The Glasgow Guardian speaks to the students housed at Novel Student's "unfinished" flats.
Promised the "best student accommodation in Glasgow", unassuming students have been met with "filthy and unfinished" housing at Novel Student's Bridle Works properties. Distressed students have spoken to The Glasgow Guardian about their "neglect", and the "disrespect" they have faced.
At the front door of the Bridle Works accommodation, a neon sign greets tenants. Reading “so glad you’re here", the property itself appears far from welcoming. From a digital gaming suite to a cinema, students were promised the “best student accommodation in Glasgow”, with several luxurious amenities included in their £700-900-per-month rent. Instead, the building offers an array of health hazards, from poor ventilation to exposed live wires.
"...the building offers an array of health hazards, from poor ventilation to exposed live wires."
In response to the situation, a group of University of Glasgow and Strathclyde University students have organised a social media campaign to highlight the “disrespect” and “neglect” that tenants have been shown by Novel Students. The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Roslyn*, a representative of the group, to find out more about their experiences.
Unlike many of Bridle Works’ international residents, Roslyn had the opportunity to visit the property earlier in the year. She was aware that construction was underway, but was assured that construction would be finished by 11 September. However, across 9-10 September, tenants received emails that confirmed that rooms would not be ready for several more weeks. “Some students were in the airport coming from China to Glasgow when they got the emails,” Roslyn explained, "We had already paid our first month of rent."
Novel Student offered to reimburse rent for days not spent in the accommodation and arranged for tenants to stay in hotels until accommodation was liveable. When they were eventually invited to move in to Bridle Works, it became clear to tenants that the work was far from finished, with one commenting: “They say that it’s just cosmetic, but it’s very unsettling." Inside, the building has “[its] floors covered in dust and stoor”.
"When they were eventually invited to move in to Bridle Works, it became clear to tenants that the work was far from finished..."
Concerned for her physical health, Roslyn explained that her room lacks "windows that can open", meaning she has "no proper ventilation”. “You’re living in a construction site," she told The Glasgow Guardian, "[with] power tools often left out overnight, holes in the walls, and live wires hanging out."
Being a 20-story block of flats, elevator access is necessary for most tenants. However, during the first week of inhabitance, half of the building’s lifts were cordoned off for contractors to use, and students had to “have a builder in the lift with [them] in case something went wrong". The Glasgow Guardian heard that: "One of the lifts would drop three floors at a time because it hadn’t been fixed yet."
Living on one of the top floors, Roslyn often finds herself waiting approximately 10 minutes before she can access a lift. She notes this as a concern for disabled students, who may not have the option of using the stairs. Images shown on the campaign’s twitter account @novhellstudent have also highlighted that pull-cords in disabled bathrooms are tied up, almost eight feet from the ground, rendering them inaccessible to users.
The constant presence of construction workers has been unsettling for some students, who, due to the deadbolt on their doors being disabled, “can’t lock [their] doors”, with “contractors [having] fob access to the rooms”. One student alleged that they had been “harassed” by a builder on the street after taking pictures of the unfinished accommodation. Often students “aren’t warned about work that will be happening”, and staff have "claimed not to know". This has reportedly resulted in students being caught unaware by contractors trying to enter their rooms, or “on ladders at [their] bedroom windows”.
"The constant presence of construction workers has been unsettling for some students [who] can’t lock [their] doors."
Roslyn also expressed concerns about the quality of her academic experience, stating: "Sometimes the drilling and construction is so bad that we are unable to attend our classes [and] the wifi turns off randomly, which obviously isn’t ideal with most classes online."
The toll that the circumstances in Bridle Works have had on the physical and mental health of the students living there has been “awful”, claims Roslyn. “You feel as though you’re not being heard,” she says. "Because we’re students, they think they can get away with things, which makes us feel so belittled. We’re all young. Most of us are in our twenties or younger than that. All of this on top of your studies is daunting."
A spokesperson for the student organisation took to Twitter to express frustration at the impact that living in Bridle Works has had on tenants, writing about “daily panic attacks, autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses acting up from all the stress, dirt, and dust", summarising: "It’s mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting to live here." When one student complained about not having been informed about a “cupboard full of water pipes in her bedroom that makes noise every time someone flushes", they were told that “if [they didn’t] like it, [they] could move out”.
Tenants view the Novel Student Bridle Works situation as one example of a case wherein students have been “taken advantage of” and “misled” when trying to find a place to stay in the city during the rent crisis. The Glasgow Guardian reported on a number of “alleged scammers” that have been targeting students, and on the “lack of provisions” made by the University of Glasgow to accommodate students.
When asked what the student tenants wanted the outcome of their campaigning to be, Roslyn said that she wanted to “ensure international and younger students were informed of their tenants' rights”. “We want head office to listen to the students and the staff,” Roslyn states. “There is a lack of communication that needs to be addressed." She further emphasised: "We want to warn students about moving there. There are people still living in hotels, looking for accommodation - I don’t want people thinking of moving here to be misled. People need to know the gravity of the situation."
Novel Student stated that it is their goal to "always ensure the on-time delivery of products to residents, and given the significant challenges we have faced, we have had to accelerate this process to the best of our ability.
"We greatly appreciate the patience of our residents as we navigate these challenges and sympathize with the disruptions they have endured over the last several weeks.
"We are committed to delivering exceptional student experiences [and are] naturally disappointed to hear of any resident experiences that fall short of that."
*Name has been changed for confidentiality