What do students really want from their landlords?

For most students, moving out of halls and into privately rented accommodation is their first encounter with the private rental market. It can be a steep learning curve as up until that point, living arrangements have usually been managed by their parents or their university. All of a sudden, they’re having to speak to letting agents, arrange viewings and review tenancy agreements. 

We recently caught up with Tim, who has just graduated from Falmouth University with an undergraduate degree in Creative Event Management. He spent his first year in halls but moved into a privately-rented student house in his second and stayed there for his third year. We wanted to hear more about his experience of renting a student home and to see if he had any advice for landlords who are trying to improve the experience for their tenants.

Here’s what we learnt.


The ‘real renting’ process

“Being new to renting you don’t know what a tenancy deposit is, or even a tenancy agreement.”

Moving into privately-rented accommodation can be overwhelming. 

“Living in halls you are almost wrapped up in cotton wool from the real renting world,” Tim explains. 

“The process is quite structured and a lot of the pressure is taken out of the process as university living is structured with students in mind. Whilst this is great in your first year – some halls even provide a cleaner to help you out – it is often a shock to the system when you branch out into the real private rented sector. The real renting experience is actually very different from what you see on TV and experience living in university halls. Getting your head around technical terms can also be an issue – you must pay your rent by a certain date and you need to sign formal documentation, which can be daunting if you haven’t done it before. I previously had no idea what a tenancy deposit was or even a tenancy agreement!”

Tim also comments that many students at university are moving away from privately-rented student housing and back into university accommodation or purpose-built student accommodation in their third year. 

“I guess this is because everything is included and you know where you stand… The responsibility of student accommodation doesn’t sit squarely on your shoulders and you have a way of life that is familiar to you. It’s quite appealing to many students.”

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Effective communication between landlords and students

Put yourself in your tenants’ shoes. You’re renting for the first time. There’s a huge amount to learn and with so little experience of the rental market, there’s always a chance that someone might try and take advantage of you. Every student knows someone this has happened to.

In this situation, having a landlord you can trust means a lot. And the best way to earn someone’s trust is to be honest and open with them from the start.

Tim says that during viewings they saw some properties where landlords would only show them certain rooms because they didn’t have the individual room keys to open the doors.

While this may have been innocent enough, it put Tim and his housemates off.

I think it’s unlikely that other types of renters would have encountered this issue, they probably would have demanded to have seen the extra rooms [before agreeing to anything]. Once again, we were completely new to renting so we didn’t know if this was ‘the norm’ or not. Even so we didn’t feel comfortable in signing for a house when we hadn’t seen the whole property. A little bit more open communication with us about the property would really have helped to put us at ease from the start.

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Managing problems in a student property

“If we had an issue then they would send someone out to take a look for us, often on the same day.”

Having an open channel of communication between the landlord and your tenants is essential, as is being responsive to any problems with the property.

“I did feel like our landlord was really responsive to our emails and questions… That really enhanced the experience for us as it meant we could get help and it made us proactive in getting problems fixed sooner rather than later. We didn’t feel like the landlord was ever ignoring our problems which helped to stop any of the issues we mentioned getting worse.”

“On one occasion the toilet was blocked and we emailed our landlord who came the same afternoon in a full protective boilersuit to sort out the problem. It didn’t really warrant the whole suit and wellies but it was reassuring anyway.”

Having heard from friends that their landlords were not particularly responsive, this was something that Tim and his housemates appreciated.

“The landlord also took the time to get to know us personally, even sending us a happy birthday message! It felt nice and personal and made us realise that there really was a real person behind the rent payments and the house itself.”

What do students really want from their landlords? | Two students in their rental accommodation laughing and studying

“After being out of the property for two weeks we found that the whole second bathroom had been ripped out.”

Tim’s rental experience wasn’t always plain sailing.

Having a property with two bathrooms was a priority for him and his housemates – one of their criteria when they were looking for somewhere to rent. However, after the Easter break they came back from their holidays to find that one of the bathrooms had been ripped out. To make matters worse, the tools and parts that were used to carry out the unfinished repair work had been left behind and none of the tenants had been told this was happening. 

“So, despite originally looking for a property with two bathrooms we ended up with one and still paid rent for two working bathrooms. We also weren’t notified when the workmen would be coming round, or that they would be in and out of our rooms without us saying it was okay.”

Fortunately, this was the only significant issue Tim experienced. But similar breakdowns in communication led to serious issues between some of his student peers and their landlords or agents. 

“Fellow students had their repeated requests for issues to be resolved ignored by the agent who was managing the property.”

“This led to a breakdown in communication and they lost respect for the property as it wasn’t a nice place to live.” He explains.

As is often the case, Tim concedes that both parties were partially to blame.

“Had the agent been upfront and honest with them from the start, it could have been different. But equally, despite this, they should have taken better care of the property while they were there. I really think both of them were at fault. But it shows the lack of trust between landlords, agents and tenants, which causes bigger issues further down the line.”

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Here is our infographic with top tips for stress-free student letting and getting the most out of your investment

Most landlords understand how the rental market works. It can be easy to take this knowledge for granted – or not appreciate that inexperienced renters, like students, may find the whole thing unfamiliar and even overwhelming. Trust is crucial in any commercial relationship and landlords who take steps to help their tenants get to grips with the rental market will be more trusted than those who gloss over important details. 

Building a solid reputation in this way and tailoring your property to specific student tastes will put you in a good position in this lucrative market. It may also make it easier to deal with any damage caused to your rental property. Accidents happen, white goods break of their own accord, and tenants that trust you will report any issues sooner rather than later – ultimately making them easier and cheaper to fix. 

There are plenty of other unique considerations to take into account when renting to students. Read on for the regulation student landlords need to know, and make sure you have the right landlord insurance to cover student lets

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