Industry News Rhianna Abrey 24/01/2023

Rental reform plans risk damaging access to higher education

Proposed Government reforms of the private rented sector threaten to make it harder for students to enter higher education, according to a letter signed by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and organisations from across the higher education sector, which has been sent to the Ministers for Private Housing and Higher Education respectively.

The Government’s plans, outlined in its White Paper on rental reform, propose that all student housing, with the exception of purpose-built blocks, would be subject to open-ended tenancies. This means landlords will be unable to guarantee that accommodation will be available for the start of each academic year, unless sitting tenants have handed in their notice to leave. As a result, students looking for housing will be unable to plan in advance where they want to live and with whom.

In the aforementioned letter to the Minister for the Private Rented Sector and the Higher Education Minister, the organisations, which include the NRLA, Universities UK and the British Property Federation, warn that without certainty about the availability of housing, “there is likely to be a significant reduction in available accommodation at a time when demand is growing.”

The groups go on to note that: “a shortage of this accommodation has already led some academic institutions to call for a limit to be placed on student intakes for as long as the next five years.” They warn: “The proposed introduction of open-ended tenancies and inevitable reduction in housing supply is therefore likely to further constrain the expansion of the education sector, to the detriment of prospective students and wider society.”

The organisations call on the Government to extend the exemption from open-ended tenancies granted to Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) to all student housing. They argue that where a landlord rents their property to a group of students a fixed term tenancy agreement should be permissible.

The groups go on to call for measures to allow student landlords to give two months’ notice to repossess a property when it is needed for incoming students. In order to provide protections for incoming students, they propose that such notice should only be given during the final two months of a tenancy agreement.

The signatories to the letter are the National Residential Landlords’ Association, Universities UK, the British Property Federation, the University of Cambridge, the University of Leeds, the University of Southampton, Lancaster University, Manchester Student Homes, Unipol, College and University Business Officers, We are Kin and the Young Group.

You can read the letter in its entirety here.