Landlords warned viewings in uni houses are ‘ill-advised’ amid COVID-19

Student landlords are also facing calls to let tenants out of their contracts

Landlords have been warned that uni house viewings are “ill-advised” during the coronavirus crisis, as many students scramble home amid the newly-announced lockdown and uncertainty over income.

The National Landlord Association told The Tab “there’s no active marketplace right now” and that “viewings would be ill-advised.”

Chris Norris, the NLA’s Director of Policy, said in light of this, “a tenancy coming to an end may mean an empty property for some deal of time.”

As unis give students the option to end halls contracts early and urge students who can return home to do so, the NLA told landlords to be pragmatic in holding students to commitments on their tenancies. “We would tell landlords to take a sympathetic but pragmatic approach. We’d recommend they use common sense,” said Norris.

The NUS is demanding that the government introduce legislation to ensure “every student landlord must offer a no-penalty release from tenancy contracts for the current and next academic year.”

The Tab has seen emails from landlords telling students that rent is expected as normal as student finance will be coming in next term. “The student industry will be mostly immunised from issues with rents as they are paid student loans and bursaries to help cover the rent during their studies,” one landlord told their student tenants.

Yet, the issue of student loans is “almost a moot point”, says Norris, and the likelihood of ending a tenancy earlier is more based on individual circumstances. “If a student who is normally paying their rent based on a part-time job, the landlord may be better off cutting their losses,” says Norris, but students looking to end contracts based purely on uncertainty will face a more “pragmatic” conversation.

Meanwhile, the NLA told landlords to make arrangements with guarantors in case things fell through. Meera Chindooroy, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the National Landlords Association, told The Tab: “Landlords and students are responding to exceptional circumstances, as is the whole country. We have heard from many student landlords whose tenants are leaving en masse following last week’s Government advice, which has moved remaining university and college classes online.

“Any landlords facing this situation with buy to let mortgages should contact their lenders to discuss the possibility of a mortgage holiday for the next three months. Landlords should also check whether they are covered by existing rent guarantee insurance. It’s good practice for student landlords to have guarantors arranged, who remain legally responsible for the contractual rent if the student defaults. We advise landlords to approach guarantors about a payment plan in the first instance to help manage the cost over a period that will be challenging for all.”

Eva Crossan Jory, NUS Vice President for Welfare said: “The current crisis demands that students have a safe, affordable and secure roof over their head – this is a matter of social justice and public health! We are calling for student landlords to offer a no-penalty release from tenancy contracts to their tenants, an end to evictions and the subsidy, and the reduction or waiving of rent payments for students impacted financially by coronavirus.”

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