The warning follows reports of long queues for viewing flats and one Edinburgh letting agent reporting more than 626 enquiries for one single property over a period of a week.
Director of Umega, Andy Whitmey, labelled Edinburgh’s market “very challenging”, with demand being impacted by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Scottish Government ministers are now being urged to take immediate action to tackle the crisis by the NUS to avoid students experiencing homelessness.
Matt Crilly, the union’s president in Scotland, blamed the situation squarely on landlords and rising rents.
He said: “There are hundreds of students who've returned to college and university only to find they don’t have a place to live. Landlords are pricing students out of education with sky-high rents.
“It’s deeply concerning that students are being forced to stay in hostels, commute for hours or sofa surf to access their education.
"The Scottish Government must urgently intervene to address the student housing crisis and provide support to students, students’ associations and institutions to ensure no student has to experience homelessness.”
Mr Crilly reiterated calls for a student housing strategy to be published as soon as possible.
The Scottish Government, in its co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens, has committed to a housing bill in the second year of the parliamentary session.
This will follow the publication of a strategy paper around the rental market, and will be joined by a fresh rent control system for local authorities to implement rent controls.
Mr Crilly added: “For years students have had to put up with expensive, sub-standard housing dominated by intimidating landlords and without any real rights. We need a student housing strategy for Scotland that ensures all students have access to safe, affordable accommodation.”
Responding to the NUS concerns, minister for higher and further education Jamie Hepburn said the government was “concerned” by the issues, but constrained on what action it could take.
He said: “While the Scottish Government has no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation, we would strongly encourage students with those concerns to speak with their college or university.
“We are determined to improve accessibility, affordability and standards across the rented sector and are carrying out a review of purpose-built student accommodation.
"We are also working to deliver a new deal for tenants giving them more secure, stable, affordable tenancies with improved standards of accommodation, new controls on rent and more flexibility to personalise homes.”