2020 has been a tough year for everyone and with no signs of the pandemic slowing down anytime soon, landlords that let student accommodation are understandably concerned about what the future could bring. From decreased demand due to students opting to stay at home, to the risks of students having to isolate within the property and the effects that may have on general maintenance, student landlords have had a lot to think about in the past few months. Here, we’re taking a closer look at how the pandemic has affected the industry.
The Effects So Far
Currently, the Coronavirus outbreak currently shows no signs of slowing down without the right measures put into place and for landlords that let to students, this could mean another term or two of uncertainty. While students are currently at University studying, the second lockdown has triggered anxiety in students and their families about being so far away from home and this alone could mean decreased uptake of student accommodation. So far, the pandemic has caused the following problems for landlords:
Decrease In Demand
During the first lockdown, the waters were murky for both students and landlords alike when it came to how to handle the sudden change. Students that wanted to be at home during lockdown rushed back if they could and for landlords, that meant empty properties in a lot of cases. The rules and regulations around refunds or contractual changes were uncertain too, but the empty property alone could cause problems for existing insurance policies. Empty properties typically require specialist insurance, but the uncertainty surrounding how long the property will be empty for is expected to have caused confusion and problems for landlords.
For the new year, there has also been a decrease in international student demand in particular, as more and more universities have announced virtual and video-based classes well into the new year. This, coupled with disrupted international travel have meant that international demand is down overall.
Section 21 Concerns
The government have proposed to abolish Section 21 and while this has been in the works since 2019, it has been an additional worry on an already strained industry. Section 21 is a notice given by landlords to tenants that will start the process of ending a shorthold tenancy. Tenants may receive this notice during a rolling periodic tenancy, or a fixed-term tenancy, and it will typically give a date the tenant needs to be moved out by.
Student tenancies work on this kind of system, with a set date that they need to have moved out of the property for. This gives landlords the time to conduct any maintenance and move in new tenants for the next year. With the repeal of Section 21, this could mean that student landlords need to wait for a 28 days notice from students and have to honour this as long as it takes. This can slow down and cause problems with the moving in the new tenants.
Uncertainty With Time
Uncertainty seems to be a common issue for tenants and landlords alike at the moment, and understandably so. With no clear ideas as to whether we are likely to see another full lockdown or whether Universities will opt to continue online classes for a longer period, there’s no guarantee for landlords to even find tenants for the next year or term. For students, the uncertainty may mean that they choose to defer a year or stay at home to study, and international students may opt to study in their home countries due to travel restrictions.
What Can Student-Let Landlords Do?
There’s no one solution for the student renting issues currently at large, simply because no one truly knows what the future will hold. However, there are a few things that landlords can start to look into to make sure that they are as safe as they can be in the coming months.
Make Sure You’re Covered
Insurance is a must-have for all landlords letting to students, and it can be particularly helpful during times such as this. Student landlord insurance typically offers rent cover, for example, offering landlords financial stability in the case that students can’t or refuse to pay their rent during the pandemic. You can also look into empty property cover if you know that the house will be unoccupied for an extended period of time. The right cover really can protect landlords against all kinds of issues.
Keep Up With Changing Advice
As much as it can feel like an endless battle, the best things that Landlords can do is take the time to research and keep up with the changing government advice. As we drift in and out of lockdowns and Tier-based restrictions, the regulations and advice will change for everyone in the UK, including the advice given to the students themselves. Keeping track of this can put you in a better position to tackle any upcoming challenges as they happen.
There is no foolproof answer to handling student letting during such an uncertain time, but with the right preparation and landlord insurance cover where possible, landlords can be protected against the constantly changing tides. Comprehensive landlord insurance for student tenants is invaluable when it comes to being prepared for anything that could possibly go wrong. For more information, get in touch with our team, today.