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Renting to International Students: Advice and Guidance for UK Landlords

By Maurice Shasha  //  Mon 3rd July 2023
New laws and increased taxation resulting in ever-decreasing profits are turning some landlords to a market that is proving to be very profitable: the student market. With an increasing number of overseas students looking for accommodation in London, landlords who let to international – and UK – students can expect some of the best yields compared to other tenants.
Renting to International Students

However, some landlords have concerns over letting to international students because of complexities around the right to rent checks and an inability to provide a UK based guarantor. Here we address these concerns, and other aspects of renting to international students, so landlords don't miss out on this lucrative market.

Right to rent checks

It doesn't matter who you let your property out to; the right to rent legislation requires landlords to verify that all tenants (aged 18 and over) can legally rent their residential property. Every new tenant must undergo the rigours of the right to rent checks – it is against the law to only check people you think are not British citizens.

You must ask for original documents proving they can live in the UK. You must ensure these documents are genuine and take a copy (a legible photocopy or photograph) of each document for your records. Find more information on which documents are acceptable in a right to rent check here.

While checking unfamiliar passports may seem daunting, this is no reason to write off letting to internationals. You can use the government's landlord's checking service to ascertain whether the tenant has a right to rent. Also, here at Plaza Estates, we can undertake your tenant checks for you.

International students can apply for a share code on the website. To apply, they will need to provide their date of birth and one of the following documents:

  • Biometric residence permit
  • Biometric residence card
  • Passport or national identity card

Once they have completed the quick process, they will receive a share code that the landlord can look up to ensure that the tenant has a right to rent.

What if the student has a time-limited right to rent?

Some international students have a time-limited right to remain in the UK. If so, you must conduct the right to rent check no sooner than 28 days before the tenancy starts. The landlord must recheck that the student still has a right to rent once the time-limited date has passed.

How do I protect my income?

Students are generally required to provide a guarantor when they rent a house. Almost anyone can be a guarantor, but it is usually a parent or relative. Landlords are often wary of international students as they cannot provide a guarantor based in the UK.

It is challenging to check international students' parents and complicated to take legal action against them should the rent not be paid. Instead, landlords can ask international students to pay a lump sum of six months' rent at a time, which protects against the fear of rent arrears.

Many landlords find this a non-issue as international students tend to pay their rent on time as they are worried about being unable to complete their course if they don't.

Some universities offer a university guarantor scheme, which requires international students to prove that they have no debts and demonstrate a good academic record.

There may even be an option for students to apply for financial support through a grant or bursary to enable the student to pay rent in advance.

Consider the requirements of international students

In many aspects, overseas student requirements are the same as those from the UK, but there are some areas where international students' needs differ.

As international students have no credit rating in the UK, accessing utilities, broadband, and phone accounts is difficult. To help them overcome this, many landlords include the cost of these as part of the rent.

Newcomers to this country are used to different property arrangements, and students may not know how UK terms and conditions work. They might need to have things explained, such as their rights and responsibilities as tenants, and may need extra support settling into the property.

Consider the luxury student sector

The luxury student sector is a growing niche of the market. These students tend to be of Asian or Russian origin who come to the UK to study. They want to live in central London and be in a recognised location.

International students with more money to spend on accommodation might be looking for an apartment. So-called 'luxury' students tend to opt for new-build apartments in upmarket residential developments and can be happy to spend up to £5,000 a month for the right accommodation.

But for this money, they will demand a very high standard of accommodation. The entertainment systems should be top of the range, the furnishings stylish and good quality, and free WiFi is a must. Some students will expect a cleaning service to be included in the price.

Students will pay more for accommodation that is close to a university. But unlike young professionals, most students will want to be in shared accommodation, living close to amenities and night-time entertainment. Central London has all these things, but you may need advice on finding the right property or apartment.

Is there any other legislation to consider?

As you are letting to sharing occupants not from the same family group, you must comply with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations. These regulations apply regardless of whether you are renting to international or UK students.

If you rent your property as a house share, you must contact your local council to see if you need a license. The council is responsible for enforcing HMO standards and will stipulate the conditions of your license. You must:

  • Make sure that the house is suitable for the number of occupants
  • Conduct a gas safety check each year and provide certificates when requested
  • Install and maintain smoke and carbon dioxide alarms
  • Conduct electrical safety checks and portable appliance checks and provide certificates when requested

You can read more about the required landlord safety checks in this detailed article.

The council may have other conditions for your license and will inform you when you apply.

Renting out an unlicensed HMO is an offence and can result in an unlimited fine.

At Plaza Estates, we can carry out the right to rent checks, reference checks for guarantors, and advise you on applying for an HMO license. Contact us today for more details about our services for landlords in central London. 

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