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Housing horror

Housing horror stories

Mould, mice and machetes – we round up your most terrifying tales of renting in the UK today

This is part of a series of articles on the state of the nation ahead of the seismic UK election on May 7. Check out what we demand from the next government, and don't forget to vote. 

In a society of sky-high rents and constricting contracts, it’s an unavoidable truth that Generation Rent (that’s you, btw) is at the mercy of some seriously lousy landlords. In an attempt to try and wrench out the worst of your private rental experiences, we did a nationwide call-out – and the results were more gruesome than we could have ever imagined. After trawling through hundreds of your responses, we select some of your most bone-chilling tenancy tales... and, to be honest, we kind of wish we hadn't asked.


“I live with four other girls in an overpriced London flat run by a slumlord. For unknown reasons there is a large square (escape route?) cut out of our bathroom ceiling and covered with a piece of plywood. Whenever it rains or whenever the wind blows, dirt falls on to whoever is sitting on the toilet. It rains a lot in London. Of course our shower, when turned all the way on, only drips. Our landlord doesn’t speak directly to us, and instead sends his henchman around without warning – nothing has ever been fixed.” – Maggie Locker


“Our nine-bedroom student house in Brighton should have been advertised as a nine-bedroom student cave. The best thing I got out of it was a heightened immune system and a strong sense I could survive in the wild. We had an infestation of mice in the kitchen, decaying bathrooms, mushrooms in the shower and broken fire alarms which our landlord assured us ‘would go off if the fire was big enough’. Phew. Worst of all was the serious mould problem. My friend came back after Christmas break expecting to pull her shoes out of the bottom of her wardrobe to find lurid green furry replacements.” – Ciara Sheppard


“This actually happened to my friend, but it’s too grim a story not to share... My friend and her housemates were living with a slug problem in their kitchen. She made herself some pasta for dinner and was eating it when something didn't taste right. Turned out a slug had crawled into her pasta and she had inadvertently put it in her mouth and chewed on it. If that isn’t horrible, I don't know what is.” – Miriam R


“Last year, I lived in a house with four girls – so imagine how horrified we were when our male landlord started appearing, day and night, to peer in through the windows, wave, and wander around the garden. The worst part was that he didn’t tell us he was the landlord – on one particular occasion, when we caught him coming into the house with a chair in his arms, he said he was just someone ‘here to help’. We didn’t find out who he actually was for weeks, when the estate agents finally listened to our complaints and looked into it.” – Rosie Cranie-Higgs


“Last year, I had the pleasure of unknowingly moving in above a backstreet (and probably-illegal) nightclub in Deptford, which played techno, happy hardcore and karaoke hits until seven in the morning, four nights a week. I would often return home to what I assumed was a bouncer stood outside my front door. Lewisham Council sent us a ‘noise complaint’ diary to fill in, and did nothing else. The estate agents eventually found us a new place, charged us 50 quid more each a month and stubbornly refused to agree that they should have told us we were moving in above a nightclub before we signed the contract.” – Olivia Bishop


“I had a week to find a house and was broke, so my boyfriend and I moved into a dump above a chip shop. Another guy occupied one of the rooms but when we got there we noticed there was no furniture/stuff in his room. Halfway through moving my boxes he came in, he opened a secret hatch in the ceiling, pulled out a bunch of drugs and left. Long story short, we’d moved into his drug den. An interesting year there followed, including having the front door broken down by people in balaclavas and living without it for a month while the landlord got his shit together.” – Heather Panes


“We had just moved into a stunning warehouse conversion on Shoreditch High Street when one night we heard loud splashes from our bathroom. We thought somebody had broken in, but the bathroom lights were turned off when we opened (the door). Turns out a rat as large as a puppy tried climbing out of the toilet, but at the sight of us it swam away through the sewers! It later managed to lift up the toilet lid and dug a hole through the tiles into the kitchen. The rats were everywhere – in the kitchen cupboards, in our beds and eating our dirty underwear.” – Linn Wiberg


“4am wee break – toilet promptly explodes. I’m forced to turn the water off in panic, but it still leaks into the ceiling of the polish delicatessen below. The landlord comes round and ‘fixes’ it with my scrunchy. It promptly breaks again, and we have no toilet or running water for three weeks. He then comes round to threaten us after we reduce our rent payments to compensate.” – Chiara Milford


“The worst place I've ever lived: 11 people in a four-bedroom terrace house that boasted one bathroom and a mini-bar fridge for us all to share. The house rules included: shoes on downstairs (due to the copious amounts of broken glass) and sex only on the pull-out sofa in the living toom. I’m surprised I came out without hepatitis.” – Ashley Collis


“I was living in a horrific houseshare with a bunch of strangers. I twice woke up to people standing over my bed watching me sleep (I wedged a book under the door after those incidents as the landlord was too cheap to put a lock on my door and wouldn’t let me do it.) I also once heard the boy next door having a massive argument with his best friend as they’d both been sleeping with his sister. The house also constantly smelt of cat piss as one of the girls had an almost feral cat and her four untrained kittens running everywhere and crawling underneath the stairs and shitting. These were just the tip of the iceberg.” – Jasmine Slingsby


“I lived in a right dive above a Chinese brothel in south west London. The girls were no trouble and we only grew suspicious when hordes of men (most of whom were immaculately dressed and not what you would expect) would buzz our door instead of theirs. It became hellish when a gang of eastern European men attempted to knock our door in. We left. The police wouldn’t do anything and the landlord didn’t care too much either.” – Rosie Chandler


“We lived in a house that was so dirty that a small flower grew out the back of the sink. Then, in an upstairs room a giant black mushroom grew out of a crack in the wall which had been caused by the shower (or possibly toilet) leaking above. There was also a family of rats living under the kitchen, maggots in a drawer, and still no one wanted to do the washing up.” – Ben Oliver Loom


“I didn’t know I was sharing my flat in Deptford with a ‘highly dangerous’ drug dealer until riot police broke down the front door while I was cooking dinner. They gave me a number and asked me to call if he came back – which I felt totally safe doing, obviously. Same flat, the man in the flat below chased the aforementioned drug dealer down the street with a machete because of the damage to the front door, then later that week threatened to kill me because I was noisy and it woke his ‘wife and children’. Police told me he lived alone and was delusional.” – Erin Carrington