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Successfully letting to students

| Published on May 27, 2016

Successfully letting to students

Purpose-built student housing is a growth area as many universities renew or increase their housing stock, while demand for more traditional shared student houses remains high. The UK government recently relaxed the limits on the number of students that universities can take, so there will be more students than ever looking for somewhere to live. This presents a great opportunity for those with property to let. Lucy Beck, Associate, Chartered Legal Executive and Licensed Conveyancer at Humphries Kirk in Bournemouth, advises on the key considerations for successfully letting to students.

A good investment

Student lettings can offer an attractive rate of return. A shared house let to students can usually accommodate more individuals than the same house let to a family, because living rooms are often used as bedrooms. At the top end of the market, students are willing to pay for rooms in high-spec developments, as long as they have great wi-fi and communal spaces for socialising. Turnover of tenants may be higher than with other types of letting but as long as you choose a property somewhere students want to live, you should have a regular supply of tenants. High turnover means you need to be organised, choosing the right professional advisors to put together letting packs, with all the information you need to provide to your tenants, plus tenancy and guarantee agreements.

Regulation

The private housing rental market is highly regulated, so take legal advice to make sure you are fully compliant with the following regulations:

  • local authority licensing – you may need a license or, in some cases planning permission, to let your property to students;
  • right to rent – you may need to check the immigration status of your tenants, in parts of the West Midlands until February 2016 and across England after that time; and
  • health and safety – you must fulfil your obligations in relation to fire safety, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and gas and electrical appliances.

Making sure the rent gets paid

Students may not be renowned for their financial acumen but their parents will generally stand as guarantors. You could let to groups of students on a joint basis or have a separate agreement with each individual. The advantage of group liability is that if one person fails to pay their share, or drops out, the landlord can recover the full rent from the other occupiers. Some parent guarantors may try to limit their liability to an agreed proportion of the rent. One advantage of a separate agreement with each tenant is that you can act swiftly as soon as rent is late, go direct to the right guarantor and, if necessary, bring the individual tenancy to an end.

Dealing with damage – tenant deposits

Regardless of who your tenants are, you will need a deposit in case the property is damaged or rent is left unpaid. This is even more important when letting to students. Figures released by the Deposit Protection Service show that they are almost twice as likely to have money deducted as other tenants. There are detailed rules for dealing with tenant deposits, including registering them with an official deposit protection scheme and providing the tenant with specific information. Penalties for not complying are stiff, so make sure you know the rules.

Getting your property back

Students tend not to overstay their lease, but you will still want to make sure you can get them out if you need to, for example, if you want to sell the property or you need vacant possession to carry out work. This is achieved by serving a section 21 notice. A recent change in the rules means that you can no longer serve a section 21 notice unless you have complied with a list of requirements, including:

  • protecting tenant deposits under an official deposit protection scheme;
  • having any necessary licence for the property; and
  • providing the tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate free of charge, a gas safety certificate and a copy of the government publication How to rent: The checklist for renting in England.

For detailed advice on how to get the best out of letting your property to students, please contact Lucy Beck at l.beck@hklaw.eu, or on 01202 421111.

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