Student houses and the abolition of section 21

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    Student houses and the abolition of section 21

    It occurs to me that the abolition of section 21 could cause major problems for student landlords.

    I had assumed that student houses would definitely be exempt, but I have looked up how it now works in Scotland as a precedent and it transpires only purpose-built student accommodation is exempt there (i.e. students in traditional student houses have the same security of tenure as any other tenant!). By all accounts I've read online, this is unsurprisingly causing real difficulties for Scottish student landlords: like elsewhere, student houses were previously let six months or more in advance of the start of each academic year – which is clearly not possible when you don't know whether or not the current tenants are going to leave. In addition, if a student group left part-way through an academic year (which might plausibly happen if a group of students stays on after graduation) it would mean the property could have to be left empty for months.

    I would suggest that everyone ask for a full exemption for all student accommodation (including traditional student houses) when this proposal comes to consultation, as this should be an achievable ask.

    #2
    How would student accommodation be identifiable as a discrete type of property or tenancy?

    The joint nature of most student tenancies tends to mean a new tenancy due to normal student "churn".

    If a group of students left part way through an academic year, more fool the landlord who hasn't insisted on a new 10 or 12 month fixed term.
    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

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      #3
      Actually the situation is already difficult for student landlords. If a student with a 10 or 12 month tenancy doesnt vacate at the end of it then it will take several months to get them out and the landlord is likely to have already promised or even let the room for the next academic year. The abolition of s21 will make the situation worse for sure but what the market needs is a bespoke student tenancy model.

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        #4
        Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
        How would student accommodation be identifiable as a discrete type of property or tenancy?
        There could simply be an exception to the new system which permits fixed-term lets for any property occupied exclusively by full-time students at the start of the tenancy. Letting agents/landlords could be required to take a copy of some form of proof that the tenants are all full-time students prior to signing the tenancy agreement (the vast majority of letting agents do this anyway for council tax exemption purposes).

        Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
        The joint nature of most student tenancies tends to mean a new tenancy due to normal student "churn".
        That will usually be true but it still raises various problems:
        • The student lettings marketing season often happens in January/February for move-in in August/September. This is a well-worn system in a lot of university cities, and works well because it gives early certainty to both tenants and landlords. If there is no student exemption to the new system then it won't be possible to market student properties until the previous group of students has given its notice (which, using the example of the Scottish private residential tenancy regime, might only be four weeks). This would mean the lettings marketing season would shift to the summer, which would be problematic for students as it'd either (i) clash with their exams or (ii) take place during the summer vacation, when students will usually have gone away.
        • Groups of final year students may decide to take jobs/internships locally and stay until, say, mid-December. This would leave the landlord with an empty house which is unlikely to find another student group until July/August. Obviously the more anti-landlord elements around might just say "tough, the landlord can manage without the rent" but this is also problematic as (i) in a country with a housing shortage, houses will be being left empty for months on end and (ii) ultimately this risk will get passed on to tenants in increased rents.
        Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
        If a group of students left part way through an academic year, more fool the landlord who hasn't insisted on a new 10 or 12 month fixed term.
        But the whole point of the proposed new system is that there won't be any such thing as a fixed term. Taking the Scottish private residential tenancy regime as an example again, the tenant moves in and immediately has an open-ended tenancy, which the tenant can end with four weeks' notice at any time.

        Originally posted by DPT57 View Post
        Actually the situation is already difficult for student landlords. If a student with a 10 or 12 month tenancy doesnt vacate at the end of it then it will take several months to get them out and the landlord is likely to have already promised or even let the room for the next academic year. The abolition of s21 will make the situation worse for sure but what the market needs is a bespoke student tenancy model.
        That is technically true and I do entirely agree that a bespoke student tenancy which properly takes into account the fixed-term nature of such tenancies would be very sensible. However, in my experience it is almost unheard of that student tenants not to vacate on the date required on on a s.21 notice. If you were to need to email a student's guarantors (i.e. parents) to politely inform them that you are taking their 19-year-old offspring to court as they have failed to vacate, and that they as guarantors risk suffering significant financial costs due to this, then I suspect most student tenants would leave pretty quickly.

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          #5
          Thank you, that's extremely interesting and enlightening.

          I'm not entirely sure that ending s21 evictions moves us to the Scottish model entirely, that might happen, but it's not inevitable.
          s8 ground 1 still requires notice outside the fixed term, and I'd imagine the proposed notice to sell a property might need a similar provision, otherwise, tenants might feel less secure than now.
          When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
          Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

          Comment


            #6
            Thank you for the reply. I get what you are saying about s.8 ground 1, but I find it hard to see how the fixed term of a tenancy agreement in a post-s.21 world could constitute anything other than a minimum term (which might be of use to landlords as a way of ensuring that tenants don't try to use properties as short lets, but would be of no use in ensuring tenancies end on a particular date).

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