6 important tips for student property and buy-to-let landlords

September and January are the busiest months for landlords across the UK with an average of over 500,000 students going to university each year. Students are often looking to start a brand new life upon their decision to go to university, starting with their new student accommodation that is in such high demand.

As a landlord investing in buy-to-let student property, the risks can often be significantly higher than when renting to the general public – this is because your tenants are going to be young, vulnerable, inexperienced in the property market and they can unfortunately sometimes be untrustworthy. So follow this comprehensive guide to all the questions you may need answering as a student property buy-to-let landlord.

Tip 1: Contracts

University isn’t for everyone, but sometimes students won’t realise that until a few months in, by which time you have already both signed a legally binding contract. So what do you do if your tenant decides to drop out of university and vacate your property?

Legal precautions (such as a tenancy agreement) taken out prior to the start of the tenancy ensures that the tenant must give notice to the landlord and continue to pay the rent until they leave or until a replacement tenant is found. If the tenant is unable to pay the rent due or if they refuse, it becomes the responsibility of the guarantor (if there is one) to carry out any further payments.

Tip 2: Tax regulations as a student landlord

As a student property buy-to-let landlord, you are exempt from paying council tax for the student property provided that it is all occupied by full-time students in higher education.

You should obtain proof of education such as an official stamped certificate from the university admissions department.

Tip 3: Responsibilities to overseas students

When privately renting to international students you have certain responsibilities that extend beyond the ordinary duties of a student property buy-to-let landlord.

These include:

  • making a copy of the students passport
  • making a copy of the students visa documents
  • making a note of the visa expiry date, ensuring that the visa doesn’t expire before the tenancy end date

Before entering any verbal or written agreement regarding privately rented accommodation you must make sure that any prospective tenant has the legal right to live in the UK. For further information read Right to rent.

Tip 4: How to keep tenants safe

In order to keep your tenants as safe as possible it is important that you take precautionary measures that will maximise safety and minimise any risks.

Some things you can do to keep your tenants safe include:

  • installing a burglar alarm
  • making sure the outdoor area surrounding the property is well lit at all times
  • ensuring all locks are working and in good quality
  • having timers on both outdoor and indoor lights to make the property appear in use, no matter what time of the day
  • installing a gate with a working lock

Tip 5: Keeping the environment clean and tidy

Students have gained a reputation as messy and untidy and while this isn’t always the case, they do sometimes struggle to keep a property in the best condition when living with a group of new and different people.

Creating a schedule of bin collection times and a guide to which rubbish goes in which bin will help students keep the area as clean as possible. You can make various copies of such guides and place them in communal areas and on notice boards, giving your tenants no excuse to not play their part and keep the property and its surrounding area clean and tidy.

You can also provide a cleaning service for the tenants on a fortnightly or monthly basis to help with keeping the property tidy.

Tip 6: Manual guides and contact numbers

For many students, moving into student accommodation will be their first time away from home and away from their parents – meaning appliances such as an oven or washing machine can often seem foreign. Creating handy guides on how to work the appliances provided ensures that they are used correctly and minimises the risk of any breakage. Creating a guide for the fire alarm installed and any fire equipment is also essential for the safety of both the property and your tenants.

Making a list of contact numbers is also a helpful resource for tenants. This can include your own number as the landlord, the contact number of the letting agent and any details of emergency services in the local area.

To wrap up…

Like all property investment, student property buy-to-let has its pros and cons. Although you don’t have to pay council tax and your assets are covered by your independent insurance company, you are solely responsible for the welfare of young adults whilst they reside in your property. As a trusted investor and landlord it is crucial that you do the utmost to keep your tenants safe and secure during their stay.

Mark Burns