The accidental landlord: students and landlords will both like the new university tenancy scheme

London will soon be overrun with students seeking a place to rent. A new initiative could reduce the stress
Brace! Brace! Thousands of jobless youngsters with a liking for fags, cheap booze and Pot Noodle are about to land in the capital looking for budget accommodation.

Over the next few months, students armed only with A-Zs and youthful optimism will be tramping the streets of London searching for the cheapest rooms.

It'll be a struggle for many, bless 'em, because lots of landlords won't even consider letting to students. We've all been there and spent the rent on alcopops, we know what "youf" is like. But wait a second. What if there was a scheme that removed all of the risks of letting to students — that made it less, well, scary? Wouldn't that be excellent? After all, this is a pretty meaty market.

Well, the University of London has launched the first London-wide initiative that should give landlords much more confidence in letting to its students, including those from overseas who can't provide UK-based guarantors.

It has set up a head lease scheme, whereby the tenancy agreement is with the university, which then sub-lets the property to students attending one of its colleges.

Rent is guaranteed for 51 weeks of the year, the university will carry out regular inspections of the property during the tenancy and it promises to return it to the landlord in the same condition as it was let.

William Walker, head leasing development manager, tells me that rents are "broadly speaking" in line with market rates. At the moment, it is looking for properties within 30 minutes travelling time of Goldsmiths, King's College, SOAS and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The accommodation doesn't have to be luxurious (remember, it's for students, they're not going to see the place in daylight) and ideally it wants larger properties that can house three or more. Areas of particular interest are Archway, Holloway, Borough, Camden, Finsbury Park and New Cross.

Now I suppose if you have properties in any of these prime residential areas you're probably not struggling to find professional tenants, but the university says it will consider other areas with good transport links to its colleges.

However, it is only looking for accommodation for 400 students from September this year and it won't take any old flea-pit — each one must pass an inspection and some landlords may be required to carry out additional work before their properties can be registered.

Landlords are still liable for maintenance and if they don't carry out repairs promptly, the university reserves the right to have the work done and knock the cost off the rent.

Landlords will also have to have an annual service contract on the central heating system and may be required to provide additional furniture, such as desks and notice boards for the bedrooms.

David Crisp, a landlord in Denmark Hill, was one of the first to sign up to the university's pilot scheme last September and, so far, he has been impressed. He was already letting a property to students (and points out that he had only minor problems with them in the past) but he told me that joining the head lease scheme had given him more confidence that the rent would be paid and he's less concerned about the state the property will be left in at the end of the tenancy.

Though this is the first university scheme for central London, other colleges, including Brunel and Kingston, run head lease schemes within their local areas, so it might be worth checking to see if your nearest college also offers one — if you'd like to let to students but don't want to take any chances.

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