SafeDeposits Scotland encourages student landlords to look ahead to new academic year
SafeDeposits Scotland is working with landlords who provide student accommodation to help overcome challenges brought on by COVID-19, as the number of overseas students returning to the UK drops.
During lockdown, the not-for-profit organisation reached out to landlords and tenants to provide advice and information around changes to the sector due to the pandemic. It works closely with all landlords including those that have been impacted by the decrease in students enrolling this academic year.
The Glasgow-based tenancy deposit scheme holds deposits on behalf of landlords and agents in line with government regulations designed to ensure responsible leasing.
As the sector continues to work towards pre-COVID-19 levels of activity, SafeDeposits Scotland is urging landlords to focus on providing the best renting experience for current tenants, while considering options to diversify their future tenant base.
Mike Smith, operations manager at SafeDeposits Scotland, said: “UK universities expect to see a £2.6 billion shortfall in the next academic year due to the pandemic, with 20% of domestic students not returning to university, and 75% 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.”
To understand the concerns of landlords in the private rented sector during these unprecedented times more clearly, SafeDeposits Scotland carried out research to find out how they have coped during lockdown and how they feel about leasing property in the new academic year.
Mr Smith continued: “We’re confident demand for student housing will return, whether it is in the private rented sector or for purpose-built accommodation. 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.
“We recently carried out research with our landlords that are renting to students. This revealed that almost half (43%) secured new tenancies during lockdown while almost three quarters (73%) of this group expressed concerns around what this academic year will look like for them.
“To alleviate concerns, we’ve been working closely with landlords to ensure the tenants they do have in place now have the best experience. To support, we’ve moved our face-to-face workshops online to offer free advice and information. Our Charitable Trust has also recently announced its funding towards research being carried out by the University of Stirling. This research is exploring the benefits of allowing tenants more flexibility to make a house a home.”
He 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.
“The property sector has been resilient during past economic challenges, but the full impact of the pandemic is yet to be seen. We know the government is working hard to support international students hoping to return to Scotland to continue their higher education studies. This will have a hugely positive impact for our landlords who rely on overseas students to rent their properties, and hopefully we will see the results of this work.
“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.”