Students in private digs are living in Dickensian conditions in properties infested with vermin, according to a survey, writes Paul Hill.
Research carried out by British Gas and the National Union of Students suggests that 23 per cent of students in private accommodation share their homes with rats, mice, bedbugs and slugs.
The proportion of students living in vermin-infested homes has risen by 7 per cent since the previous survey in 2001.
The survey also found that 50,000 students live in accommodation that has no heating and 75 per cent live in houses that are damp.
It also says that 53 per cent of private landlords failed to show students a valid gas safety certificate for the appliances in their properties, despite this being a legal requirement.
Chris Bielby, head of quality and standards at British Gas, said: "The rise in amateur landlords means that people are gambling with students' lives.
"A shabby carpet is one thing but the time has come to turn up the heat on those people who are knowingly putting students at risk."
He added: "Students must demand a safer deal from their landlords."
The survey also suggests that more than 30 per cent of students have no security locks on doors or windows. It reports that one in seven student homes has been burgled compared with the national average of 3.4 per cent.
Verity Coyle, NUS vice-president (welfare), said: "The NUS is calling for proper licensing for all student accommodation to end the Dickensian conditions students live in and to stop the exploitation by landlords, who make a great deal of money out of students."