With student market nearly upon us, New Student Publications carried out an interesting straw survey on Student Landlord Problems

Different categories were addressed covering areas from unpaid rent to cleanliness issues.

Unpaid rent, filthy tenants and panicking about filling your properties for next year?

The results were astounding, with over 14% of landlords saying that their current biggest problem is just finding tenants to take their properties and fill in any gaps should someone drop out during a contract, with more than 2% feeling like they are struggling just to get viewings. One agent simply said “we have unlet properties remaining for July 2011, the situation is worse than in previous years” In a similar 2009 survey finding tenants was also the biggest problem raised by landlords.

Dirty Tenants

Landlords cited dirty tenants as their second biggest problem, with 16% left to pick up massive cleaning bills, or called out at 4am to change a lightbulb. The general consensus was “students don’t take care of the property or make any effort to keep the house clean.” 3.5% of agents thought that students demanded a much higher standard of accommodation than ever before, although it seems that tenants are unwilling to take out contracts for a full twelve months, with one landlord struggling to get even shorter terms “the majority of people contact me to rent for one or two months.”

Pressure From Pupose Built Halls

Many of the landlords surveyed said that they felt increased pressure from new purpose built student villages found in many city centres; more than 8% of those surveyed would eradicate those villages if we gave them one wish! 2% of landlords are afraid that their properties were not close enough to ‘hotspots’ and so would soon be abandoned in favour of more central locations.

Unpaid Rent

11% of businesses struggle with unpaid rent, while 2% note that this messes with their cash flow and although some are sympathetic to the issues caused by the Student Loans Company, most are fixed on the bigger picture; “a lot of time is spent chasing payment. Students seem to think that it is not always necessary for them to pay their rent.” This coupled with tenants excessively using all inclusive utilities means that businesses are less profitable. One landlord’s wish was simply that we could ‘undo the recession’ as 8 different landlords complained of increases to the cost of maintaining their properties to a decent standard.

Relax Regulations

Bogged down with HMO paperwork and expense? Over 18% of those surveyed would love to change or relax the regulations and the council powers to control them. One landlord stated; “there should be a national guide for HMO legislation.” Some landlords feel so strongly about HMO licensing that they named specific city councils or even actual councillors as their biggest fear for the future. 3 landlords said they had qualms about council schemes to shift populations from one area of a city to another, and how it would affect their business.

Worries Over Tuition Fee Increase

Landlords are worried about the tuition fee increase, with more than 14% saying that if they had one wish, they would fight the fees and leave the system as it stands, a worry which probably contributes to 13% of them saying that they feel the future of the market is uncertain, as some students may choose to stay at home to study. Competition from the university owned housing is a headache too, with 4% saying an increase in that sort of accommodation would be detrimental to their ability to let.

Problems With Advertising

Landlords raised the issue of advertising, when to do it and how the culture of marketing lets so early can damage the business, with nearly 5% of landlords thinking there should be a guideline that means property is marketed in January and not before. 4% thought university accommodation offices charged them too much for advertising, and 5% would like to see cheaper, and more effective advertising available to them.

Deposit Protection Unfair

Some landlords were concerned that the existing Deposit Protection Scheme did not offer them enough scope to reclaim money for damage to their properties. Eight separate landlords would like to see the entire system revised, with 1% of those surveyed listing it as their biggest problem. A case from the survey highlights the DPS’s flaws; “£1500 worth of damage but ex tenants refuse to give consent to DPS to pay the landlord.” And some feel that from a legal standpoint the law does not protect them, 3% of landlords would like to see more legislation to protect the financial interests of the landlord.

Worries Over The Potential Drop In Student Numbers

And what of the future of the student property market? More than half of those surveyed were very worried about the potential drop in student numbers next year, with one landlord summing up the problems this will create; “if student numbers drop because of the £9,000 a year course fees then we might see empty houses, lower rents or both.” A worry shared by 3% of those surveyed, who fear the contraction in the market will mean a forced reduction of rents, while other suggested offering shorter term contracts or starting to appeal to the housing benefit market was the only way to keep the business afloat.

No Problems At All

But this isn’t the full picture. Almost 9% of those surveyed have no major problems with the lettings market, their tenants or filling their properties. One landlord is more than happy with his tenants; “we enjoy our students. We pride ourselves in helping them learn how to care for and run the house. We regard them as ‘professionals-in-training’ and teach them what they should reasonably expect from a landlord and what they should reasonably do as a tenant.” One respondent would use a magic wand to change the public’s attitude towards students; “they tend to live in larger houses that are too big for modern families and therefore almost act as guardians for some of our most impressive architecture. They should be seen as a positive part of any community.”

Top 5 biggest fears for the futureNumber of responsesPercentage
Fewer students in the future10154%
Student villages158%
Legislation increasing workload158%
Unpaid rent due to fees105%
Universities moving into market84%
Top 5 current biggest problemsNumber of responsesPercentage
Bad tenants5113.6%
Uncertainty for the future4913.1%
Finding tenants4812%
Unpaid rent4111%
HMOs174.5%

No Letting Go are working with a number of student letting agents and bodies around the UK to help protect both landlords and tenants from many of the issues arising from cleanliness and deposit protection. Better use of Inventory services, checking tenants in, property visits and managing the check out is critical to ensuring that potential problems are dealt with in advance and issues arising from check outs are dealt with quickly and efficiently. Contact No Letting Go on 0800 881 5366 or find your nearest office at www.nolettinggo.co.uk

Compiled by Emma Parker New Student – Student Housing Magazines – www.newstudent.co.uk

TDS state that the following percentage awards (in terms of deposits held) were made during 2010

Percentage of awards made to tenant – 56%

Percentage of awards made to landlord – 42%

Percentage of awards made to agents – 2%

The lack of landlord generated accurate paperwork seems to still be a problem.

TDS state that in 2009/10 the top three causes of disputes were as follows:

Cleaning – found in 46% of complaints

Damage – found in 29% of complaints

Redecoration – found in 24% of complaints

I read a great article written for Upad this week….if you missed it then here it is. It is always good to remember the basics.

The Buy-to-Let boom is unlikely to return any time soon. A serious lack of good deals from BTL mortgage lenders is compounded by a distinct absence of confidence right now. But it does look like those green shoots of optimism are starting to appear again and 2011 may well be the year when a little cheer returns for budding Buy to Let landlords.

Tenant demand has never been stronger and banks say they want to lend again. Combine that with rising rents in many areas and a housing market that continues to splutter, and you’d be right to think that now is a good time to reconsider a Buy to Let investment.

And invest is the key word. Buying to let is just another way of getting your capital to work as hard as it possibly can for you in order to generate returns. How you do that is up to you. Perhaps you want the boost of a monthly rental income from a property. Or you could fancy a longer term punt and hope to rake in the cash when you sell the property some way down the line. But whatever your intentions, make sure you don’t make any of the common errors that often put a Buy to Let landlord’s investment at risk.

Don’t spend too much for too little return.
Calculate what you can afford and take into account all the expenses of being a landlord. Don’t overstretch yourself. Be realistic about your finances and take professional advice on taking out an appropriate mortgage. Consider future interest rates. Over the next few years, interest rate rises are inevitable. Don’t be caught out: will your investment be as attractive if any mortgage payments you make rise dramatically?

Being a landlord also attracts all manner of expenses and they can sometimes come out of the blue. Ensure that you can afford them and also that they don’t dent the profitability of your investment. In a rented flat, the boiler could go kaput at considerable expense or a service charge bill could come out of the blue. Expect the unexpected.

Remember that your rental income might occasionally be reduced. Tenants might miss the rent and get into arrears or you could experience voids between tenants when the property isn’t generating any revenue. Ensure that you should mitigate against these and that you can afford to keep going through the leaner times.

Don’t forget to “futureproof” your investment.
Many landlords come a cropper because they spot a cracking property at a great price and just go for it. Don’t forget Elvis: only fools rush in. With a little local research, you might discover why the property is such a bargain. Is the location up to scratch? Is crime a problem? Is a new motorway just about to plough through the local nature reserve? Maybe a supermarket is planned for the end of the road? It doesn’t take much nous to do some research and understand what’s happening in the area. A bargain property is always a bargain for a reason. Just make sure that some third-party development isn’t going to blight your enterprise.

Buy for your tenants, not yourself.
Channel your inner Vulcan, disengage your emotions and buy a property that will generate a fine return. That’s the challenge Don’t fall into that all-too-common trap and buy a place you like but which is entirely unsuitable for the tenants you have in mind. And be careful to approach the decoration and fittings of your property in the same way. Go for generic colours and furnishings and think of your future tenants at all times.

Don’t forget the taxman. (He won’t forget you!)
In general terms (and you are best advised to consult a professional accountant on such matters), if you are making more than £2500 profit on your property each year you’ll need to file a self-assessment tax return. So make a merit of it. You can claim tax relief on certain expenses you incur as a landlord. A canny accountant will help you pay not a penny more (and not a penny less) than you have to and is well worth the expense for all the expertise they can offer.

Do you understand the role of a landlord?
Sometimes landlords jeopardise their investment by failing to appreciate and understand the legal frameworks that surround every landlord. Firstly, whilst it may be your house, it isn’t your home. You can’t just pop by on a whim and you are also responsible for maintaining the property in a fit state for the tenants. Bone up on the law, read a few books and keep up with the news. Joining one of the landlord associations out there is always a good idea.

Landlord Dude abandons his hot tub to discuss keeping inventory in his work van. Broadcasting from the back of his maintenance work vehicle, Paul Dizmang shows you what it takes to stay organized in property management. Visit his web site at www.getpaul.com for more information or to rent property in Springfield, MO!

No Letting Go release more discovery dates for people wanting to get involved in the property inventory management industry.

Discovery Day Dates – 2010/2011:

Tuesday 24th August London
Thursday 30th September Birmingham
Wednesday 27th October London
Thursday 25th November Manchester
Tuesday 18th January Bristol
Thursday 17th February London

Contact No Letting Go at www.nolettinggo.co.uk or on 0845 659 9980 for more information on our inventory franchises throughout the UK