The landlord/tenant relationship can be strained at the best of times, but between students and landlords, the process can be fraught with problems.
There is a misconception on both sides that the other is the worst example of their type. The Tab described the student housing industry as ‘notoriously shady’, giving examples of horror stories and awful conditions some homes have been allowed to fall into. On the other hand, the Independent reported that seven out of ten landlords would not rent to students, mainly because of the worry of damage.
Both preconceptions are plainly wrong, painting each party in the very worse light. Whilst those extremes do exist, there is also a middle ground in which good landlords rent to considerate and conscientious students who want little more than a safe and stable home for their formative adult years. Sadly, our article Experiencing Rogue Landlords suggested four in ten students have poor living conditions and exploitative relationships with landlords.
What constitutes a good landlord though? What traits does a landlord need to have to foster a positive relationship with a student tenant? There are three main cornerstones as we explore here.
Perhaps the most significant element of a strong relationship between students and the landlord is communication. Unfamiliarity can breed distrust and with so many stereotypes floating around the industry, it would be easy to fall into the trap of assuming all students are the same, or all landlords are rogues. That is not true, but you will only discover that with firm lines of communication. That does not just mean clarity in the first instance, but a transparent and fair relationship throughout. If all parties talk issues through and retain an amicable relationship in the interim period, then the relationship will flourish. This includes notifying students when work will be carried out when access is required and if any changes are to be made during term time.
Repairs and Responsibility
The obvious problem many students have is poor living conditions, which is where a student landlord needs to excel. Student housing may encounter more knocks and bumps than a private rental, due to the nature of the inhabitants, several young people living away for the first time. A good landlord understands this but also knows their responsibilities when it comes to repairs and reacting to an issue. The main rule to live by is this – would a standard private renter expect the conditions the students have? If not, then a landlord needs to react.
Also, problems occur in any home, and how quickly they are sorted is key to a good relationship. If a home is without hot water, electricity or heating, then any resident would expect that to be rectified immediately. How a landlord reacts to problems is a good gauge to the content of their character, and if they take that extra care, such as insurance, then the tenants know they truly care. The landlord cover guide by HomeServe outlines how emergency repairs at a rental property are included in policies, from a boiler breakdown to a leaking overflow pipe. That means if the student tenants have a burst pipe on a Sunday and the landlord is not present, there is no issue – the provider will deal directly with the students and solve the problem. That extra care, insurance and thus trust goes a long way to set a good landlord apart from a bad one.
This is something that comes from both parties. A landlord must be fair, expecting a certain degree of wear and tear without trying to exploit the situation. This may seem to apply mainly to the return of deposits, but it has practical applications throughout the year too. When is it fair to expect access? What is fair in terms of duration of remedial works? On the other side, what should students expect to be a fair deduction for actual damage? Remember, the give and take should not all be on the landlord’s side, but it does tend to start with them. Treat others how you expect to be treated, whether they are private tenants, colleagues or student renters.