Cardens estate agents have received persistent criticism for poor management of their rented student properties, with several students coming forward with their accounts.
Exeposé spoke to students about their experiences with Cardens, all of which have asked to remain anonymous. Frequent criticism seemed to be the alleged poor and unclean condition of the houses. One student responded that, “they showed up at our house for a viewing unannounced and we had to let them in… my boyfriend was with Cardens 2018/2019. They had such a bad mould issue, and the electrics were off and the fire alarm would get set off whenever the oven was switched on and they never did anything about it. When they were going to leave, Cardens demanded the house got professionally cleaned otherwise they wouldn’t get their deposits, even though the house wasn’t professionally cleaned when they moved in. They had to threaten legally and pull-out terms from the contract to avoid it. Horrible experiences all around”.
Another response stated that, “the main problem is just the time it takes for anything to get fixed, they’re truly awful”. They included a further description of the condition of the house: “Our tap was leaking about 40 litres of water a day and it took over a month before it was fixed. In September I requested new curtains as mine had mould on them, they still haven’t arrived. My felt headboard had layers of embedded hair and a jizz splatter on it upon moving in and my flatmate arrived to men’s dirty pants in her chest of drawers. Plus, mouse poo everywhere. Mould on walls all been painted over.” They added that they “hope it maybe changes something with their awful company”. Other issues that Cardens supposedly failed to fix included one renter telling Exeposé that “my housemate’s bed was broken when we moved in, and they took two to three weeks to replace it and he was left sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Also, one of our lounge floorboards fell through in March and it never got fixed”.
“We hope it changes something with their awful company”Anonymous student
Students also spoke about being mischarged or quoted for the price of their houses. One such person stated that, “the advert for the flat for this current year said that the flat cost £160pppw bills included, whereas after doing the maths, it has turned out to be £176pppw”. They also added that “two of the toilets were broken, most of the paint is flaking off of the wall and there is mould growing in the living room. Also, one of the windows is broken”. A different response described how “for the first few months we ended up paying double what our actual electricity bills were because they failed to update the machine”, agreeing with other responders that they had “mould covering the walls” and also “slugs in the cupboards”
There have also been allegations that Cardens uses false advertising, with one such person explaining that “we this year were sold a property that was completely misadvertised, so last summer (2020) the property was completely re-vamped, yet they were still using old images to advertise the property”. They further stated that Cardens “refused to take any blame” and that “the whole team there talk to you like children”.
Exeposé also received several positive comments about people’s experiences with Cardens. One such person stated that “they’ve actually been very quick, their reputation was bad so we were nervous, but they’ve been generally helpful. Sometimes they’re slow but if we call them, they help”. Another student described their experience with Cardens as “faultless”, saying that it “perplexes me the amount of negative experiences I hear about with Cardens.”
Cardens responded to these accusations with the following statement:
“Students@Cardens have been letting and managing student accommodation in Exeter for around thirty years. At present we house around 1,800 Exeter students. The properties we let and manage are not purpose-built apartment blocks, but in most cases terraced houses built around 100-150 years ago, some of which are better maintained by our client landlords than others. These are the types of house that students want to live in, not because anyone associated with Cardens chooses it to be that way, but because students make their own choices. We are the “go between” landlord and tenant. All Cardens houses have an HMO Licence (where appropriate) , A Gas Safety Certificate renewed annually, A PAT Test renewed annually, A Five yearly EICR, An Energy Performance Certificate and a Fire Risk Assessment . Where there are issues, and in the age of property students choose to rent there will be from time to time, we work closely with The Environmental Health Department at Exeter City Council to resolve them. Our role is to balance the needs of landlord and tenant, bearing in mind that it is our landlords who ultimately make the majority of decisions on how their money is spent”.
They also spoke of the difficulties that COVID-19 had brought the company: “Over the past two years we have all faced up to the challenges that COVID-19 has provided, in the case of our business we have been unable to visit properties for long periods and for much of that time we have worked with a team reduced in number by the knock-on effects of COVID-19. Ironically, many of those absences have been caused by our team doing their best to maintain service standards to landlord and tenant alike.
I can hold up my hand and say that we are far from perfect, I can also say that we are aware of those imperfections and continue to work to be better in all areas. Social media provides all with an opportunity to share their views with others instantly, but for a balanced view one should maybe consider that during the period of your complaints, we housed over 3,600 students. I know there are more than the four tenants you mention who have been dissatisfied with our service in one way, shape or form, during that period, similarly there will be more than the one you mention whose experience of renting through Cardens has been wholly acceptable.”
I can hold up my hand and say that we are far from perfect, I can also say that we are aware of those imperfections and continue to work to be better in all areas.Cardens
The statement also encouraged renters to reach out with any issues: “We aren’t perfect, we continue to try to be better. If you are a Cardens tenant with an unresolved issue you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will endeavour to assist.”
The Guild responded to us with the following recommendation: “We would encourage any student who may be having issues or problems with their accommodation to contact the Guild’s Advice Service for independent advice and support, visit exeterguild.com/advice for more information.” They also confirmed that they do not currently “promote or endorse Cardens… as we don’t with many providers.”