The relationship between students and owners of student HMOs has largely been good. That has now changed, according to some recent surveys. The situation with the pandemic, perceived inflexibility, and lack of awareness of how the last year impacts mean many of those questioned expressed unhappiness.
Most of this lack of happiness concerns financial issues and unwillingness to work together to find solutions while the pandemic goes on.
Large Numbers of Students “Unhappy”
According to the survey, 64% (that’s around 2/3) rate the quality of service from private landlords and letting agents at unsatisfactory. In comparison, student accommodate providers were rated at 51% unsatisfactory.
Similarly, 2/3 felt trapped in a lettings contract they no longer needed. They widely reported landlord inflexibility of the pandemic situation. Further:
- 11% are currently in rent arrears with their agent or landlord
- 11% received a rent reduction despite many more asking for some financial relief
- 34% (around 1/3) have struggled to make their rent payments
- Average rent arrears are just over £1,300
- 56% “usually or always” find it hard to pay
- 13% owe 1-2 months of rent
- 7% are over 3 months behind on rent
The lowest happiness levels are from students in the private rented student HMO sector. In comparison, halls of residents and private communities fared better. Not the universities received no criticism. Students felt they were doing far too little to help with accommodation issues and guidance.
Student Employment Figures
Many students fund their studies through part-time work. But due to various lockdowns, work has been limited. Just 63% of students worked since the first lockdown in March 2020. Average income has dropped by £2,761 per working student. This, in part, has fuelled the money shortages in a time when students are largely considered financially responsible, stable, and good tenants to have.
While financial support schemes are available, just 30% of those who had jobs were eligible for support such as Universal Credit. It revealed long-standing issues of financial support for students experiencing financial difficulties, and the troubles with getting help.
NUS Figures Back Up
The Online Agency Reflects Figures from the National Union of Students. In that survey:
- 22% of students have missed rent payments
- 27% missed bill payments
- 66% worry about not making rent in future
None of this is, of course, is the fault of property owners or their agents.
However, the NUS added their own comments referring to the tax breaks and subsidy measures introduced since March 2020. They asked government to wipe out arrears for anyone who incurred debt specifically because of COVID-19 and to refund lost rent to landlords up to a value of 80% of the rent. They also called for urgent action on the Renters Reform Bill.