Students and landlords remain optimistic despite huge coronavirus challenge

Jordan Darlington·8 May 2020·6 min read
Students and landlords remain optimistic despite huge coronavirus challenge

Accommodation for students has conducted a survey of both students and landlords to find out how Coronavirus has impacted on them. It is clear that the current circumstances have had a dramatic impact on both students and private landlords, with both sides struggling to adapt to the situation.

Despite these challenges it is noteworthy that the vast majority of students expect to be back at University in September (86%). Indeed, 62% of students have already found their accommodation for the next year, while 19% of students are actively looking for student accommodation at present. Landlords are slightly less optimistic, with just over 50% confident of a return to normality in September.

Students have returned home

Of the students that responded to the AFS survey, the vast majority have returned home – 84%. Half of these students were residing in Halls of residence and overall the main reason they left was for safety and social distancing purposes (63% of respondents). A number of students also felt that that they wanted to be with their family and around 1/3rd were advised to go home by the University. Where students chose to stay, 40% of them did so because they were unable to travel home, while 23% did not have anywhere else to go.

Private landlords report a different picture with just 29% reporting that all of their tenants have left. The majority report a more fluid situation where some tenants have left but others remain in occupation.

Rental Payments

It is clear from the results of our survey that many landlords feel in a difficult position in regard to rent, recognising the difficulty that many students are experiencing and attempting to balance that with the requirement to meet their own costs and outgoings.

At present the strategy for the majority of landlords in relation to rent differs depending on where the student is. If they are in occupation the vast majority are to attempt to collect rent as normal (76%), however this dips significantly where the student has returned home. In this case just under half of landlords will attempt to collect rent, while the rest will agree a rent reduction for the following period (22%) or cancel the tenancy (10%). A significant minority are unsure what to do (12%) at the moment.

Where the landlord is attempting to collect rent, but the student is unable to pay the majority plan to put in place a payment plan or flexible payment terms to address the situation. Many respondents believe there should be more government support for landlords to recognise the balance between attempting to collect rent and the difficult circumstances students face.

Majority of Students plan to pay their rent

Of those students that are required to pay their rent a small majority intend to pay either all of part of the rent. Only 13% of students that responded to the survey did not plan on paying their rent. Around ¼ of students are unsure of what they will do at this stage.

In this, many students are facing the challenge posed by a reduction in their income, which is primarily to do with the loss of part time work and reduced parental support. Only 15% of the students that responded to our survey had had no reduction in their income.

The 2020-2021 Student Accommodation Market

Half of the landlords we have surveyed have already let their properties for the forthcoming academic year, while just over 1/3rd of them are actively seeking tenants at the moment for September 2020.

Overall landlord confidence remains relatively robust. The majority (62%) anticipate a small drop in income or no reduction in income at all. Only 22% of respondents were anticipating a major decline in income as a result of this crisis. Furthermore, 65% of landlords intend to carry on as previously once the crisis ends, with only 13% reviewing their portfolio with a view to a potential exit and 2% planning to dispose of their properties.

Of the students that participated in the AFS survey, 62% have already found their accommodation for the next year, while 19% of students were still actively looking for student accommodation at present.

97% of students believe the crisis has had a negative impact on their studies

It is clear that the majority of students feel that the crisis has had a major impact on their studies with 97% informing us that it has had a negative impact. The main reasons given by students for this were the lack of face to face contact with University Staff and lack of access to University resources. Disruption to exams was also noted as an issue by 40% of respondents.

As a result of this 87% of students believe that they should be entitled to a full or partial refund of their tuition fees, to reflect the scale of the impact.

More support required

Both students and landlords felt that more support from the government was required. Landlords in particular felt that such support would ease the pressure for both landlords and tenants, in difficult circumstances. Many landlord respondents were sensitive to the difficulty some students would face in meeting tenancy obligations and to balance this requirement with their own cost obligations which remained in place.

Students are looking for more support with their rent, where they are struggling to make payments. Many were also seeking certainty around September opening for Universities to enable them to make decisions about their future.