Image Credit: Elliott Brown
Over the last month there has been growing concern over the dis-proportional inflation of student house prices in York, despite government intervention last year to introduce better regulation of ten-ant fees and student landlords; in order to provide greater security to private renters and students. Despite the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 which took effect on 1st June this year, York has seen an even greater spike in student housing prices this year, calling into doubt if government regulation of the short term private renters market is working or if it is in fact having even more of a detrimental effect on the student housing market.
York now ranks eighth out of all UK cities in terms of private renting cost for students with an average student paying £6,080 a year for private accommodation, however in the same table (The Times Higher Education) York in the same year was ranked 13 in the UK in terms of student living cost with the aver-age price of living estimated to be£111.90 a week. But with the average price of a four man student house this year coming in at an average of £116.73, how can this data be accurate?
One explanation for the dramatic increase in student rents has been linked to the Tenant Fees Act 2019. With letting agencies now unable to charge an ‘administration fee, which in York’s three largest student letting agencies was a cost of £60 to each renter, letting agents such as Adam Bennett, IG property and Sinclair properties have invariably lost a large percentage of their income. However, talking to several landlords in York over the past few-weeks, it would appear that these fees have been instead transferred to the tenancy finder fee charged to landlords, which has subsequently been added on to to the renting cost of student housing this year. Furthermore, the housing deposit of Adam Bennett properties has been raised from £300 to £450. While asking their staff what the reason for the £150 increase in housing deposits the answer was that due to the loss of the £60 administration fee as well as the Student letting agencies being unable to charge a ‘dropout fee’ of £120, the £150 deposit represents an average of the two.Unless the value and contents of a property have increased, it seems illogical that the loss of a ‘administrative fee’ should be added on to a deposit, when a deposit by its intrinsic nature is something that must be repaid at the end of a tenancy. The only logical conclusion I can there-fore come to is that the increase to the deposit is there so that letting agencies have the ability to retain larger proportion of the deposit when the tenancies come to an end.
The Tenant Fees Act therefore appears to be doing little to effectively enforce better protection for student renters as student letting agencies appear to be bypassing the regulation by adding the cost on elsewhere in the renting process and what we actually seem to be witnessing is a disproportionate rise of student housing cost to inflation.I myself have been forced to move house this year as the cost of my rent increased by 8.7 per cent. If we are being generous and use the Retail Price Index (the higher measure of inflation) which is currently 2.1 per cent (October 2019),this still represents an increase of 6.6 per cent against inflation of the cost of student rent. This is not an isolated example; across York student rents are increasing this year at an unprecedented rate against inflation.
The increase in student housing deposits are of further concern after the publication of the NUS’s 2019 ‘Homes Fit for Study’ report last week, that this year found that of all students surveyed just 61 percent who paid a deposit said they had received it back in full at the end of their tenancy.A further 27 per cent said they had challenged the deductions formally but ended up paying them anyway and another 24% said they had not formally challenged the deductions but had disagreed with them. “What we are seeing more and more is unfair con-tracts;” says Eva Crossan Jory, Vice-President of the NUS. Landlords charging for things that are the result of wear-and-tear or where students have complained about some-thing not working, the landlord doesn't fix it and then at the end of the tenancy tries to charge them or the breaking of said appliance,the government should be doing more to penalise landlords when they do break the law.” Currently,the government’s advice to tenants is to check their deposit is: A) not more than five weeks rent and; B)to ensure that your deposit is paid into a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDS).
The failure of the Rents Protection Act 2019, as well as the high degree of cartel behaviour being displayed by student letting agencies, therefore invariably only means the constraints and pressures of student finances and living are only set to get worse until the-government chooses to intervene.effectively