The ultimate landlord guide to student properties

The UK is a world leader in higher education. Britain is the second most popular country in the world for international students. In fact, the number of international students applying to UK universities has doubled over the last 20 years (though, of course, COVID-19 understandably reduced these numbers temporarily). And after a slight drop in university applications from UK students three years ago, that figure is on the rise as well

Today’s student landlords really need to pay attention and use best practice to ensure they look after student tenants and their property and take advantage of the major opportunity that the market still represents.

So, what do today’s students want from their landlords and accommodation? How can landlords work with them to meet their expectations? And what do all student landlords need to know going into 2021 and beyond?

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Are student properties a good investment?

If you’re in two minds about renting to students, here are several reasons why you might want to give it some thought.

 

Demand is high

The student rental market isn’t subject to the same degree of fluctuation as the general housing market. With a relatively stable number of students enrolling in university, demand for student lets tends to stay at a constant high.

 

Rental cycles are predictable

Another big positive is the predictable rental cycle. Most student lets follow the same pattern: living in a property for the length of the academic year before moving out in the summer. For you, as a landlord, this is good news. It means you can agree on move out dates in advance and plan ahead to get your property back on the market in time for the next academic year.

 

It’s financially reliable

One of the biggest myths around student lettings is to do with rental payments. The common misconception is that students will pay late or defer payment. The truth is that most rent payments are subsidised by student loans – and students usually use their parents as legal guarantors. This means you have an easy way to reclaim any late rent payments.

In addition to this, student properties tend to have higher yields. One of the reasons for this is that they tend to be HMOs (houses in multiple occupation). This means that as a landlord you can charge per room in your property. 

Another reason for the higher yield is that most UK students don’t ask for much. If you’re renting to a professional or families, they’re likely to expect more for their money, such as top of the range fixtures and fittings. Conversely, students are usually happy with low maintenance essentials. 

 

Can landlords refuse to rent to students? 

If the information above doesn’t convince you, know that landlords can decide not to rent to students. A landlord is entitled to turn someone down based on their financial circumstances, as it is riskier to let to someone who doesn’t earn a regular wage.

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The ongoing impact of COVID-19

Like most things these days, the impact and unpredictable nature of the pandemic need to be considered if you’re planning on letting to students. 

In the event of universities going exclusively online again or another lockdown, most students should still be able to afford their rent as they’re likely to move back home (most likely rent-free).

As student loan payments are generally distributed in April and September, this is something that should already be budgeted for.

It is important to acknowledge that this won’t be true in all cases. Many students rely on part-time work to pay their rent. If there’s another lockdown, these students might not be able to work.

While some may be covered by the furlough scheme, if they’ve just started a new job, they will not be eligible for furlough. 

Ultimately there’s no way of preparing for what may or may not happen over the next couple of years.

As the ongoing effects of the pandemic are yet to be seen, we recommend treating each student as an individual and prioritising communication, consideration, and transparency. 

Clear communication will help you have an open dialogue with your tenants so that you’re kept in the loop with any developments. For example, if they’re moving home to isolate and when they plan on returning.

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How to become a student landlord

There are a number of ways renting to students differs from renting to ordinary tenants. Landlords interested in student lets must: 

  • Invest in the right property and ensure it appeals to students 
  • Learn about the rules of HMOs and other regulations 
  • Properly manage their relationship with student tenants 
  • Learn how to maximise their profits from student lets

 

Making sure your property appeals to students 

While demand for student lettings is high, it is a competitive market. Here’s how to ensure your property fits the bill.

 

Type of property

Students tend to look for HMOs. Landlords should also be aware of restrictions around room sizes. As of October 2018, single rooms must not be smaller than 6.5 metres square and double rooms must be at least 10.2 square metres.

 

Fittings and furnishing

Many students will spend their first year in modern, quality accommodation provided by the university. While they won’t be expecting luxury, they won’t want the quality of their fittings and furnishings to decline when they move into their own place. 

This means landlords are expected to provide the basics (beds, WiFi, TV, comfortable furniture, basic appliances) and to not skimp on them either. Landlords should also provide ‘welcome packs’ that include the inventory, tenancy agreement, advice for looking after the property and tips on the local area.

The ultimate guide to student properties

 

Location

While proximity to the pub, nightclubs and campus were once seen as the defining pillars of importance for students, priorities have changed. Today’s more health-conscious students are likely to value being close to facilities such as gyms, parks and swimming pools. 

If your property is near to these types of amenities, make sure you include this information in your advertising.

 

Other features

As with any type of let, gardens are always a selling point (particularly with the ongoing pandemic). If your property comes with outdoor space, this will certainly make it more appealing to students.

Of course with remote studying still a factor, online access has never been more important. That’s why – now more than ever – high speed WiFi is an absolute must for a student property. Most university degrees will require students to submit work and contribute to their course online so a student house without high speed internet access will likely put off many potential tenants. 

You should also ensure that the beds in your property are comfortable – and double rather than single-sized. When you’re working hard and playing hard, a good night’s sleep is vital!

FREE student letting checklist

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Regulations student landlords need to know 

What are the rules for HMOs?

The majority of student accommodation consists of HMOs.

While the definition of an HMO varies from council to council, as a general rule if you’re renting to three or more tenants with shared facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen, your property is an HMO. 

Properties which house more than five tenants and are set over three storeys are classified as ‘large HMOs’.

If you have a large HMO, you are legally required to have a landlord licence. For more information on this and other HMO regulation, read our ultimate guide to HMOs.

 

Do landlords have safety responsibilities for student lets?

You’ll need gas and electrical safety certificates for all appliances. As with all types of lettings, you’ll also need smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the property and an Energy Performance Certificate. 

 

Do landlords pay council tax for students?

While tenants in full-time education and their landlords are exempt from paying council tax on rental properties, it is your responsibility to prove that all of your tenants are in full-time higher education. If you can’t or don’t prove that your tenants are exempt, you may be left responsible for the bill.