Managing Your Let

Managing Student Accommodation

There are essentially three key factors in managing your student let;

1) Managing tenants.
2) Maintaining the property.
3) Ensuring the rent is paid regularly and on time.

Managing Tenants

Once your tenants have moved in, you hope everything will go well and you won’t hear from them for the year. Unfortunately, there are a few common issues that may crop up particularly with student lets.

A house full of student tenants can be noisy. If you are getting complaints from neighbours, speak to your tenants informally at first. Student lifestyles can very different from the rest of us and they may be unaware of the impact of their actions on others. If you continue to get complaints, write formally notifying them that causing noise nuisance is a breach of their tenancy. You can also contact the university, most institutions now have a community relations officer who will deal with persistent noise complaints about their students.

Drug use is something you may become aware of. Many, if not most, students experiment with drugs to some extent and you may feel this is none of your business. Unfortunately, if you knowingly permit its use on your premises, you may be held criminally liable yourself. If you do become aware of drug use, it is best to warn your tenants in writing that drug use is a breach of their tenancy agreement and you will be obliged to inform the police if you see evidence of it again.

Sometimes, one member of a tenancy may decide to drop out of their university course and so wish to get out of the tenancy. You will need to point out that they are still responsible for the rent. However, it is reasonable for you to say that their liability will end once a new tenant is found to replace the one leaving.

Finally, managing student tenants often means also managing their parents! Parents can often get a little too involved but can be your ally when it comes to enforcing the tenancy terms and conditions.

Maintaining Your Student Property

You have a duty to ensure your property is kept in good repair and that the equipment and furnishings you provide are safe. You also have to carry out regular safety checks and ensure the property meets local licensing and fire safety guidelines.

If you have a gas supply to the property it is a legal requirement to have a gas safety check annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer and provide a certificate to your tenants.
Any soft furnishings you supply must have a fire safety label attached by law.
You must carry out a fire risk assessment: for shared houses it is advisable to have a mains linked smoke alarm system with heat detector in the kitchen, and this will be required for HMO licensable properties.
It is good practice to provide a fire blanket in the kitchen.
Carry out an electrical safety check by a qualified electrician every 5 years, this is not a legal requirement, but is strongly recommended and will be required if you need an HMO licence.
Check the property regularly to ensure there are no trip hazards, damp patches or other maintenance issues.
Deal with tenant maintenance requests quickly to ensure you keep the relationship functioning well.

Collecting Rent

The most efficient way to collect the rent is by having one joint payment coming from your group of tenants by standing order into your bank account. Whether you collect monthly or termly is up to you, most tenants pay monthly, but it can be useful to collect termly if you can time the payments to coincide with their student loans. For the majority of the time you will have no problems with rents but occasionally things can go wrong.

At the first sign of a late payment, ring/email the tenant and inform them of the non-payment and ask why. In most cases there will be an innocent reason and payment will be made immediately. Encourage your tenants to inform you if they know there is going to be a problem with a late payment, although not ideal, it is best you know in advance rather than have to chase them up for information.

If payment is not made when agreed you should follow up with a formal letter, pointing out that you are entitled to charge for any reasonable costs for late payment, and copy this letter to the guarantor.

If your tenant does not pay the next month as well, you will then be entitled to issue a Section 8 Notice of Intention to Seek Possession. At this stage it is important to get legal advice, either from a solicitor or from a professional landlord association, who will give such advice free to members.

It is very rare for a student tenancy to get to this stage. If it does, it is often down to disorganisation, rather than an inability to pay the rent and usually payment is forthcoming as soon as the guarantors are involved.

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