Industry News Eleanor Bateman 24/08/2023

Saving the student housing sector

The Renters (Reform) Bill, as drafted, is poised to reshape the landscape for landlords across the board. However, it is student landlords that are likely to be among those worst affected. As it stands, the proposed removal of fixed term tenancies and abolition of

Section 21 are set to undermine the normal operation of student landlords, who typically welcome new student tenants at the start of each academic year.

How will the Renters (Reform) Bill affect student tenancies?

The removal of fixed term tenancies will introduce a significant challenge for student landlords. It will require them to enter into open-ended tenancies, where the landlord has no certainty of when a tenant may leave. Adding to this uncertainty is the impeding repeal of

Section 21, which currently empowers landlords to serve notice to vacate to tenants. Without this mechanism, students and student landlords face an unsettling reality: the inability to ensure property availability for incoming student tenants each academic year. These proposed reforms threaten to destabilise the well-established model of student housing.

What is the NRLA proposing?

To mitigate this threat, the NRLA has been working closely with Ministers and officials at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Our goal is to ensure that the student housing sector continues to operate smoothly once reforms are implemented. 

We have proposed a series of options, including the retention of fixed terms for student tenancies and a Code of Practice. However, the Government has been clear that it will not accept a segregation of the private rented sector and wants to guarantee that all tenants, irrespective of demographic, are afforded the same rights and tenure. 

We are therefore campaigning strongly for two amendments.

Firstly, a mandatory ground for possession, which would provide landlords with a legal basis to regain possession of their properties when needed. Secondly, a moratorium on tenants serving notice to provide some certainty for landlords and tenants alike. The moratorium period would guarantee a minimum length of tenancy while keeping things flexible for tenants. 

What the sector is saying

Alongside our engagement with Government, the NRLA is working with student landlords and higher education organisations to gain sector-wide backing for our proposals. There is broad agreement that, contrary to the Government’s intention, the Bill as drafted will not improve outcomes for tenants.

Instead, it will likely further reduce availability of housing options and place pressure on rents. 
Neil Young, Chairman of We Are Kin, which provides student housing, said: “Students want certainty that there will be a house available for them when they need it, at the start of the academic year. Without a mandatory ground for possession alongside a moratorium on tenants serving notice, the risks will simply be too high. The result would likely be student landlords leaving the student housing market, to the obvious detriment of students and the higher education sector as a whole.”

Share your insights

The NRLA is conducting a survey to gain further detail on the current workings of the student housing sector.

If you are a student landlord or manage student property, please complete the survey to help bolster our campaign to amend the Renters (Reform) Bill so that the student housing market can continue to operate in a way that works for both landlords and their student tenants.