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Landlord Dilemma: should I give discounts and refunds?

A landlord has opened up to a news website about the difficulties trying to accommodate student tenants during the lockdown. 

Elizabeth Hunter is a student landlord in Plymouth and says she appreciates the apparent unfairness of students who remain with their parents during lockdown being expected to pay for private rental accommodation they cannot use.

"I am happy to and fully intend to do an assessment of all the utility bills and make appropriate refunds, but there are students that have decided to stay in their accommodation” she tells PlymouthLive.

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"This is a situation where a lot of the world is outside of its comfort zone, and that's not just students. It's landlords, it's people in the NHS, the bakers down the road."

She adds: "We've got a lovely bunch of students, and we've been very fortunate in having some really nice people in the ten years we've been doing this. There are a lot of people out there at the moment that are in a lot worse situations than students right now, and we do need to keep a perspective on what's going on in the whole world."

Hunter goes on to say: "One of our students in the spring lockdown preferred to stay at the student house as they were unable to study at the family home with noisy younger siblings and family life. No doubt other students will be struggling with this issue whilst trying to keep up with their studies.

"Individual circumstances are very different and the best place for studying, whilst maintaining good mental and physical well-being, will be different for everyone."

Hunter makes it clear she believes landlords have a responsibility to weigh up individual circumstances rather than have a blanket response.

“In addressing the situation, the government have a major administrative job on their hands to write numerous detailed new laws at short notice and do what's fair for all as every student and landlord will have their own individual circumstances within which they have to navigate.

"Even in the midst of an uncertain future for us all, I do think landlords should always be fair and where possible, flexible in their approach, taking into account individual circumstances, and this is what we have always endeavoured to do.”

The comments come as one of the leading purpose-built student accommodation providers - Unite - has announced a limited discount for its student tenants.

 

Students living in Unite units will be able to apply for a discount of 50 per cent of their rent for a total of four weeks and, in addition, will be given a four-week complimentary extension of their tenancy agreement at the end of the academic year to extend their stay into the summer. 

The rental discount and tenancy extension will be available to all students checked-in but not living in their accommodation between January 18 and February 14.

The government’s latest guidance recommends that most students start their second term online until at least mid-February. 

There are however exceptions for certain practical courses, such as medicine, veterinary science, teacher training and social work. Therefore campuses are expected to remain open and Covid-19 testing will be offered to all students on their return to or arrival at college or university.

Unite - which is listed. On the London Stock Exchange- says the loss of rental income will cost it up to £8m.

Chief executive Richard Smith says: “We recognise that this is again a particularly challenging time for all students, which is why their health, safety and security has been our priority since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The new rent discount recognises the challenges and disruption that students face following the government's latest lockdown announcement, and we feel that taking this action is the right thing to do.

"Universities remain open, unlike the first lockdown, and we continue to have thousands of students living with us as of today.”

You can see Elizabeth Hunter’s full story - along with a case study of one of her student tenants - here.

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    Ms Hunter's phrase "landlords have a responsibility to weigh up individual circumstances rather than have a blanket response." sounds reasonable. Every situation is different. And where LLs have mortgages to pay, one would hope the bank/building society would take a similar view with them, rather than have a blanket response. After all, the landlord companies of shops are often lowering their rentals for their suffering shop-keepers from what is stated in their contracts. Individual circumstances during this pandemic crisis - then when the wretched pandemic crisis is over and normal life resumes, then back to normal landlord/tenant practice.

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    Thanks for that David but as usual we haven’t learnt anything from your postings
    How about instead of critiquing us LL’s the editor of this forum and asking for fact-checking and patronising all the time by telling us what to write or think. Why don’t you, suggest and add positive workable solutions based on real life experience (preferably after you’ve checked the maths add up, as thats why we are in this business to charge rent to begin with)

     
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    Legal obligations are exactly that, whether rent, mortgages, Council Tax etc.

    A single student might think they are being hard done by, but what about student landlords with 10 or more student tenants? They would quickly go bust if they let tenants off their obligations.

     
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    So we are in January and students leave expecting not to pay any further rent, that property remains empty until September with the landlord picking up all the costs, turn it back into a family let , bit less rent , but better long term tenants, has to make sense doesn't it ?

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    Agreed. Watch students scream about lack of accommodation and higher rents come September! Just desserts!

     
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    Where else in busines when a client defaults do they not get sued and chased for retribution? A LL option is the same, except we call it EVICTION....And so be it. 


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    I wouldn't put it quite so harshly David, but other than that I agree with you

     
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    I think Mark would Like like 100% ban on rent charges on Student accommodation when not being used. Lets have 100% freeze on all loan repayments & interest and lenders not allowed to add it on at the end either, 100% freeze on empty Property Council Tax that shouldn't exist, 100% freeze on utility Bills & standing charges, 100% freeze on Insurance Policy's, 100% freeze on HM0 rip off Licensing Schemes where its the Type of Person you Rent to that require you to have a License or not, not the Property. I reared my family didn't expect or get any funds from mark or anyone else. Rear your own kids educate them or not it is your choice, you must be quiet well off anyway in Business with all those letters after your name ,spend some of it.

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    I see so many posts on here with regard to whether a Landlord has a Mortgage or not. What is the relevance of this ? if a man has worked hard say all his life and saved his money , then spend his personal savings to buy and rent a property why should he be a disadvantaged LL, as apposed to someone that never done very much or not but now using borrowed money (not his money) in order to be a LL, why should he have more rights than the landlord using his personal money.

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    Spot on Michael.

     
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    Michael

    I think most landlords would have started their portfolio with borrowed money and there's nothing wrong with that, provided they don't get overstretched and have an exit strategy. The point is made to reinforce the message that living in a property is a long term commitment, whether paying off a mortgage or paying rent.

    Neither obligation can or should be waived, other than to give a very short term breathing space to adjust to new unforeseen circumstances.

    Throughout history, people have died, got ill, lost jobs and been evicted or chosen to vacate both bought and rental properties through no fault of their own. The key differences now are the scale and the amount of generous help from the UK treasury. Landlords shouldn't have a disproportionate amount of the problem heaped on our shoulders and tenants should move out if they can no longer meet their obligations, now just as in the past - and in the future.

     
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    If dealing with tenants...I give them NOTHING!!!!!! Ever.

  • George Dawes

    I’ve already given one of my commercial tenants a deal on the last few years of their lease , despite my solicitor and accountant saying I didn’t need to . Regarding residential, I did it once and won’t make that mistake again

    Sometimes shops really are preferential to residential

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    I had a commercial tenant who's business stopped at first lock down, the lady had been an excellent tenant for the previous 24 yrs so we went rent free expecting her to restart in August , by November it hadn't happen, put it up to rent not expecting to get much interest , 4 people fighting over it, I now have a good honest hard working tenant on a 5 yr lease, so it's not all doom and gloom out there , oh and no problems thus far with residential tenants either.

     
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    If signing a tenancy agreement in September 2019 one would have been unaware of the problems Covid was going to bring. BUT, as a student signing a tenancy agreement in September 2020 one would or should have been aware of the threat of Covid and what might happen. So if you signed a tenancy agreement knowing all the potential risks why should you now walk away from that agreement without penalty. You are grown ups in a grown up World. Face up to it before you graduate and join the real World permanently, as I did. I do have student accommodation paid for by hard earned cash, it is now MY income that puts food on My table

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    Agreed, however, the law states they they are adult at 18, but how many students could you truly describe as adult ??

     
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    Robert, I was not saying there's anything wrong with borrowing money to buy property, that's how investment works for Business although HMRC don't consider us a Business, but at the same time the guy using his /hers money probably life savings to put a roof over someone else's head putting their savings at risk, shouldn't be put in a worse position than someone borrowing money, which many on here seem to think.

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    Agreed. Both methods are valid and merit equal protection in difficult times.

     
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    Surely logic dictates that if the student has possessions in the property they are still considered to be occupying it therefore they should be paying full rent. If they haven't occupied the property yet so have no possessions then they've entered into a contract so it should be up to the landlord whether they exercise any discretion around rent.

    By the same degree, if they haven't occupied the property and the landlord has found another tenant (assuming that's possible) then no rent should be due by the student and the contract declared null and void. However, the student cannot then expect to be allowed to occupy the property when 'normal service' is resumed.

    BTW, I'm don't have student properties or HMOs.

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    And I also don't have either, give me sensible, mature, working tenants any day of the week.

     
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