AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into reports that a provider of student accommodation in Dorset is renting rooms as holiday apartments without permission.
The owners of the Oxford Point student blocks on Oxford Road, Bournemouth, have reportedly sublet unused rooms for Â£ 450 for three nights on sites such as Bookings.com and AirBnB.
However, some holiday apartment guests have complained that they have been misled as they have said they have never been informed that the building is student accommodation.
Students staying in the accommodation, owned and operated by Fresh Student Living, have raised concerns about potential violations of health and safety rules as well as Covid regulations.
University students at Bournemouth University and Bournemouth University of the Arts, who have 51-week rentals in the accommodation block, said they were not told other people were due stay there this summer.
The students raised a number of complaints, including being disturbed by rowdy and drunk residents for the first few hours, disregarding Covid restrictions and even finding drunk people passed out outside their rooms.
Other residents were reportedly verbally and physically assaulted by tourists.
One student said: ‘I have many complaints about the way Oxford Point is operated
âOrdinarily, I would consider these issues to be too trivial. However, we pay Â£ 215 per week in rent and utilities.
“This is blatant and frankly disgusting profiteering attacking students who have to take out loans to live in the first place, and it makes me sick.”
Another autistic student said: “I get easily stressed and anxious, and the fact that my house, which I am paying an insane amount for, is in fact rented out to strangers, the door is left unlocked so they can have it. Just come in, that other girls my age have been verbally assaulted by middle aged men, it’s terrifying.
âFor a building that claims to prioritize student safety, I really don’t agree with a lot of the choices they made in deciding to rent the building as a hotel during what is still a pandemic. .
âHow are we supposed to feel safe in our home? ”
The council’s planning department said it was not aware of any planning requests submitted to change permission to use student residences as vacation apartments.
A spokesperson for the council said: “We have not received a request to change the original authorization to change use to vacation apartments and are further investigating the matter to determine if there has been a violation. planning. ”
Both Bournemouth University and Bournemouth University of the Arts are aware of the situation and have offered some students alternative accommodation and encouraged others to contact their accommodation team.
The building, owned and operated by Fresh Student Living, has 468 rooms, with around 40 students currently living in the accommodation and between 200 and 250 members of the public residing there during the summer at all times.
Fresh Student Living has partnered with online property management company Lavanda, which handles the online booking process for vacationers.
A spokesperson for Fresh Student Living said, âWe take the welfare of our residents very seriously and have spoken to the separate organization that manages vacation rentals, as well as checked with our on-site team.
âAll guests are reminded upon booking, upon arrival and by signage throughout the building of our strict Covid security policies and practices which include increased cleaning of shared spaces. Our on-site team takes appropriate action when there is evidence of non-compliance.
âWe apologized to the residents concerned and informed them of the permitted use of the building during the summer period when the majority of the students left. It’s about making full use of otherwise empty rooms and helping to support the local economy in Bournemouth. ”
Students have been invited by Citizens Advice to appeal individually to Fresh Student Living regarding the management of resident safety and the application of Covid measures.