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Servicing the Student Lettings Market

By Simon Thompson
Any inventory management company with a client base that includes landlords or letting agents involved in the provision of rental properties for students, will testify to the fact that the summer months represent an extremely busy and challenging time for the business. As students check out of accommodation at the end of the academic year, new students are waiting in the wings to settle into their rented property. Any landlord wishing to preserve his property investment should be insisting on an unbiased, professional inventory and check-in / check-out procedure, which will deliver the essential impartial evidence that may be required should the relationship between tenant and landlord turn sour and end in a tenancy dispute case. FORWARD PLANNING KEY No Letting Go, the national inventory management brand with a network of 22 offices covering all major UK cities throughout the UK, has significant experience in the student let market and claims the key to successfully managing the high volume of work, which traditionally peaks at this time of year, is forward planning. “Developing a good working relationship with the letting agent or landlord is pivotal to ensuring the seamless delivery of a large volume of inventories and check-ins / check-outs within a short time frame. A proactive agent / landlord will be able to forward book appointments with students who are either checking in or out of accommodation and given the fact that their departure dates are staggered, it is possible to work to a tight schedule to ensure all the necessary documentation is completed to meet the required deadline” says Nick Lyons, MD of No Letting Go. According to No Letting Go, the claim by some letting agents that students simply ‘won’t turn up’ for appointments is something of a cop out. “In our experience, the stereotypical view of a student as someone who is likely to be unreliable and not terribly conscientious in relation to adhering to appointments is incorrect. As students become more informed on their rights as a tenant – and are more tuned into the financial implications of failing to live up to their side of any tenancy agreement, so we have found them to be an attentive audience, keen to be actively involved in the inventory and associated check-in / check-out processes’” claims Lyons. PROFESSIONAL INVENTORIES DELIVER IMPROVED CONDITION OF PROPERTY Whilst student accommodation may not meet the same standard as some of the high end domestic rental market properties, increasingly landlords are recognising that by employing the services of an independent inventory company, they are in a much stronger position to protect their property assets from damage beyond the accepted wear and tear associated with any rental agreement. Nick Lyons cites the example of one letting agent in a university city, who had previously handled all their own check-outs based upon a fairly lightweight inventory who then transferred to the services of No Letting Go. Based on a sample of around 50 properties the letting agent was able to note that in the year when the properties had been subject to the rigorous No Letting Go inventory / check-in and check-out protocol, there was a definite improvement in the general condition in which the property was left at the end of the rental agreement, demonstrating in practical terms the difference a more formal, professional and wholly independent service can make. CONSISTENT INVENTORY & CHECK IN / CHECK OUT Increasingly, No Letting Go is seeing a growing awareness of the value of not just a professional inventory service but the added benefits of outsourcing the check-in / check-out procedure. “We are now seeing clients who have traditionally just used us for inventories, regularly request our input into check-ins and check- outs. Not only does this make for a more consistent approach for the tenants, it also reduces the risk of problems not being spotted as effectively, properties are screened twice with the tenant (s) physical presence at the check-in providing the opportunity for an instant approval of the documentation, rather than waiting out the 7 day notice period to advise of any required amendments to the inventory. During these 7 days, the property may sustain new damage as a result of tenant abuse which the landlord would then have to accept if there has been a failure to get the tenant’s signature / s of approval on the day of the check-in.” says Lyons. “Similarly, we are not in favour of check-in’s where the tenants are invited to come into the office to sign the check-in document rather than meet the inventory clerk at the premises to run through the report. This ‘sign before you’ve seen’ approach simply won’t hold up in court and represents an inferior service which will always reflect badly on the industry” continues Lyons. PARENTAL PRESSURE As the incidence of tenancy disputes increases (since 2007 some 47,000 disputes have been settled), awareness levels of the importance of a good inventory to protect the tenant’s valued deposit have also risen. Commenting on the trend for seeking out a professional inventory to support a tenancy agreement, Lyons says, “Once a tenant realises that we are truly independent and there to offer an honest account of the condition of the rented accommodation they don’t feel threatened and seem to genuinely value the service we offer. We have had students relay accounts of how they have previously felt the inventory service was not operating in their favour, resulting in a substantial loss of money. We are even witnessing parents, who are often the guarantor to any rental agreement, encourage their children to sign up to a professional, unbiased inventory / check-in and check-out protocol, which will serve to protect their deposit, provided of course the terms of the tenancy agreement have been adhered to”. Indeed Lyons claims that along with the improved understanding of the value of a good inventory, tenants are now beginning to invest in what can be termed as a ‘pre check-out’ to establish potential problems which may be picked up in the final check-out. This provides the tenant (s) with sufficient time to restore the property to the standard as detailed on the original inventory – and ultimately enhances the likelihood of retrieving the full deposit. Pre check-outs will be conducted by the same company that will be responsible for the final check-out, and can be instructed via the landlord direct or via the letting agent. Looking ahead, there is the possibility that parents will also actively urge their children to invest in such pre check-outs to avoid the financial losses associated with tenancy disputes. Unlike the average tenant, who can be in and out of employment, which can impact on their ability to fulfil the financial responsibilities associated with the rental, student tenants offer a potentially stable prospect. This is due to the fact that most will have a guarantor who will assume ultimate responsibility for ensuring all financial commitments are upheld. However, unless the appropriate inventory and check-in / check-out procedures are followed, the property investment is exposed to the risk of unproven tenant abuse. These documents, if completed to the appropriate standard of excellence, will naturally be called upon as influential pieces of evidence in any dispute case, so it is imperative that they are completed with unbiased accuracy, consistency and attention to detail.

Feature supplied by No Letting Go, tel 0800 8815 366

For further media information please contact: Carla Wessel Blueberry Communications t: 01227 700 175 m: 07970 252566 e:
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