Newest Review: ... discussion re the letter, which I have scanned if anyone wants a copy? (If this isn't resolved I am taking the case to Medway Trading S... more
Unaffordable and unscrupulous: Definitive Guide to Liberty Quays in Gillingham
Liberty Quays (Medway, UK)
Member Name: lotharia
Liberty Quays (Medway, UK)
Advantages: Close to other students, wifi
Disadvantages: Unaffordable, complaints routinely ignored, vermin, frequent controversy
Liberty Quays is the official accommodation for students at the University of Kent in Medway. The University of Kent endorses this complex for the use of all first year students and has done for five years (to my knowledge). It has recently been expanded but applications to the uni have dropped so the Liberty Quays manager is asking second years to come back and stay at the accommodation. It is a ten/fifteen minute walk from the Universities at Medway, so it's easy to visit the library for emergency essay deadlines etc.
It is in a pretty bad area but the complex itself is nice, with a Domino's pizza and Subway nearby. At £135 a week, however, you may not have the money to visit the aforementioned places very often.
Your provider is Ask4, and it has it's good and bad sides. It's a reasonably fast service and one of few providers to enable peer to peer downloads. From next year it will be providing Wifi, which is handy, but the payment plan is pretty unfair. Part of the rent covers your internet for a year, but you're turfed out in June. This means you pay for three months of internet when you aren't even living on the premises. As far as customer service is concerned, the provider is pretty sufficient. If you use a good security question when you sign up, you simply log onto the "chat" with a member of staff who can fix your problem. Unfortunately, there are quite a few instances where the internet is down for maintenance although there is sometimes prior warning of this sent in an email. Conversely, there are some instances where it shuts down without any foreshadowing and this can be inconvenient.
There is a common room with about six or seven sofas and a reasonably sized TV. The room is neutral and not decorated too badly at all, with the odd picture mounted here and there. However, it's not really a place where people go to "socialise" or meet new people. It's very much where existing friends come to watch specific programmes, and there is much silent vying over TV shows. There are unwritten rules about the Common Room, and there often is not strength in numbers. If two people on the sofa are watching the X Factor when eight lads come in to watch a football match, the chances are that X Factor stays on. There is very little confrontation because people don't really talk to each other unless they know each other, although that might have changed a year on. When I was there, there were also a few dramas about large groups of people talking through programmes etc. and, on reflection, there are probably too many sofas in there for a room of that size. It fills up quickly and watching programme can be difficult.
Rent costs £135 per week. This is pretty shocking as Gillingham has some of the lowest rates of rents in the UK. The council often reiterate how low rent is in Gillingham and the area boasts the lowest council tax in the whole country. Yet, Liberty Quays still manages to charge £135 a week when the average price of rent on that road alone is £75. To my knowledge, many student loans did not cover the cost of rent while I was there. Now, with the rent increase, students will have to take out second loans, and/or receive substantial help from their family financially. I would always recommend moving into halls if possible, as socially it is a great experience and has a real communal atmosphere. But, similarly, this year many students will not be there because of the price, so don't feel like you'll be ostracized just for living away from Liberty. Many more will be in the same boat as most can't afford accommodation with a price tag of £135 a week attached. If you look around you can find accommodation for as cheap as £70 a week, including bills.
The price of laundry is also not included, so you have to pay to use both the washer and dryer. It's £2 per wash and £1 to dry. You are also only allowed to use gel tablets, which can cost up to £7 for a tub of just 8. Washing can prove very expensive because of these reasons. The washing machine is fine and I've had no problems with mold, the dryer function is relatively clean too and maintained by staff well. Although, you must put a little less clothes in the dryer than you would expect otherwise you will almost always have slightly damp clothes still. I'm pretty sure the machine still eats your change, as it did when I was there, so make sure you have the right amount when you go down to the lobby.
The staff are generally courteous bad management is capable of exploiting the "naivity" of students with various money-making tactics. Overnight staff are helpful when you've lost your keys at Casinos and need to get into your room.
The two cleaning ladies are so lovely and they often do stealthy kitchen inspections during the week, mostly when people are at lectures. The inspections aren't strict during the year though, and flats only get warnings if hygiene is really, really bad. We only got a notice once and that was when the bins got so bad everybody in my flat refused to touch them in case they contracted something incurable.
The management was unhelpful at the beginning of the year when I was there, however, it has changed again and the new manager seems to be courteous to most people. There has under her management, however, been a bit of a scandal with some students not getting our deposits back, so we'll cover that in a bit.
Earlier this year, a student started a petition because Liberty Quays had tried to scam 16 + flats into paying out more than £50 each for fire extinguisher damages that didn't exist. The manager magically disappeared, as did the person who wrote the fake invoices, but she wasn't sacked, she was promoted and moved somewhere else. I think the girl who started the petition was doing law because she knew they were not legally allowed to make the charge and told them so after everybody signed the petition.
After the Liberty Quays staff in Medway got bad publicity, they ended up dropping the charges, but we never got an apology.
Student accommodation always has a bad reputation for giving deposits back, but this year another petition similar to the fire extinguisher campaign, launched in order to address this. Examples included one girl who left a pen on her desk and was charged £20.
It is vital that when you go to Liberty Quays, you fill out the forms well and name EVERY stain, mark, and scratch in your room. Literally, everything, because there is every chance you will be charged for the tiniest spill and it may not be caused by you. Somebody tried to charge me for a mark on my desk, without checking my form first. Luckily I remembered it was there before, otherwise I would have paid £50+ for something that wasn't mine.
The water is notoriously gross and a few of the people who lived there last year actually did a water test to see if it had any traces of bacteria in it because it tastes so foul. They posted it on facebook and I wasn't really surprised at the result. There was nothing dangerous in there, but it was the hardest water you can get without breaching EU standards. It had the same PH level as soap. This water hardness results in limescale which can sometimes clog up your shower if you don't run it every day. It also resulted in a scummy film when I was washing up and showering, to the point where I had to use a friend's shower, as her water hardness was a little more forgiving than in our flat. This still wasn't the worst though. My friend's flat water was so bad it stank of Chlorine in his bathroom and washing up was near-impossible. He spent a fortune on bottled water because of it, and I would probably do the same.
In Liberty Quays, the fire alarm is notorious. It's most common at 3am after people come home drunk from Tap n Tin. It's very easy to do, and it only takes a little smoke from the grill to set it off.
Fire alarms often occur and, when they do, this is in part due to the stupidity of students and in part due to the incompetence of staff. We were once all evacuated and not allowed to return until the alarm was over. Normally, this would be fine, but it continued for more than half an hour because staff could not shut it off properly. They had to go to every flat to see where the alarm was broken. They are in desperate need of reviewing the fire alarm system because it inconveniences students majorly and creates so much complacency that, if there was a fire, nobody would bother leaving. By the end of the year it took up to half an hour of constant alarm bells for most people to leave their rooms.
Apparently, this issue has been fixed now, but it's still concerning that a girl lived in the flat below me and mice ran rampant in her kitchen. More disturbing is that they did not get pest control in to sort out the problem, they left the inhumane rat traps you buy in the 99p store all around the kitchen so that every morning flat members would wake up and have to check for dead vermin. Many mornings they would see them. The girl talked to the manager and apparently he cheerfully said "Oh yes, while you were on holiday we caught a new mouse every day!" The problem persisted for over 6 months on and off.
I wouldn't want to be on the ground floor knowing what I do now, but there is different management so things could be different as far as first floor pest control is concerned.
All in all, I would say avoid Liberty Quays.
If I had not been panic sold the accommodation when I was a fresher, I probably would have lived elsewhere simply because the rent was so high at £123 a week. It put me out of pocket, but I have kept in touch with people well because of it so I don't have too many regrets. For £135 a week, however, this definitely changes things, as that is too high a price to cover socialising alone. This is especially true now as the student loan does not cover this expense. Many more first years will probably be living elsewhere because of the price, so no reason to feel ostracised if you do not.
There are few pulls to justify that kind of money, especially when you get things into perspective. There are University of Kent accommodations in Canterbury which offer rent as low as £90 a week when it is in a prime area. Some of these accommodations also include breakfast/lunch. Liberty Quays in Gillingham is, in contrast, places in an unpleasant area and does not offer any of these perks. It seems obscene to pay more than those in Canterbury when complaints are routinely ignored, and scams are commonplace. It may be a price worth paying to those who want to be at the hub of what goes on, but very soon that hub will not be Liberty Quays, because nobody will be able to afford it.
If you want to pay more to be near students, that's understandable, but expect to work part time in order to subsidise that socialising!
Summary: If you have money, go for it. If not, find somewhere else and don't beat yourself up about it!