Landlords: Your obligations when letting a student house

Lorraine DindiLorraine Dindi
Last updated on:
January 21, 2022
Published on:
November 9, 2021

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A landlord has certain responsibilities when renting out private property, many of which differ depending on the type of the property. Failure to meet these obligations may result in a fine or even prosecution. Read on to ensure you are aware of your obligations as the landlord of a student accommodation.

What is a student house?

A student house is a residential property which is let to Full Time students for a specified term and at an agreed rate. This type of tenancy is also known as a student tenancy, and is typically arranged in one of the following ways:

  1. Joint tenancy — where all the tenants sign one tenancy agreement, thus starting and ending the contract at the same time. The housemates also agree to take on joint and several liability, so each tenant is liable for everyone else’s duties under the contract, such as rent payments.
  2. Sole tenancy — where the landlord has separate contracts with each tenant, which can be entered into and terminated at different times. This may be the ideal arrangement if only some tenants are Full Time students.

Note: If there are more than 3 students living in the property, and they make up more than one household, then the property will be classified as a House in multiple occupation (HMO). Read our article which explains the additional responsibilities imposed on a landlord of an HMO.

A student tenancy provided by a private landlord will usually be a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy of the duration of the academic year. Private landlords might work with letting agents specialised in student lettings to source students. As students don't usually have income, they might require a guarantor as a condition of their tenancy.

University accommodation is usually provided by the University itself or student accommodation providers. Halls of residence are usually licensed to students for each academic term which means that students do not have exclusive possession of their room and in some cases are asked to vacate private accommodation during holidays.

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What responsibilities are imposed by law on a student house landlord?

Before agreeing to rent out the property, you must:

  • Obtain a “landlord license” from your local council if the property is in a selective licensing area, or an HMO license if the property will be an HMO.
  • Obtain consent to let the property from any superior landlord, mortgagee, lender or insurer.
  • Register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) here if you intend to collect, process, or store personal data (e.g. name, phone number, address) of your tenants on any electrical device.
  • Make sure you don’t charge the tenants any fees for referencing, drawing up an inventory or contract, carrying out a credit check, or other administrative tasks. This is illegal under the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
  • Verify that potential tenants are Full Time students enrolled at an educational institution.
  • If the property is in England, conduct a ‘right to rent’ check on the immigration status of potential tenants.

At the beginning of the tenancy, give the student tenants the following:

  • An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) with a minimum rating of ‘E’ before the tenancy agreement is signed.
  • A student-oriented tenancy agreement for them to sign which details both parties rights and duties. You can use a contracting platform such as Legislate to do this quickly and legally.
  • A valid Gas Safety Certificate on the day the student tenant moves in.
  • A copy of the government’s How to rent guide.
  • Details (including a certificate) of your chosen government-approved tenancy deposit scheme, within 30 days of receiving the deposit (which is capped to one month's rent).
  • Information on how to use any safety equipment that you have provided.
  • If the property is in England, a copy of the latest Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).

The property must be in the following condition:

  • Fit for human habitation i.e. safe and free from any health hazards.
  • All electrical appliances provided by you must be in safe working order, you will ideally hire a qualified election to conduct Portable Appliance Testing (a “PAT”).
  • All plugs, sockets, and adapters that you provide must comply with BS 1363 (the current UK standard).
  • All furniture and upholstery you provide must meet current fire safety and resistance requirements. Note that furniture manufactured after March 1989 will comply with these regulations and most will even have a label to prove it.
  • Measures must be taken to reduce and mitigate the risk of fire such as fire extinguishers.
  • Fire escape routes such as hallways, landings, and staircases must always be free from obstructions.
  • The student tenants (and any property manager) knows the evacuation plan in case of a fire.
  • If the property is England, the following must also be installed:
  1. A carbon monoxide in any living room or bedroom, in which there is a combustion appliance i.e. an appliance such as a heater or furnace which is powered by a type of solid fuel like coal or wood;
  2. At least one smoke alarm on every storey of the rental property which is used as living accommodation, then test them on the first day of the tenancy and make a record of it.

During the tenancy, you should:

  • Ensure your local council knows you’re renting to students, so that they can be given exemption certificates for paying council tax.
  • Repair (i) any damage to the structure or exterior of the property, (ii) any installations for the supply of any water, electricity, gas, sanitation, and space heating, and (ii) all mechanical, electrical and gas appliances that they provide;
  • Conduct a Legionnaires Disease Water Checks in order to assess the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria, especially when the property has been empty for a while.
  • If the property is an HMO, meet the legal requirements.
  • Abide by the terms of your tenancy agreement such as giving at least 24 hours' notice before viewing the property.

How can Legislate help with student tenancies?

Legislate is a contracting platform where landlord and letting agencies can create easy-to-understand and legally valid Student Tenancy Agreements on their own terms. You can read how to create your first Legislate agreements in our tutorial and watch a short demo. If you would like to try Legislate, sign up or please book an introductory call.

The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.

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