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Student accommodation in West Lothian – the pros and cons for landlords

The number of students in the UK now stands at over 2.2m with UCAS reporting an increase in applicants every year. As such, there not many corners of the UK where there aren’t a pool of student tenants looking for accommodation.

Renting out your property to students can be a lucrative move, but it’s not for everyone and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. The rewards can be great, but there are a few things you should consider if you’re a landlord heading down the student accommodation route.

As West Lothian’s first dedicated letting agency, we feel we are in a good position to offer advice on the pros and cons of allowing a bunch of students into your rental property.

The pros

More than any other demographic, the student market offers a large and ever-growing audience. As long as your property is located in close proximity to a college or university, you will rarely have a problem finding tenants. This pool of tenants, refreshed at the beginning of every academic year, means your property should always be occupied and bringing in money – something every landlord is striving for.

Although they are becoming slightly more discerning about where they live, the student population aren’t generally as picky as other demographics. Assuming there’s no structural maintenance (or other essential or emergency maintenance) to be completed, you can rent your property as it stands.

From a simple supply and demand perspective, demand for student accommodation nearly always outstrips supply. As a result, your investment should be a pretty safe bet. Rental prices for students have been on an upward trend for quite some time and this is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future.

Also, being able to rent by the room means you can secure much higher returns than if you were letting property as a whole. Over the years this can add up to a substantial increase in rental income.

The cons

Whilst demand for student houses is generally very high, it is also at the mercy of university timetables. Generally speaking, students will return home over the summer –obviously, during these void periods, it may be hard to occupy your property and you could lose out as a result. One way round this is to charge a holding fee for students who wish to live in your property for a second or third year, but there are no guarantees surrounding this.

Also, the majority of students study for three years and may change houses on a number of occasions during this time, so long-term stability is not something that is ever associated with student digs.

It may be quite tricky acquiring references and credit checks from student tenants, leaving you less protected if issues arise or if damage is caused (not unheard of in student houses, of course). In these cases it’s worth asking for a guarantor, often a parent, for extra reassurance and peace of mind.

It’s likely that you will have to maintain your property more than you would if you were letting to professional tenants. The general living standards of students have been well-documented and, whilst the horror stories are exaggerated, it’s likely that some student tenants won’t be particularly house-proud. You have to expect a bit of wear and tear and the odd bit of damage along the way – it is par for the course in this market, unfortunately.

The options

The university hotbeds of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen may be a little out of reach in our local area but there are plenty of students studying at establishments like West Lothian College, Heriott-Watt University and perhaps even a trickle from the University of Stirling.

For any advice on the rental market in West Lothian, please contact Letting Solutions on: 0845 520 1420. If you’re thinking about offering your property to let, you can find out how much it could fetch in monthly rents using our online free property valuation tool.