Student Accommodation – Remember the New Rules

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A very late Easter this year may mean that students are already considering their student accommodation, anticipating their summer break, perhaps already discussing whether they are staying or going elsewhere.

You will probably have already decided whether it would be desirable for current tenants to stay or whether you would want to start afresh with newcomers. If students are your market, at this time of year, there are choices to be made.

The standards of student accommodation have improved dramatically over the last few years; likewise, the rent levels that students, or their parents, are prepared to pay. The increased security of university accommodation provided, or advertised, may justify rents way beyond that allowed under housing benefit guidelines for families in need of homes, but not all students will be able to afford them or want to be saddled with a large debt for years to come. There will still be a market for the ‘house-share’ scenario, with sharers living on joint tenancies and enjoying cheaper rents.

These properties are often not of the most salubrious. Admittedly, at the end of the tenancy, this could be down to the students, though one group moved in and decorated the property top to bottom, they were so appalled at the standard, though to be fair the rent perhaps reflected this.

However, this situation will not be possible in the future. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force on 20th March 2019 and replaces the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, giving more teeth to the legislation to protect what can sometimes be seen as vulnerable – young people living on their own for the first time and perhaps far from home.

Chris Skidmore, the Universities Minister, said the new act gives tenants ‘the power to take landlords to Court for breach of contract’ because part of the contract is that the property should be fit for human habitation. It could also force the landlord to carry out improvement works and allow the tenants to make a claim for compensation.

Most landlords who provide student accommodation will have children or relatives who are or have been students and they will make sure their student accommodation properties do what they are intended to – provide a secure place for them to live and sleep whilst they pursue their studies.

They will quite probably be asked for unreasonable things from tenants – a new bed is not necessary, providing the bed available is in a good state and not stained. Landlords would be as well investing in top quality mattress covers which guard against staining; this does not mean plastic! Discuss with your local bed shop. £70 is little enough to pay if it keeps the mattress looking like new.

But landlords, even if with the best of intentions, you have allowed a low rent for your student accommodation because the property is not to the best standard, make sure it complies with fitness standards. You may feel you’ve been fair with the rent, 4 out of 5 tenants would agree with you, but number 5 is the one that will look into the legislation and try to take action against you. 

The Court will not look at low rent; they may not listen to your other tenants; you have a responsibility to maintain your properties at the correct standard. Try and make sure, as you enter another academic year, there can be no complaints about the student accommodation you provide.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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