The Government’s Renters Reform plans could decimate the student sector unless action is taken to protect the fixed term. NRLA CEO Ben Beadle explains more.

Plans to end fixed term tenancies will have a catastrophic impact on the student rental market, and the Government must change tack to protect both landlord and their student tenants.

The recently published Renters (Reform) Bill outlined proposals to end most fixed-term tenancies, including those currently offered to students in the private rented sector to cover the academic year.

The Government claims the move will bring students’ rights in line with other tenants, however student landlords, quite rightly, argue that introducing indefinite periodic tenancies will render their business models unworkable, making it near-impossible to operate in the market.

How does the student market operate?

There are currently around 850,000 bed spaces for students in the PRS, home to just over half of the 1.6 million students who need accommodation at some point during their studies.

Students typically sign contracts covering 12 months of study, meaning both parties know when they will be moving out. This allows the landlord to market the property to prospective tenants, and students to secure accommodation following the academic year ahead of time.

By giving students the right to remain indefinitely, landlords would have no guarantee that their property would be free to rent at the start of the next academic year, making it impossible for them to find new tenants – and making it increasingly harder for new students to find somewhere to live.

A student housing shortfall

Figures released last year showed that by 2025 the UK will face a shortfall of around 450,000 student beds, due to a combination of the increasing number of students going to university and a relatively low supply of new student homes. This crisis will be exacerbated by the changes proposed in the Bill.

Controversially, the Government has exempted purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) from the new rules, meaning that in high-end build-to-rent ‘halls’ and apartments, bosses will still retain the right to use the fixed term.

With rents in PBSA typically up to £120 a month more expensive than the PRS, it is an unaffordable option for many, and with just 700,000 bedspaces, it does not have the capacity to house the number of students that need homes.

A warning from north of the border

In Scotland, where similar changes have already been implemented, there has been an exodus of landlords from the student sector, with many universities declaring a student housing crisis.

According to a BBC report into the issue some students have been using hostels and sleeping on common room floors, with NUS Scotland reporting the crisis is forcing students to quit courses.

Some students at Glasgow University were told not to take up hard-earned places if they had not secured accommodation – with many commuting for hours from other parts of Scotland to attend courses in major cities.

University support

It is not just the NRLA that is calling for change. Prior to the publication of the Bill, the NRLA wrote to universities and student groups across the country to garner support for a move to allow the fixed term for student lets.

It attracted widespread support, with a letter to Ministers signed by the NRLA along with 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.

The campaign spearheaded by the NRLA is already gaining traction, and was picked up by the BBC last week, with the Higher Education Policy Institute also backing our calls, saying that without change, rents are likely to rise, with availability severely compromised at a time when the market in many university towns and cities is already very tight.

What happens next? 

As the Bill passes through Parliament, the NRLA will continue to lobby for positive change specifically around student tenancies, with a meeting of stakeholders planned this week.

I met with Housing Minister Rachel Maclean earlier this year to discuss our concerns, and have written to her again this week to outline the potential impact of the changes. 

The Government needs to ensure landlords have the ability to bring student tenancies to an end, in order to let them to new students at the start of each academic year and the association is hopeful ministers will recognise this fact, to support both students and the landlords who house them. 

More information

The NRLA has a suite of resources to keep members up-to-date with the Bill, including a selection of FAQs. To visit the member-only hub click here. We would also advise you to keep a close eye on our news site and social media channels where we will provide regular updates on all the latest developments.

Ben headshot

Ben Beadle is chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), the UK’s largest trade body for landlords.

A landlord himself since the age of 20, Ben started out as property manager before working his way up through the ranks at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).

He was then Operations Director at property management business Touchstone before overseeing the merger of the National Residential Landlords Association (NLA) and Residential Landlords Association (RLA) to create the new trade body earlier this year.

His key aims as head of the organisation are to strengthen the voice of landlords in Westminster and Cardiff, to improve the reputation of landlords in the media and to support members through information, training and accreditation.

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