Opinion

Blog: University body shares NRLA calls on student rents

Ben Beadle
Written by Ben Beadle


Student landlords are facing a unique set of challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. NRLA Chief Executive Ben Beadle has written to Universities UK to ask for their support in ensuring students honour rental contracts. 

These are difficult times. The country remains in lockdown, with communities across the country –indeed the globe – reeling from the loss of loved ones.

It is against this backdrop that landlords, many of whom will also have been affected by this deadly virus, are trying to support tenants while salvaging their livelihoods.

Student landlords are among those hit hardest by the pandemic – with universities and colleges closing their doors indefinitely.

Many students have packed up and gone home, to spend lockdown with their families – but where does this leave landlords?

Concerns

Over the past few weeks a considerable number of members have been in touch to express concerns about pressure from universities to waive rent owed by those who have already left their student homes.

Whilst many landlords have be able to come to mutually acceptable agreements with their tenants, many are not in the position to be able to waive all or part of their rent. We agree therefore with the Government’s clear guidance that tenants, including students, “should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability.” 

In the case of students, maintenance loans are being paid as normal, and many are likely to have seen costs on items such as shopping and leisure activity fallen as they return to live with family.  

Student landlords are also in a more difficult position in that, should they offer to defer rents, it is unlikely they would be able to recover the money as students are reaching the end of contracts and will be moving on.

Increased costs

At the same time having unexpectedly empty properties will also increase landlords’ costs for insurance, council tax, utilities, tenancy management fees and licensing.

We wrote to UUK asking it to urgently contact members to support two recommendations. These were:

  • To remind them of the Government’s clear guidance on tenants paying rent , noting that students are continuing to receive their maintenance loans in full at a time when many other outgoings, such as shopping and leisure activities are likely to have fallen. 
  • To encourage them to take a more collaborative approach to working with landlords. Just as we are asking landlords to show as much flexibility as they are able, we would hope universities will understand the financial difficulties that will be caused if students walk away from contracts without paying their rent. 

In addition we reminded them of the potential for the pandemic to have a devastating impact on the provision of rental homes for students for years to come if landlords are forced out of the student market altogether. We believe universities and landlords need to work together to encourage students to pay rent they are contractually obliged to pay.

Response

In response to the letter UUK said that students are facing their own challenges, with part-time work curtailed and some families struggling, it appreciates the vital role that PRS landlords play in housing students.

It then confirmed it would be forwarding the letter and its recommendations to its member institutions. You can read the UUK letter in full here.

We are pleased that UUK has shown its support and we will continue to campaign for a package of measures that we believe will help landlords – in turn putting landlords in a better position to support their tenants.

These include extensions to safety certificate deadlines and a freeze on council tax for unexpected voids as a result of coronavirus. 

About the author

Ben Beadle

Ben Beadle

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