‘Unethical’ universities blasted as 500 students bid for one Glasgow apartment

A one-bed flat in Glasgow costing nearly £900pcm was inundated with 500 applicants from students in less than 24 hours - as the letting agent blasted “unethical” unis.

The flat on South Frederick Street went online for £895 a month on Monday at 1pm and was withdrawn at 9am on Tuesday, by letting agents Pacitti Jones.

The company have a ‘no gazumping’ policy meaning parents can’t use financial leverage to help their kids, as all applications are shown to the landlord to make a decision - although one mum offered to pay six months’ rent at a rate of £1,100.

Chief executive John O’Malley, 49, said the situation was a “crisis” and was the worst this year it had ever been - and that staff were regularly taking phone calls from crying students fearing they would be homeless.

The one bedroom apartment.

One Kuwaiti student spent three weeks staying in Airbnbs facing the prospect of having to pay £350 for one night, before his dad came over to help, still with no luck - and Mr O’Malley said overseas students were treated as “cashcows” by Scottish unis.

Mr O’Malley said Scottish Government policies treated all landlords like rogue landlords and people were withdrawing homes from the market as a result, meaning there was 40 per cent less housing stock available to tenants.

He said it was “mental” to think of students being able to pay nearly £895pcm and crooks were capitalising by using old photos to advertise non-existent accommodation.

Mr O’Malley said: “The universities are trying to take on more students, particularly overseas ones.

“Broadly speaking around 40 per cent of housing stock has left the market since pre-covid - a lot of landlords are just putting properties for sale and exiting the market.

“For a lot of students, especially foreign ones their experience of Glasgow has been negatively impacted.

“Students do daft things but they are quite vulnerable.

“The universities should be doing more for them to get accommodation.

“We put the flat on at 1.30pm on Monday and by 9am on Tuesday had 500 email updates and between 20 to 30 voicemails.

“Our staff are struggling, it is difficult getting a call from someone begging an asking them.

“We have got one Kuwaiti student going between Airbnbs for three weeks, his dad flew over to help look for accommodation.

“They are talking about paying £350 a night for an Airbnb.

“The Scottish universities are more aggressively targeting international students.

“It is treating them as a cash cow.

“It is worse because these are young people not from this country, they haven’t got a support network.

“It is really really difficult, we don’t have the time to back to everyone to say ‘I’m sorry’.”

He said the situation was worse in Scotland than England as there was a greater push to bring foreign students in while keeping uni free for Scots students.

The situation was further complicated because many landlords and letting agencies do not want to accept guarantors who live abroad.

A Scottish Government ban on evictions due to the pandemic and cost of living crisis was also cited, although a lack of building and planning laws were thought to be a factor both sides of the border on a shortage of housing.

Mr O’Malley warned against sites such as Gumtree or SpareRoom for finding accommodation, and said an old image he had posted for a property he owns had been used to scam a young couple out of six weeks rent and a deposit rent worth £3,000.

There were tenants living in the property in 2020 who alerted him to legal letters sent by the couple, who had paid upfront in without having viewed the accommodation.

He said: “Between the rent and the deposit it was around £3,000.

“There are unregulated landlords on SpareRoom.

“There’s dodgy landlords, there’s criminals and fraudsters.

“The universities should be doing more to make it easier for them.

“It’s an absolute disgrace, it’s so unethical.”