With students all over the UK returning to university this month, landlords will have been busy carrying out checks on their accommodation over the holiday period. The stereotype images of students living in grubby digs, with piles of washing up in the sink, are out-of-date today.
The modern student is more discerning and wants decent accommodation that is properly maintained. When it comes to rented property, maintenance and repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. There’s no better time to deal with any potential issues in student accommodation than when the properties are vacant.
With 2.32 million students of higher education in Britain, it’s a lucrative market for landlords looking to rent their properties. It provides regular income, with plenty of tenants actively seeking long-term accommodation.
Contrary to being labelled as unreliable and messy, many students are serious about wanting high quality digs and are looking for good value to make the most of their cash. Being a landlord in the student sector comes with additional responsibilities, compared with standard buy-to-let properties. Here’s what you need to know…
Before you rent
Any house that is home to three or more unrelated tenants, with a shared bathroom, kitchen and communal living area, is classed as a House in Multiple Occupation, or HMO.
As a landlord, if your property is more than three storeys and has five or more occupants, you need an HMO licence, which costs between £500 and £600, depending on the location. Check with your local authority, or with the gov.uk website. The local council will provide you with a set of guidelines.
These include having gas and electrical safety checks, making sure there’s a fire escape, installing mains fire and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor, making sure your furnishings are compliant with fire safety laws and providing a fire extinguisher if there are more than five student tenants in your property.
Maintenance and repairs
The landlord must maintain the exterior and structure of the property, the hot water installation and the central heating system. Getting the accommodation in tip-top shape before the new term begins is a sensible step to take.
The property must be fit for habitation, with recognised standards for rented homes governing the heating, lighting, hot and cold water, ventilation, cooking facilities and drainage requirements.
It must be free from health hazards, which can occur due to poor maintenance, or wear and tear. These can include inadequate heating, poor insulation, the growth of damp and mould, disrepair and fire risks.
When it comes to fire safety, the furniture must adhere to specific requirements if it’s provided by the landlord. All of the furniture must comply with the requirements of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations Act (1988), amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010.
All furniture supplied by the landlord must be made from fire-resistant materials, or treated with fire-retardant coatings by the manufacturer. Furniture such as sofas and armchairs should have a permanent manufacturer’s label attached, detailing the materials.
Upholstered items should have a fire-resistant filling. Bed bases and mattresses must have a label confirming that they meet British safety standard BS7177. The law is designed to ensure all upholstery components and composites in the UK meet specified ignition resistance levels and are labelled accordingly.
Tenants can check that furniture provided by the landlord is safe: included in the legislation are sofas, futons, three-piece suites, sofa beds, armchairs, beds, divans, headboards and bed bases. The landlord isn’t responsible for furniture which has been supplied by the tenants themselves.
The landlord is obliged to furnish the property throughout when letting to students. This includes kitchen appliances such as the cooker, fridge-freezer and microwave. It also includes communal lounge furnishings, a dining area large enough for all the tenants and other items you would expect to find in a home, such as a kettle, cutlery, plates, cups and pans.
The landlord is advised to replace any furniture that is old, threadbare or otherwise past its best. From the tenants’ point of view, no-one wants to sit on chairs or settees with frayed covers, stains, rips or wobbly legs.
If the landlord breaks the law and supplies furniture which doesn’t meet safety requirements, there are heavy penalties. He or she can face up to six months in jail, or a fine of up to £5,000 per item. Having unsafe furniture can lead to the property’s insurance being declared invalid.
Some landlords hang a notice board up in a communal area, such as the hallway or kitchen, to display fire safety certificates and also to convey other important information to all tenants.
The majority of letting agents will provide landlords with a letting and referencing service for an agreed fee each month. The usual payment method is by standing order or direct debit, with payments going into the landlord’s account once a month.
The local college or university is also likely to have a student accommodation team, who can help reference tenants on the landlord’s behalf.
Letting student accommodation can provide lucrative business opportunities. On average, surveys show that renting out a multiple-bedroom property to students, rather than to a single family, can generate four times as much income.
Furniture Pack Solutions supplies a selection of student furniture packages and bespoke student furniture. Give us a call on 0800 781 9427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for detailed information on our furnishing options.