Student Landlords & Covid-19
Coronavirus has had a substantial impact upon the private rented sector. Many Universities responded to the virus by opting to move their courses online for the latter stages of the 2019/20 academic year. As students were on longer required to be at their university base, this created a knock-on effect for the student property market and landlords.
The NRLA conducted research into landlords invested in the student lettings market. Due to the coronavirus, student landlords have encountered numerous issues with their lettings. There is concern these issues could continue to impact upon their business in the coming months.
As part of the NRLA's Quarter 2 survey, landlords were asked whether they operated in the student market. Note that an affirmative response does not necessarily mean these landlords' entire portfolios are student-based, but they own at least one property which is typically let by students.
Requests for support
Last year students were affected by the coronavirus and their ability to remain in stu for the duration of their tenancies. Landlords and tenants had several options to ease the difficulties coronavirus causes. Landlords provided support in many different ways.
The survey asked student landlords about their experience wof support requests students made at the end of last year.
Graph 1: Students requesting support
Overall, students were less likely to have made requests for support as the wider renting population: The most common problem for student landlords is students requesting rent reductions (20.1% of landlords reporting a request for such a rent reduction).
This is less than half the number of landlords in the wider market whose tenants have requested reprofiling of their tenancy terms. Our second coronavirus survey showed around 44% of landlords stated they received at least one request from a tenant to reprofile their terms and conditions in some way.
Problems created by coronavirus measures
The measures introduced by the government to limit the spread of coronavirus made property management more difficult for landlords. landlords Social distancing and tenant shielding are examples of measures many landlords had to manoeuvre around.
Graph 2: Problems caused by coronavirus measures
Finding new tenants
Landlords have unsurprisingly struggled most with finding new tenants for the 2020-21 academic year. Student landlords identified the most significant reasons for this difficulty:
- Drop in demand because of uncertainty over teaching (53.5%).
- Accessing property to show prospetive tenants (40.6%).
- Social distancing whilst showing prospective tenants (39.6%).
Many landlords across the country will have experienced struggles to find tenants due to coronavirus regulations. Student landlords however have an additional concern - their lettings are potentially contingent on the reactions of University to the ongoing pandemic. This uncertainty caused anxiety among landlords and instability in the letting cycle.
Maintenance and repairs
The maintenance of property is essential for the wellbeing of tenants as well as being essential to the landlords' businesses. Student landlords noted undertaking maintenance and repairs as one of the more significant issues created by coronavirus measures, the following three reasons were most frequently identified:
- Access to property (69.0%).
- Find trade-staff to take on work (55.2%).
- Accessing materials to do work myself (34.5%).
Almost 70% of student landlords identified gaining access to the property as the main inhibiting factor for essential maintenance work.
Maintaining property efficiently requires landlords tapping into an established supply chain of contractors and materials. Both proved challenging during the period of lockdown. That landlords identifyied these factors further highlights the multiple impacts of coronavirus on landlords and their businesses.
As elsewhere, landlords in the student market have provided support and responded to requests made by their tenants.
Landlords operating in the student market have an additional strain upon their business compared with other landlords. Not only do coronavirus regulations impact upon their business, but the potential of universities making drastic changes to their courses has meant the cycle of letting in this market has been disrupted.
It is likely that the diverse approach universities are taking to course delivery in 2020-21 will continue to stretch landlords. There may well be need for support and flexibility at a local level to ensure the much needed accomodation in University towns is available beyond the current year.
This post is based on the 2020 Quarter 2 landlord survey. Nick Clay and John Stewart provided valuable input. The post reflects the analysis and policy preferences of the author and not necessarily those of the NRLA.