Properties, penny-pinching and pigeons: one man’s plight

Landlords can be cruel. Especially those puppeteering the lucrative student property business in Leeds. Pulling all the strings from their position of power, tweaking penniless undergrad underlings; a few years in student housing will teach you that anything goes. When it comes to maintenance, there’s a general rule: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you do ask, you’ll probably get the world’s worst handyman coming around to your house and smashing the slates off your roof at eight in the morning. If you’re lucky, said roof slates will add to the fly-tip in your garden. That’ll teach you.

Many landlords seem happy to exploit student desperation, fully aware of the fact that their properties will be filled in time for September. There’s definitely something to be said for getting a feel for what kind of person your landlord is – or, if it’s a company, how honourably they conduct themselves. If your experience of Leeds properties has, thus far, been rather uniform, then please allow me to put you in the shoes of my second-year self.

When you’re slogging your way through a muddle of second year French philosophy texts, you want to leave the existentialist heartache to Sartre. You want a nice relaxing sleep. As luck would have it, however, you’re not the only creature in the attic. On the other side of the sad, sauna-esque wooden slats which line your ceiling are a gaggle of incensed pigeons. They’ve made the loft their home, enjoying the freedom afforded by the sizeable hole the landlord kindly left in the roof. They come and go, through this nasty pigeon cat flap, flitting through willy-nilly. Adopting the student ‘laissez-faire’ attitude – having learnt from the last time you were treated to a visit from the ‘handyman’ – you had decided that the noise made by the pigeons every morning at around 4am, 5am and 7am would be something you could ignore. It might even become a funny quirk of living on Brudenell Avenue.
You were wrong.

You email the landlord. You explain that their negligence birthed a pigeon infestation. The pigeon infestation, shockingly, birthed more pigeons. This process gave birth to a sad and tired you. Weeks go by without response. No one seems to care about the plight of the poor soppy student and his sleep problems. Eventually, a passive aggressive email slides into your inbox. According to the wealthy landlord, it would be a good idea for you to phone pest control. Lovely! Sadly, the guys at pest control don’t seem to be free for another six weeks. The orgy of pigeon babble shows no sign of stopping.

When pest control do eventually waltz in – and cut a pigeon poop hole in the ceiling above your housemate’s pillow – the burly Yorkshireman comes back down the hatch, shaking his traumatised head. He says there were at least 30 up there and that your landlord’s been very negligent of the problem. You agree. He also says there’s a risk of infestation by microscopic pigeon mites in the attic bedrooms. This mere appendix to the problem combines potently with work stress, turning you loopy for a few days as you sleep on the living room floor, convinced that the war on pigeon mites has progressed to a full-scale epidemic.

Whether it’s mice, rats or pigeons, this situation is enough to make any student feel rubbish. The stress festers when you add uni work to the mix. So, make sure you suss out your landlord before you sign a pigeon poop trap, even if you’re more resilient than some of us.

Rory Haworth-Galt

Photo credit: Pixabay