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Common issues with student properties

by Joe Green

Students and the properties they choose broadly follow similar attributes, and therefore there are common issues which arise more often than others. The National Student Accommodation Survey 2019 identified the most common problems encountered by students in their accommodation. Student landlords should be aware of these issues so they can do their utmost to provide a better service to their tenants. Eliminating these problems before they occur will increase satisfaction levels, demand for the property, streamline the letting process and reduce potential stresses and disputes overall.

Damp

The survey identified the most common complaints, and a number of these can be either reduced or removed directly by the landlord. One of the most commonly mentioned issues is damp, 35% of student tenants stated this. This is common in older properties, and it is these which are usually turned into student only properties. Damp and mould can take many different forms and can be caused by a number of factors. Generally, a well-maintained property with good ventilation will not suffer from this problem. Most problems arise from condensation, usually in the winter months, cooking and showering creates an abundance of steam and condensation which may not escape the property. Installing extractor fans and regularly opening windows for ventilation should reduce the issue, whilst maintaining a steady temperature within the property will also help. If the damp and mould persevere it is vital as a landlord to seek professional advice to identify the issue and suggest potential solutions.

Hot Water and Heating

Secondly, with 32% of students complaining, a lack of water or heating is the next. Heating and water should be available at all times and it is the landlord’s legal responsibility to ensure the water and heating are kept in working order, Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states this. The landlord must act quickly when their property and tenant is without utilities and should arrange for repairs to be made as soon as possible. In the meantime, keeping in regular contact with the tenant and providing updates on when repairs will take place should alleviate some of the tension associated with the experience. The property should be able to achieve 18°C in sleeping rooms and 21°C in living rooms, when the temperature outside is -1°C.

Building Work

The next most common issue, cited by 20% of students, was disruptive building work. If a property requires maintenance and building work, the landlord should ensure that the current tenant has agreed to this and that plenty of notice is given along with plans and timescales. As a student landlord, there may be periods of the year when the property is vacant, so major building works should be concentrated during this period. Unless stated in the lease, the tenant can refuse any entry to the property, it may be advisable to discuss with the tenant times when disruption will be minimised.

Landlord Visits

Similar to the last issue, landlord visits is the next most common issue. 16% of student tenants mentioned this. Almost every tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of the property, meaning they must not interfere or allow anyone else to interfere with their enjoyment of the property. However, the landlord may carry out their obligations pursuant to the lease. Inspecting the property and carrying out repairing obligations are lawful. Informing the tenant with plenty of notice that an inspection will take place as stated in the lease should remove any confusion.

Pests

Pests and rodents are other common problems, 19% of student tenants identified issues with rodents and pests (16%) and bed bugs (3%). The landlord is responsible for issues such as these if they are caused by disrepair to the property, such as holes and gaps in the exterior, or excessive dampness in rooms. However, tenants may be responsible, if they are guilty of leaving food out, poor property hygiene, such as refuse piles near bins and piling of dirty laundry around the house. In any scenario, it is important to identify the source of the problem and find a suitable solution.

Burglary

Burglary is the last complaint, with 5% of students reporting they have had issues. Recent research by Direct Line found that 25% of students are burgled whilst at university. Student properties are more at risk due to the number of people who have access to the property. Installing quality fixtures such as deadbolts and security alarms, along with external CCTV and perimeter lighting with greatly reduce any threat. Discussing the issue with tenants and how they can mitigate this risk further. Having these features on the property should also increase the desirability to potential tenants, and possibly even the rental rate. Security is becoming a greater concern, especially among international students.

The elimination of these potential problems will reduce disputes and time investment during the tenancy and increase tenant satisfaction, whilst also having a positive effect on the income received from the property.

References

Direct Line. 2019. Accessed 30th October, 2019, from https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/landlord-insurance/knowledge-centre/running-your-property/landlords-maintenance-obligations-for-damp-and-mould

National Student Accommodation Survey. 2019. Accessed 30th October, 2019, from https://www.savethestudent.org/accommodation/national-student-accommodation-survey-2019.html#expert-advice

The Tenants Voice. 2019. Accessed 30th October, 2019, from https://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk/advice_from_us/heating-and-hot-water/

Premier Line. 2019. Accessed 30th, October, 2019, from https://www.premierline.co.uk/knowledge-centre/renovate-your-property.html

Landlord Today. 2018. Accessed 30th October, 2019, from https://www.landlordtoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2018/8/security-advice-for-student-landlords

Levi Solicitors. 2019. Accessed 30th October, 2019, from https://levisolicitors.co.uk/news/quiet-enjoyment/

Tenants Voice. 2018. Accessed 30th October, 2019, from https://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk/your_home/a-tenant-asks-what-are-my-rights-when-my-property-is-infested-with-pests/

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