The Renters (Reform) Bill will reduce rather than enhance housing rights for students, according to the former CEO of student housing charity Unipol.
Writing for education think-tank HEPI, Martin Blakey (pictured) says the legislation will be the first time that any government has sought to compel students sharing a home to be joint tenants.
Many landlords were worried when the Bill proposed that students would have the security of tenure to remain as tenants until they give notice but would have the flexibility to give two months’ notice throughout their tenancy.
“Many in the education sector have rightly concluded that if students were to be treated just like any other tenant, then landlords on the receiving end of a notice to quit would look for replacement tenants in the wider rental market,” says Blakey.
At the Bill’s Second Reading last October, the government announced it would introduce a ground for possession that will facilitate the yearly cycle of short-term student tenancies, so new students could sign up to a property in advance.
However, at committee stage, it was clear this creates more problems than it is likely to solve, he explains, because the latest proposals don’t address the problem of how landlords retain students for an academic year if they do not want to stay that long.
“The main problem is that students will need to be joint tenants before they are treated any differently from tenants in other sectors,” adds Blakey.
“Joint tenancies are bad news for students because they legally link together individuals who may (at the time of agreeing on a rental) only have a passing acquaintance of each other.
“Joint contracts…became prevalent in the off-street student rented sector because landlords wanted either to circumvent completely the risks and obligations associated with residential letting, or they were trying to mitigate the increasing burdens of regulation.”