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Letting to international students

by Joe Green

Growing numbers of international students are choosing to attend a UK university. Over 506,000 international students were in the UK in 2018, making it the second-largest study destination, after the USA which hosts over one million students. Recent growth has been very much driven by China, whose applications have increased by 30%, and the desire of the UK Government to increase the number of international students in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.

International students have tended to be associated with purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), and being able to afford the often higher rents than that of accommodation offered by private landlords. However, there is an increasingly popular type of international student from more humble backgrounds, who seek more affordable accommodation in the UK and are looking to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) to satisfy this.

The barriers landlords and international students face

UK landlords should be open to letting their properties to international students to maximise the number of potential tenants. It could be the difference between a fully let property or a partially or fully vacant property not contributing to ownership costs. 

Some landlords have previously avoided international students for two main reasons. Students are generally asked to provide a UK based guarantor in order to rent a property, many international students do not have anyone based in the UK to do this. However, a landlord can avert this concern if the student uses a guarantor service which can provide this for a reasonable cost. International students may also be more open to paying a significant amount of the contract value upfront, which mitigates the associated risk greatly.

The Right to Rent scheme which introduced in February 2016, has been another concern. 42% of landlords stated they would be less likely to rent to an individual without a British passport. Confirming that a student has the right to rent in the UK is vital, and can be done quickly. Asking to see a visa and confirmation letter from their university will achieve this, a legible copy should be made.

Making a property more attractive to international students

There is no reason why a property should not be let to an international student. With the growing competition in the student housing market, landlords should look to make their property appealing to as many potential tenants as possible. To make a property attractive to international students, landlords can employ these strategies.

Including all utility bills in the rent rate can simplify the transition process of moving into a property in a new country, especially for an international student who has limited knowledge of utility companies. An all-inclusive bill will be attractive to overseas students. Internet connection is key as it may be the primary source of communication with their family.

International students are increasingly preferring HMOs, partly due to cost, but also due to social aspects. Overseas students wish to settle in quickly and make friends with other students within the house. Welcoming communal spaces and inviting decoration can foster this and will be appealing to students.

Providing as much as possible, especially in terms of small electrical items, will be useful to international students. They may be limited to the amount of items they can bring with them and the provision of items such as kettles, toasters and other small items will be very helpful. This should be able to be achieved quickly and economically, and will likely benefit any student.

Upgrading the security measures of the property will also be appealing to international students. They will want to feel safe and secure in their new home. Installing outside lighting, CCTV cameras, and intruder alarms should put minds at rest when they are in the property.

Providing various methods of contact for the property owner or manager will also be helpful, international students may have more questions than home students and would benefit from knowing they can reliably get in contact with someone.

International students may also not be able to visit the property for a traditional viewing, due to practicality and cost issues. Therefore if a property can offer extensive photographs, video tours, or virtual tours /360-degree photographs it will benefit overseas students. It will allow a better understanding of the space and property quality and increase trust and confidence. Many landlords also now offer tours of properties via video chat as this can allow for a more traditional viewing. Potential tenants can see the property and also ask any questions they may have. Whilst increasing the benefit to international students, it should have a similar impact for home students who are unable to view the property in person.

Using this strategy, landlords can ensure their property is appealing to the maximum number of potential tenants. This should reduce the possibility of any rental voids and optimise portfolio performance. International students are very good tenants with a very low chance of default as they have likely invested more to study in the UK.

References

Reeds Rains. 2019. Accessed 1st November, 2019, from https://www.reedsrains.co.uk/blog/landlord-advice-letting-to-overseas-students

Your Move. 2017. Accessed 1st November, 2019, from https://www.your-move.co.uk/blog/letting-to-international-students

Gov.uk. 2019. Accessed 1st November, 2019, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plans-to-boost-international-student-numbers-and-income

Pads for Students. 2018. Accessed 1st November, 2019, from https://www.padsforstudents.co.uk/blog_article/how-to-appeal-to-international-students/

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