Students slam ‘unforgivable’ rental reform plans

  • 29th May 2024

Higher education and student housing organisations have hit out at the Government’s long-awaited plans to review Britain’s property rental system, claiming it will threaten the availability, affordability, and quality of student housing across the country.

The Renters (Reform) Bill, which received its third reading in the House of Commons in April, aims to deliver on the Government’s commitment to ‘bring in a better deal for renters’, including abolishing section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and reforming landlord possession grounds.

It will also legislate for reforms set out in the Private Rented Sector White Paper published in June 2022.

However, since it was first put in front of politicians more than 200 amendments have been made and the protection originally offered to students has been ‘watered down’, critics claim.

Originally, the bill only allowed landlords who were letting purpose-built student accommodation to serve a Section 8 notice – eviction for a legal reason – on a tenant.

Now, they are able to serve eviction notices on all students, including those in the private rented sector.

And The National Union of Students (NUS) this week accused the Government of ‘folding to landlord’s lobbying’.

NUS UK vice president for higher education, Chloe Field, said:  “The Renters’ (Reform) Bill was an exciting piece of legislation which promised to reform Britain’s archaic rental system and provide long-needed protections to renters.

“But right from the get-go landlords who let properties to students lobbied to have them excluded from the protections offered to other tenants.

“NUS and the student movement were delighted when the bill was placed before Parliament intact, with no student exemption to its safeguards.

“But, as the Bill made its way through the Parliamentary process, we became aware of a continuing and concerted campaign to force the Government to create an unprecedented two-tier rental market, where students would be at the mercy of Section 21 evictions that other tenants would be protected from.”

She added: “The student housing market is broken, as is our higher education system.

“The Renters’ (Reform) Bill was the one concrete thing the Government had to offer us.

“It promised long-needed reforms which would lead to securer tenancies and a market much more in tune with student tenant needs.

“To have the Government throw this away and ensure that landlords continue to have all the power is unforgiveable.”

In letters to a government minister and the Labour Party, seven higher education and student housing groups, including Universities UK, Unipol, and Nottingham Trent University, warned that plans to end fixed-term tenancy agreements (FTTAs) for private student housing would threaten the availability, affordability, and quality of student housing across the country.

This is despite the latest amendment to the bill dictating that student housing will be given a new ground for possession so student landlords can retain the annual cycle of student tenants.

The group, Student Accredited Private Rental Sector (SAPRS), said the bill must now be amended to ensure parity between purpose-built student accommodation and private student housing to avoid worsening the student housing crisis, provided that landlords sign up to an approved code of conduct with quality standards and protections for students.

Calum MacInnes, chair of the SAPRS, said: “Anything less than parity with the way the Bill treats the purpose-built student accommodation sector is just not enough.

“With the pressure of end-of-year exams and coursework, the next few months will be incredibly challenging for students as it is.

“The Government must ensure the Renters (Reform) Bill recognises the situation and offers security for private student housing.”

The Bill will now make its way through the House of Lords, where it will face further scrutiny by peers.


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