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Graham Awards


Coronavirus set to hit income of large-scale student landlord

One of Britain’s biggest corporate student landlords is warning of reduced income in the year ahead thanks to Coronavirus.

Unite has told shareholders it achieved a relatively strong performance in recent months with 88 per cent of bed spaces let across its portfolio in the final stages of the lettings cycle for the 2020-21 academic year - this is down 10 per cent compared to a year ago. 

Unite confirmed that letting activity since the controversial A-level results in August had been “healthy” with completed lettings dipping a little below its 90 per cent occupancy target as the latest surge in Coronavirus cases had resulted in a higher-than-usual volume of cancellations. 


The company says that all of its buildings are open, with nomination agreements accounting for 57 per cent of 2020-21 bookings, with the remaining 43 per cent sold on a direct-let basis. 


UK students account for 45 per cent of its direct-let bookings, up from 38 per cent in 2019-20, which it told shareholders reflected an increased focus on appealing to students moving from HMOs. 

An offer to delay start dates has been taken up by around 10 per cent of students leading to a shortening in average tenancy lengths to 43 weeks for 2020-21. 

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    I stopped renting to students back in the 90s, give me decent, down to earth, hard working people any day.


    I have found wealthier students with wealthier parents as guarantors and joint and several liability tenancies to be relatively reliable - apart from a couple who left in March on 4 weeks notice and were then outraged when I refused to take them back for the new term as the flats had already been taken by new tenants who committed to stay until next June at the earliest.

    Some parents can be snobby but all damage is paid for as soon as I see it and I have never had any bad debt as they value their credit ratings.

    I have also had good tenants who are not students with solvent guarantors.

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    • 09 October 2020 08:34 AM

    Fortunately, I have never been involved in that sector.
    And NEVER will be.

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    • 09 October 2020 08:53 AM

    Agree with the student rental being something to avoid.
    Students have proven to regard tenancy contracts as discretionary.
    A flakey concept and not something a LL could base a business on.

    LL would do well to convert their student properties to AirBnB or professional HMO.

    Flakey students aren't worth wasting time on.


    Like in many cases with the younger generation, it comes down to how the parents are. Middle class solvent parents tend to take their responsibilities seriously, even if their offspring don't.

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    Too much management & petty grievances to sort. Yes the tenancy agreement might as well be a discretionary contract I agree


    I have generally found students to be easier to deal with than young professionals, less fussy and picky, if a bit less tidy!

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    • 09 October 2020 11:01 AM

    Non rental payment needs to be reclassified as CRIMINAL, because that is actually what it is.
    - It is stealing.

    • 22 October 2020 15:54 PM

    And if it became a criminal offence, I bet you would see virtually no evictions and very few rent defaulters.

    Job Done.

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    Paul, keep well clear of HM0's they are a costly disaster make no mistake about it was only brought in to create big soft jobs for Council Staff with no cost or in put of there own. Then they have the opportunity to penalize you at every turn, fine & ban you for breaches that don't apply to other LL's.
    I recently had a house to let so difficult because it's a HM0. I was approached by an Agent I knew for years he was all business until he realized it was a HM0, then said he couldn't deal with it because there are too many Legal Difficulties but if I would give it to a Family on Benefit no Problem and the Council would remove the licence & give me some money back, keep clear.
    I was at Council / LL meeting last year in Harrow & the Council representative was full of himself about how great a golden goose HM0 is he said they were getting 6% more than regulating LL's, no point in me sitting there listening to all this when all mine are HM0's and know its not true only an impediment.

    • 09 October 2020 18:49 PM

    Yep I have always avoided purpose built HMO.
    Was always concerned about Individual Council Tax Banding.

    Only HMO I will have will be normal houses with no more than 4 occupiers unrelated or otherwise.

    As you suggest once everything has been taken into account HMO aren't worth the hassle.

    Keep properties normal so can easily be sold into the normal market.

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    We have had HMOs for 18 years and always met the required rules, regs and requirements, BUT, now selling 2 of them due to the constant changing playing field and pressure. Nine tenants packing their belongings, all good, hardworking professionals that paid their rent on time and respected the properties.

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    I have a large number of shares in P&O cruises... can someone reimburse my losses please ?

    • 12 October 2020 19:27 PM

    You are a speculator.
    No Govt controls your ability to trade or make money out of your existing share assets.

    If you were a LL you couldn't do either of these things.

    So there is NO comparison!


    ha ha Paul, you still taking umbrage - the Gov't has imposed the quarantine that is destroying every aspect of our economy ?

    LLs are no different... I know you want to think you are... I know you're still refusing to accept it...

    Come on, how may LL forums are you writing all of your commentary on ?.. 1 is enough for me to catch all the bait I need ;-)

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    • 22 October 2020 16:21 PM

    @seb forbes

    No I'm not taking umbrage at all.

    I understand the effects of quarantine.
    I understand the business risks.

    However unlike any other business in the UK they are NOT forced to provide an accommodation service for FREE!!!

    I SHOULD be able to remove rent defaulting occupants immediately if I wish.

    If after doing so I am unable to source rent paying tenants well that is my business risk.

    There may be many reasons why a LL would be unable to source replacement rent paying tenants.

    NO LL should expect that there will always be a ready supply of rent paying tenants.

    Of course most LL gamble that there will be.

    This is the BUSINESS risk LL run.
    But LL can't risk anything if they are prevented from utilising their assets which no other business is prevented from using.

    This is what I take umbrage at.
    Let me as a LL be exposed to the market.
    It I am prevented from getting rid of feckless rent defaulting tenants then I am unable to engage in business risk.

    Effectively Govt has co-opted my private assets for use by the feckless.
    Had Govt allowed immediate removal of rent defaulting tenants many LL may well have made various business decisions such that they didn't lead to the LL evicting.

    My point is that LL should have control of their assets to try and make money.

    Currently LL are being prevented from doing this which is simply outrageous.

    I became a LL to make as much profit as I could through my business acumen.
    Govt is currently preventing me from attempting to achieve this.


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