Misconceptions about Letting Student Accommodation
Common Misconceptions about Letting Student Accommodation
I am not someone who really worries about other letting agents – I’m not afraid of competition and tend to keep myself to myself. However, I am currently feeling sorry for the letting agents of Swansea! You see, my eldest daughter is in her first year at Swansea University and she has already started to think about getting her students digs sorted for next year – as most students will.
Let me set out the scene for you. Miss Ellis walks into the letting agent pffice:
Miss Ellis: Hello, we just saw the 5-bed property in Uplands and would like to rent it, please.
Agent: Excellent. We will need you to pay our agency fee and sign this tenancy agreement.
Miss Ellis: No problem. Before I do that, you might like to know that my father owns one of the biggest letting agencies in Bristol and would like a word with you about EVERYTHING!
I am not an ogre but, like any parent, I want to do the best for my children and woe betide any letting agent that tries to take advantage of my daughter. Unfortunately, student letting agents and landlords alike have a shocking reputation – sometimes deservedly so.
To give just a few examples, I’ve heard about some of the following acts of criminality in the past:
• A landlord putting broken furniture into a flat after the tenants left to “prove” the tenants had caused damage, and therefore justify keeping the deposit
• An agent charging the tenants £50 each (every quarter) to do a quarterly inspection
• A landlord setting up a webcam in a flat’s bathroom
• An agent charging a tenant £250 to get a key cut - not a lock changed, just a key cut! Even though the tenant returned his key only 2 hours late!
• A landlord was sent to prison for assaulting a student who dared to complain about the retention of his deposit. The student later went to small claims to get his deposit back.
So why do students get treated so badly by landlords and their agents? In essence, many landlords and agents consider student tenants a necessary evil.
Over the years we’ve declined countless opportunities to let student properties on the grounds of the following unsatisfactory expressions:
• ‘It’s only students, they will rent anything!’
• ‘They will only trash the property, so why put anything decent in?’
• ‘All students are drug-taking hippies!’
• ‘All students are drug-taking hippies!’
• ‘The Deposit Scheme doesn’t apply to student lettings’
• ‘This is great, they are paying rent from July but they’ll be away until September. I will do the redecorating and cleaning over the summer.’
• ‘They will be gone next year, so it doesn’t matter.’
Let’s take a closer look at each of these misconceptions, and explore the truth behind them.
‘It’s only students, they will rent anything!’
20 years ago when education was free and students got a grant this was probably true, but now that students are having to pay £9,000 in fees, take out a loan for living expenses, plus rely on the generosity of parents to top up funds, they are quite rightly increasingly demanding. A student flat needs to offer decent broadband, a washing machine, have decent heating and be secure. This might seem pretty obvious, but you would be surprised at how many landlords think all of the above are optional especially the warm and secure bits!!
‘They will only trash the property, so why put anything decent in?’
There is an old phrase used in computing, “put rubbish in, get rubbish out”. This is true of student properties, too. On the whole, if you furnish your property with decent quality items, maintain the property and make sure it is tenant-ready for the 1st of July, you will find that the tenants will look after it. Of course there are exceptions but, on the whole, good landlords attract good tenants.
‘All students are drug-taking hippies!’
The employment market for graduates is tough. In order to get a look-in, you need at least a 2:1. The days of missing lectures, not doing assignments, leaving with a third and walking into a job have disappeared. Students work hard, as would you if you were investing the best part of £40,000 in your degree. So the majority of students spend a lot of time working towards getting the best degree they can.
Of course they play hard as well, but who doesn’t?
‘The Deposit Scheme doesn’t apply to students.’
What a load of rubbish!
Yes it does - it applies to all tenants.
‘This is great, they are paying rent from July but they’ll be away until September. I will do the redecorating and cleaning over the summer.’
This is probably the biggest misconception. If you rent a student property it must be ready for occupation from the start date. Tenants are paying rent from the start date and their property should be ready for occupation from that date. If you want to redecorate between tenants, you should not start the tenancy until the property is ready, or negotiate a lower rent with the tenants if they want to store stuff while you are working on the property – as you would with any other
kind of tenant.
‘They will be gone next year, so it doesn’t matter.’
In 1999 we let a nice 5-bedroom student property to five student dentists who called themselves, and were known to us as, The Four Patels and a Khan. Dentistry is a 6-year course and the tenants loved their property so much they stayed for five years. They were great tenants. Two of the tenants are now landlords with Accommodation Unlimited. They chose us because they knew we would look after their property and would be firm but fair with their tenants.
Accommodation Unlimited have not historically been big players in the student market.
We felt that the attitude of some student landlords towards their tenants adversely affected our reputation and so deliberately selected just a few student landlords that we could trust. Fast forward 10 years and we are becoming increasingly aware that there are many other good student landlords out there whose reputations are being damaged by the actions of their agents.
So we’ve decided to get back into the student market! We hope this will give you, the student landlord, a healthier relationship with your letting agent, and the student tenants a fairer service. A win/win for all concerned.
This means we want your student property. We have put together a specialist student landlord package which we believe is the best available in the market.
• Free referencing of all tenants.
• Full referencing (not just a credit check) on ALL guarantors.
• Accompanied viewings for all properties.
• A dedicated student property manager for your property.
• An annual property review with a senior member of staff.
• An annual statement, setting out all income and expenditure for your tax return.
In addition, for any property we get instructed on before December 1st we will offer a totally FREE LETTING SERVICE including all references and an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.*
If you want your property to be let by us please call me on 0117 973 9394 for a no-obligation chat.
Many thanks for reading.
P.S. Feel free to call me if you have any concerns of your own about the student letting agents your own son or daughter has chosen to let with.
*All referencing will include references for guarantors too.