An area of uncertainty amongst the proposals for the Renters (Reform) Bill is the student lets sector. The biggest hurdle with this is the proposal to end fixed term tenancies, thereby leaving landlords uncertain as to when they will recover possession of their properties back.
The abolition of Section 21 notices is leaving many landlords considering moving away from student lets entirely, the impact of which will be enormous not just for the landlords but for the student community across England.
The NRLA is proposing mandatory grounds for possession for student tenancies. The proposition includes student tenancies remaining as fixed term tenancies, for a term not exceeding twelve months. Furthermore, the NRLA is proposing the following if property was let out by an educational establishment or to an entire household in full-time education:
- No later than the beginning of the tenancy the landlord gives notice in writing to the tenant/s that possession may be recovered at the end of the fixed term.
- The notice period for the proposed new Section 8 ground would be two months. Currently the Section 8 grounds for student lets are limited to educational establishments as Section 21 notices are available to private landlords.
Landlords typically feel secure when renting out to students, knowing they can advertise their property for rent in plenty of time and thus ensure it is occupied for the next academic year.
Landlords have become accustomed to having a lengthy time frame in which to sort out the necessary elements prior to new student tenants moving in. Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, states that “the student sector is very different.” Moving to a two-month window (as the new tenancy system allows tenants to give two months’ notice to leave on periodic tenancies) for marketing, finding tenants, doing the legal background work, sorting guarantors, as well as then coordinating with inventory companies, cleaning companies – operationally it is a huge anxiety for agents and landlords.
The new tenancy system is a source of concern for students also whose mental wellbeing has already been strained to unprecedented levels. With the likelihood that some landlords may exit the student house market, there would be an even greater squeeze on the limited amount of accommodation available.