Student-focused landlords urged to adapt to survive

A tenancy deposit scheme is urging landlords who provide student accommodation to take action, having found that almost three quarters of those surveyed are concerned about the coming academic year.

Landlords are being urged to, say, offer the best renting experience for current tenants. Picture: JPI Media.

Glasgow-based SafeDeposits Scotland holds deposits on behalf of landlords and agents in line with government regulations designed to ensure responsible leasing.

It has been providing advice and information around changes to the sector due to the pandemic, as the number of students heading to campuses slumps.The organisation is urging landlords to focus on providing the best renting experience for current tenants, while considering options to diversify their future tenant base.

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SafeDeposits Scotland operations manager Mike Smith said: “UK universities expect to see a £2.6 billion shortfall in the next academic year due to the pandemic, with 20 per cent of domestic students not returning to university, and 75 per cent of overseas students not enrolling this September.

“Pre-lockdown, demand for student accommodation in Scotland was notably high. Boasting some of the UK’s top universities, it’s no surprise areas including Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh experienced an influx of students each year looking for housing.

"But despite the drop in numbers of students expected to enrol this year, it’s evident there’s faith in the resilience of the sector, with a number of high-profile developments announced in the past month alone.

“Two recent Edinburgh examples of long-term growth within the sector include the new 120-bed purpose built student accommodation complex set to be built at Haymarket, while Unite Student has confirmed plans for a £24 million build of student flats at Meadowbank."

Cautious optimism

He also expressed confidence in demand for student housing returning. “However, until we have a clearer picture of what future academic enrolment figures are like, landlords could consider alternative ways to lease properties.

"A good example is renting to young professionals that are looking to move away from home for the first time. The demands of these tenants are similar to students in the private rented sector, and it can be a way of keeping properties occupied until we know more about the future of higher education.”

SafeDeposits Scotland has also found that of its landlords renting to students, almost half secured new tenancies during lockdown, while 73 per cent expressed concerns around this academic year.

Smith added: “We believe having happy tenants leads to longer tenancies, creating more vibrant communities where people want to live. This boosts local economies and helps increase demand for rental property in that area.

"In the short term, we urge landlords to implement safety guidance from the Scottish Government and manage risk wherever possible, while tenants adhere to the measures put in place.”

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