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Unipol's Nottingham Owners’ Briefing for Student Landlords Summary

Summary from the Leeds and Nottingham Owners’ Briefings held on 28th May and 4th June 2020

These briefings concentrated primarily on student numbers nationally and recruitment, the 2020 - 2021 academic year and the tenancy changeover period.  

National Student Numbers

as of the January deadline:

  • Applications through UCAS were up 1%
  • EU down 2% (-0.8K).  Less than was expected.
  • Non-EU up 15% (+9.5K).  Follows the upward trend over the last few years.  This is likely to see a considerable drop

On 4th May 2020 the Government issued a statement aimed at supporting students and the HE sector. Students would receive loans as normal, whether or not they were being taught on line or by physically attending institutions.

The Nottingham Picture

The University of Nottingham's postgraduate numbers grew 5.4% in 2019 to 6,525 with 2,685 of these international students.  Nottingham Trent University grew 3.5% to 3,375 with 2,075 of these international students.  The main growth in postgraduates is on taught courses. 

If the assumption was correct that international student numbers are likely to fall by 50% this would mean Nottingham would see around 2,500 less students.  That said it is important to remember that Nottingham Trent University is still looking to expand by 500 undergraduates,  many of these international postgraduates favour studio style living and there may be a growth in home postgraduate recruitment.

Nottingham City Council's priority is to move any increase in student housing provision to Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). There are:

  • 2,838 beds currently under construction
  • A number of new developments opening in September 2020, Unipol Sandhills (330 bed spaces); Vita Students Station Street (321 bed spaces in studios); Study Inn Talbot Street (180 studios)
  • 4,809 bed spaces in the planning system

The Nottingham weekly rent comparison chart gives a useful indication on where off-street properties sit in the overall accommodation offer in Nottingham.

Tenancy Changeover Period 2020

Collecting Belongings

New guidance was issued on 21st May.  It is important to note that this currently does not deal with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  This may cause a delay for any of your current tenants residing in those areas.

Process of returning should be structured to comply with Covid-Secure procedures.

Larger buildings will need a more structured collection preferably by appointment to maintain social distancing. It is advisable to make clear to students not to just ‘show-up’.

Unipol will be advising tenants in smaller properties to coordinate between themselves.  It will be important to remind them about the necessity to maintain social distancing and limit the number of separate households mixing.  The students themselves are officially still ‘one household’, however their parents and friends are not and this is why it is important they do not all arrive on the same day.

Central to this approach is communication –be proactive and targeted.  In terms of current tenants Unipol will be asking tenants to inform us as soon as possible after they have completely moved out.  We have already issued information on key returns and the level of cleaning required.  Information will also be presented on waste disposal and unwanted items. 

Our tenants will still be expected to leave the property in a good condition.

Deposit Returns

There is no change to the period you can hold the deposit after the tenant has requested for it to be returned (10 days). A tenant can raise a dispute with the deposit scheme after this time.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) has issued some useful FAQs: https://www.tenancydepositscheme.com/covid-19/

If you are looking to make deductions it is important that this is communicated promptly to your tenants.  TDS have said that they will work with landlords and tenants to try and mediate where no agreement can be reached within the 10 days, without the need for evidence during this period of instability.

New Guidance (issued 4th June 2020)

The Department for Education has just published guidance for higher education institutions on reopening buildings and campuses. It says little on accommdation but is definitely worth reading to give you a wider understanding of what the student experience is likely to look like.  Of note, it says the following about accommodation:

“In advance of the next academic year, you will want to prepare accommodation for students. Some of this accommodation has been used for housing students who were not able to go to family homes during lockdown. Where students have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19) while in student accommodation, rooms and other facilities will need to be cleaned, following guidance on cleaning non-healthcare settings.”

“Guidance published on moving homes may also apply to students collecting belongings to move to other accommodation and also students moving into accommodation in the new academic year. The moving home guidance sets out specifically that “moving home” is now a valid reason to leave home. Point 6 in this guidance “Moving your belongings” also sets out protocol for those moving home/ moving belongings."

This final point relates to a recommendation that when moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can to avoid the risk of infection. 

Preparing Properties for new occupation

Part of the proactive work you, as landlords are doing now will allow you to bring forward as much cleaning as possible as properties empty.  This will be key in your strategy for managing this year’s tenancy changeover. 

Unipol is in agreement that the ‘book-ended tenancies’, typical in Leeds, present many challenges. It is predicted that over 70% of properties still have belongings or students in residence. Furthermore, it is Unipol’s informed opinion that many students will look to return during June to meet up with housemates and spend some time together before their tenancies end.  This might for 3rd year students, be their last chance to get together and for 2nd year students might represent their intention to remain up to the end of the tenancy to be ready to move in to their new properties on 1st July 2020.

Communication with all incoming tenants

As already stated it is important to inform your new tenants what moving in procedures to expect as early as you can.  We can all expect elevated expectations around cleaning from students and their parents. If you are planning any sort of delay to the move in date this needs to be communicated clearly, giving the reasons why and how the tenant will be compensated.

To read more use this link - https://www.unipol.org.uk/news/latest-from-the-leeds-owners-briefing-28th-may-2

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