The landlords guide to maintaining student properties

The student market can often be a very attractive one indeed for landlords who operate in the buy-to-let sector. A constant stream of demand and the predictability of when contracts will end and begin mean that student house shares can prove to be an extremely valuable source of income.

However, letting out and maintaining student houses can bring about just as many pitfalls as benefits - a prospect that can all too easily be neglected when purchasing premises in a student area.

One of the most irregular features of a student let is the prolonged periods in which the house is kept dormant when tenants return home to their parents at the end of term. Normally, the majority of the responsibility would be on tenants to ensure that the house is kept clean and tidy, but if they are leaving for three or four months at a time, this becomes more difficult to enforce.

With that in mind, here are a number of pointers on how to make sure student properties are taken care of all year round.


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Regular visits

It may sound like stating the obvious, but it is essential to carry out regular inspections in term time and during the holidays to ensure they are being well kept and not misused.

It is important to ensure that you give tenants adequate notice or gain their consent to enter, irrespective of what is written in an agreed contract. Gaining access without warning and consent crosses ethical and legal boundaries, unless there is reasonable cause or exceptional circumstances where you must do so.

If students are continuing their tenancies for the next academic year, check whether any are staying or plan to return during the summer break.  If a complete change of tenants is due, agree a move out date and arrange a check before all tenants leave.

Once you have notified the tenants, take the opportunity to check that the property is being maintained appropriately, and look for warning signs of potential repairs that need to be addressed immediately or in the future.

Burglars

Another reason for regular visits is that student areas can often be a hotspot for burglars - especially when they know that at certain times of the year no one will be in. There may well have been valuable items like computers, games consoles or musical instruments left behind.

This means that during the summer break there is a heightened risk of damage. This could lead to landlords having to pay out for repairs and having to inform their tenants that a lack of security means their most valued possession has gone missing. Even with the right precautions taken, burglaries may still occur therefore tenant’s contents insurance for students is advisable.

Fit working burglary and fire alarms

Features like security lights and alarms are without doubt the best way to put off thieves. Chances are in a low budget student area many homes might not have these - so they will probably be the first to be targeted.

Similarly, a house that is uninhabited is at increased risk of falling foul to fire hazards. The smallest fires can normally be put out relatively quickly if someone is present to do so, but if no one is there a reliable fire alarm is the only way to really have peace of mind.

Repairs

Any niggling problems, perhaps damp in a back bedroom or general wear and tear may seem like nothing, but over time they will undoubtedly get worse.

However, rather than seeing this as too much of a worry, those letting out student properties should bear in mind that they are probably better placed than most to be able to rectify these.

The summer break is the ideal time to draft in any tradesmen to carry out those small nip and tucks, or indeed carry out any larger jobs if everyone is away.

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