found I was waking up feeling very tired.
I couldn’t help but feel like my mind was clouded and that I was slowly but surely losing my enthusiasm and edge.
Thinking this was just a case of a cold, flu or poor diet I soldiered on without knowing that the particles of bacteria filling the house could have been seriously affecting my health.
It was only when my parents visited that I became aware of the damp. When my mother visited the flat for the first time she immediately exclaimed that “It smells of damp in here”.
Unbeknownst to me, I had acclimatised to the horrible, stingy damp smell filling the house.
Further investigations with a damp meter showed very high levels of damp in the property, especially the living room.
Things get worse
After reporting the damp problems to the estate agents involved, it was weeks until they finally agreed that there was both penetrating and rising damp at the property.
Those terms, alien to many students, simply mean that there were two causes of damp tag-teaming my health!
After returning from a three week trip to China, (staying in a dry property) I was met with a stinky damp house ready to take on my health again.
The wallpaper in the living area began peeling, the tops and bottoms of the walls were visibly wet in the corners and sat in the middle of this room was me, breathing in damp that made the pollution in Shanghai feel like fresh country air.
As an asthmatic, my breathing became much more laboured over the coming weeks as the landlord eventually agreed to let me move out.
By now I was waking up tired, napping at 8pm and suffering from a very clouded memory, meaning that I was struggling to study for my dissertation.
Chesty coughs became a problem in the following weeks and I became a much less patient, irritable person to all.
I was going into work in damp smelling clothes, with baggy eyes and low energy levels. Not the impression I really want to be making to my peers.
Desperate to get out of the house, I would often sit for hours in coffee houses, the uni library and walk aimlessly around Swansea just to feel I could breathe. I spent tens of pounds on coffee and junk just to escape – not what the frugal student wants to be doing!
Finally, just four days ago, I moved house.
Having to take the first dry suitable property we saw means I had no room to negotiate on price.
I also had to pay another admin fee and am now left with two lumps of money in deposit protection schemes as I eagerly await the inevitable unreasonable deposit reductions from the landlord of the property – that students inevitably suffer.
BUT, My first night sleeping in a dry room was pure bliss. Waking up a few days after I felt like I has been reborn. I had energy again, enthusiasm and most importantly the drive needed to complete a degree.
Whilst it would be very hard for me to prove that damp caused the symptoms I suffered over the past two months, I am convinced it was the source.
No student should be made to suffer damp housing – don’t get caught out!
I viewed several properties before moving from the damp one, making sure I got it right this time.
I noticed two ‘tricks’ that may have been used by agents and landlords trying to mask damp.
It’s worth you keeping these in mind when viewing properties.
- Newly painted properties.
If a property has been newly painted then this could make damp much harder to spot. The damp house I moved into had been freshly painted meaning that the damp patches weren’t visible upon viewing.
- Does the property smell strongly of anti-odour spray?
Another trick that may make it harder for students to spot damp in a property is when the property has been sprayed with anti—odour sprays such as ‘oust!’ before viewing, thus masking the musty smell of damp.
Here are some signs of damp that you may want to look out for;
- Visible algae and mould – especially in the corners of rooms. (Ask if you can move sofas and tables to check corners)
- A musty, damp odour
- ‘Lifting’ wallpaper
- Changes in plaster up to one meter above floor height
If you’re really keen you could even buy a damp meter although the accuracy of these varies (especially with cheap ones not used in the industry).
As students we are faced with a mountain of challenges and a damp home will make this a lot worse.
The NHS has a useful page on the effects that damp can have on your health:
Having to move house mid-study can have devastating effects both financially and academically.
A damp house could be the difference in grades attained, I have no doubt that the ‘clouded’ mind I experienced affected my ability to perform academically (Luckily I had no exams).
This blog details my own experiences and it’s worth noting that I have absolutely no qualifications or experience in dealing with/detecting damp.
If you think your student let is suffering from damp then please seek advice from your Students’ Union/University advice centre, The housing charity Shelter or the Citizens advice Bureau.
The tips contained in this article are things that helped me and may not necessarily be helpful to others.