Don’t be outsmarted by students

Right about know specialist student letting companies and agents in university locations will be busy finding students accommodation for September’s new academic year. Although that sounds like ages away, students are smart enough to line up 12 month tenancies now so they’re not scrambling around for somewhere to live in the summer.

Students are also smart enough to know when they are being fleeced. Despite hedonistic lifestyles and perhaps being a bit wet behind the ears, many undergraduates can see when charges from letting agents are wide of the mark. The matter of fairness has been expedited by heightened public awareness of tenants’ rights in the national press.

It may have escaped your notice but a letting agent in Bristol was recently defeated by a group of students who successfully took them to court. Believing they were unfairly deducted over £700 from their initial deposit – a sum reportedly used to repaint and clean the house share – the students decided to challenge the charges after reading up on the finer points of deposit retrieval.

There were a few flaws in the running of the student let – lack of evidence or a watertight inventory at check in was one, and failure by the management team to keep receipts was another. When under scrutiny, the letting agent could not substantiate its actions either. The full property repaint turned out to be a small patch applied to cover some mould, discovered and snapped by the students when they asked the new tenants for a peek inside the house. The students provided further photographic evidence that they actually left the property in a better state than when they had initially moved in.

As it happens, the General Manager of the company personally hand delivered the refund to the students….the first time in a reputed 8,000 lets that a tenancy managed by them had ever ended this way, according to the agent. Whether this speaks volumes about the nature of the lettings company or the lack of gumption from past tenants remains unproven.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that all tenants should be treated equal. While, contrary to popular belief, students are no more likely to trash a rental property than a working professional, undergraduates are just as likely to challenge unreasonable fees as pedantic, cantankerous experienced tenants.

Follow the correct procedures. Photographic evidence should be at the heart of every inventory and check in, with mid-term inspections and a check out with the tenants in person. Don’t forget your tenants will be just as keen to take their own photographs and even videos, which may prove pivotal in a court of law. Keep a copy of all expenditure receipts and note down why an item was bought or an service paid for – again using photographs as supporting evidence. Never skimp on this aspect of property management as it’s rather humbling to have to hand out a refund…

Blog by Simon Duce

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