When should students begin to search for accommodation?

Next week sees a very busy time for A-level students. While they are likely preoccupied with some serious cramming ahead of their exams, beginning the search for somewhere to live for their time at university can never be started too soon, particularly in the current climate.

Related topics:  Landlords,  Property,  Students
Property | Reporter
12th May 2023
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"We certainly recommend that they begin the process of sorting out their accommodation well in advance. It’s never to early to start addressing the paperwork side of finding student digs"

There’s a lot to be said for sorting out your paperwork well in advance, according to UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand.

James Maguire, Head of Sales and Business Development, Housing Hand, said: "While students can’t really confirm their living arrangements until they receive their email results and confirmation of their university place, there is plenty that they can and should do before then. As soon as exams are out of the way, it is the ideal time to focus on all things accommodation-related.”

Housing Hand recommends that young people get up to speed on the accommodation options in their preferred university town or city well before A-level results are published. Many locations now offer a mix of university halls of residence, purpose-built student accommodation and properties in the private rented sector.

The number of landlords providing the latter, however, is declining fast and Housing Hand is seeing an increasing number of students (and, indeed, other renters) struggling to secure accommodation in their chosen area.

One issue compounding the problem is the growing number of renters who are renewing their tenancies earlier while in situ. The Housing Hand team has spotted this growing trend, which is further complicating the usual patterns of supply and demand in the student accommodation sector.

According to Knight Frank, the number of properties available to renters has dropped by up to 40% over the past year. Many landlords have been driven from the market by increasingly unfavourable returns, with rising mortgage interest rates following years of reduced tax concessions for those providing rental homes.

The imminent ending of fixed-term contracts, anticipated to be implemented as part of the passing of the Renters’ Reform Bill, is the final straw for many of those who rent homes to students. Open-ended rental contracts mean that landlords will be unable to rent to students only for the academic year, meaning they won’t be able to ensure their properties are available for the next cohort of students every year.

This opens up the possibility of a student leaving their accommodation mid-year and the landlord having a void property until the following academic year.

The dwindling supply of rental homes is pushing up student rents. While Zoopla reports a UK-wide rent increase of 12% from September 2021 to September 2022, Dataloft reports that students have seen a 23% increase over the past year.

Nor is the lack of accommodation the only issue facing would-be student renters, according to the Housing Hand team. They point out that most students don’t yet have sufficient credit history to rent a property without needing a guarantor. However, the cost-of-living crisis has resulted in an increase in the number of guarantors failing referencing checks.

This is one area where Housing Hand can help. The company is the only guarantor service accepted by the majority of letting agents and accommodation providers. Operating across the UK and Ireland, Housing Hand can act as a guarantor on behalf of the student, as well as providing a depositless rental option for those struggling to stump up a month’s rent for their deposit – another problem exacerbated by the inflated cost of living. Housing Hand also operates a house-finding service for those struggling to locate appropriate accommodation.

Graham Hayward, Chief Operating Officer, Housing Hand, concludes: “Students do have options available to them when it comes to helping with finding and securing somewhere to live in their university town or city. But we certainly recommend that they begin the process of sorting out their accommodation well in advance. It’s never too early to start addressing the paperwork side of finding student digs.”

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