A leading student accommodation expert has urged the Government to create a level playing field for the sector within the looming Renters (Reform) Bill or face a perfect storm of rising rents and contracting supply.
In its current first draft the Bill exempts corporate Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) providers from the proposed ban on fixed-term contracts, but not private landlords who offer shared homes to students.
Despite heavy lobbying from landlords and their representatives to Ministers, it has only been recently that housing secretary Michael Gove accepted that all student accomodation providers rely on fixed-term contracts to create certainty for both them and their tenants – and not just corporate-financed blocks.
But Gove's comment have yet to materialise into changes within the Bill and, writing on the Higher Education Policy Institute website Calum MacInness (main picture), chairman of housing organisation the Student Accredited Private Rental Sector, says: “If the Bill remains unchanged, all private student housing tenancies will be open-ended with a two-month notice period.
“This means students seeking to move out will hand in their notice in April and May without the security of knowing where they will be living the following academic year.
“For landlords, this creates uncertainty. As they do not know when, or even whether, their tenants will move out, they cannot be certain their properties will be made available to students for the start of the academic year. Many may choose to leave the market, which will reduce the supply of student housing across the country, turning to other markets which offer greater certainty.”
MacInnes goes on to point out that in Scotland where the Private Residential Tenancy was introduced in 2017 – banning fixed-term tenancies for private rental properties – his organisation has seen universities signalling that the number of properties available for private rental are at an all-time low.
Pointing out that student already face high rents and a low supply in England, he says: “The aims of the Bill are welcome. With the Bill still in its early stages, it is not too late to ensure that it delivers a better deal for all tenants, including students. On the issue of fixed-term tenancies, the Bill therefore must create parity between the SPRS and the PBSA sector – anything else risks exacerbating the existing crisis.”