A degree of planning: Top tips for student landlords

Ikea is packed to bursting, supermarkets are running dry of pasta and tinned tomatoes, and soon the motorways will be full of emotional parents dropping off their children for their first term at uni.

As a nation, we are embracing further education, and our universities are widely considered to be the best in the world – and this is great news for landlords. A record number of students started university in 2017, with 241,585 gaining a place at a UK university, and 2018 doesn’t look to be majorly different with the final figures not announced until the A Level results are made public on August 16th.

Admittedly, there has been a slight downturn of 2% in the general applications for UK universities this year, according to figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) however, this has been explained by the fact that there are simply fewer 18 years olds in the population rather than a drop in interest! There was concern that Brexit may put the brakes on international students looking to study at UK universities, however initial studies show that this is not looking likely. Data released by UCAS has revealed that there has been a 3.4% rise in students from the EU applying to study at UK universities, whilst applications from international students from outside the EU rose by a staggering 11%.

With so many students taking places, there’s an awful lots of beds to find and the demand for good quality student accommodation in the major uni towns is booming – it’s no surprise that savvy landlords are cashing in on this reliable investment.

HMOs are the most popular option for students providing a cost-effective housing solution, and ready-made social life. However, gone are the days of ‘Young Ones’ style digs, with today’s students a little more discerning then their historic counterparts. But do you need to treat your student tenants any differently to a ‘standard’ household? After all, they are rent paying tenants, out in the wide world on their own, surely you can leave them to their own devices and everything will be fine…?

Be patient

Understand that this is the first time renting a property for most students, and event if you are not dealing with first years, it is likely to be a confusing time for your newbie-renters. It is possible that you may have a large group of students trying to let your property as a group, which can be tricky to manage at the best of times, so do try to be patient, and offer assistance wherever you can. It is in everyone’s best interest to get the I’s dotted and the t’s crossed with minimal havoc!

Remember that all the same rules apply

Whilst it may seem simpler to let to students who do not have to consider moving dates or prior landlords, it doesn’t mean that you can cut corners when it comes to the legalities of letting! All the same rules still apply, and you need to be sure that any property you let ticks every box with regards to safety. You still have to be sure that you carry out every rental requirements from Right to Rent checks, referencing (if you choose to), protecting deposits, issuing prescribed information, providing a copy of the EPC/gas safety certificate/How to Rent Guide, and getting tenancy agreement’s signed. You of course still have all the normal landlord duties to comply with too, and there are more involved with managing an HMO, so make sure you check what sort of property you are letting.

Make sure that everyone is aware of what they are getting into

Heading off to uni for the first time is an exciting prospect, but make sure your tenant’s excitement hasn’t clouded their better judgement, and that they understand exactly what they are signing up for. Ensuring that they understand all of the documents that they are signing up for regarding your property (especially their tenancy agreement) id key, as it may save you all a tricky conversation later on. It’s also wise to have a quick chat about running costs, so that everyone understands how much the property is likely to cost on a weekly/monthly basis, and how much that equates to per person. It’s possible that your first-timers may not have thought through of all of the bills that they are going to be running up and may find their student loans don’t stretch quite as far as they had hoped…!

Don’t trip up on Prescribed Information

It is highly likely that your student tenant will not be stumping up their entire deposit themselves. If this is the case, don’t forget that anyone who contributes to the deposit must receive a copy of the prescribed information. Whether additional funds have come from the Bank of Mum and Dad, the University has helped out via a bursary, you must make sure that details are sent to the personal who has made the financial contribution so that they have details of where their money is being held.

Explain deposit deductions

Whilst most tenants fully understand the need to supply a deposit, there may still be some confusion around exactly what it is for, leading to the potential for disputes at the end of the tenancy. If you can, try and spend a little time at the start of the tenancy explaining why you are taking a deposit, where it will be held, and the reasons you would consider withholding it at the end of the agreement (damage to the property, unpaid rent etc). All of this information should be explaining within the Prescribed Information, but double check that it has been understood.

Make sure they are aware of security risks

Areas popular with students are often have higher than average burglary rates, so make sure to inform your tenants of the importance of home security. Students often have valuable laptops and IT equipment necessary for university courses stored at home, and chances are they might not have had to consider home security in the past, so a quick heads up on the importance on the basics, such as making sure ground floor windows are closed and doors are locked might be appreciated. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they won’t lose their keys on night out, but you can’t help that…!

Make sure they know how to use important safety features in the property

You may only be just around the corner or have a plumber on speed dial in case of emergencies, but it is still very handy for your tenants to know where the stopcock is, how/when to use it! Their quick action in the case of a burst pipe could save you a huge amount of cash! A quick run through of the basics of running your property, (especially if it has any quirks to consider) could be a real benefit to everyone involved.

Provide a cheat sheet

Stopcocks and fuse boards aren’t the only things that could cause problems – complicated boilers, ovens and heating systems could fox even the sharpest tenant (student or not)! If your property needs a degree to operate the grill, give your tenants a break, it’s their first time and they’re new to this – leave them a handy cheat sheet and show them the ropes! They’ll thank you for it!

Don’t be the ‘scary landlord’

Landlords get a bad rep, so do all you can to dispel the myth early on. If you can, meet your tenants for a cup of tea and try and build a relationship with them. By encouraging them to see you as a normal person, not a ‘scary landlord’ you will create a much more open stream of communication. Remember, most degrees last three to four years so if your tenants like the property AND you, you may have scored the jackpot and found yourself a long-term option!

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