How is Covid changing students’ behaviour when renting PBSA?

Covid-19 has presented uncertain times for students – but how has it affected students’ behaviours when it comes to renting purpose-built student accommodation?

Young university students studying - Housing Hand | PBSA News

With so much attention paid to A level results and the grade-changing saga that saw students descend on Westminster before a governmental U-turn, it was easy to overlook the issue of student housing and how Covid-19 is affecting it. However, as UK rent guarantor service Housing Hand points out, this is a key issue in ensuring access to higher education across the UK.

The UK’s largest rent guarantor service, Housing Hand has helped and processed 87,764 applicants since 2013, working with more than 3,500 accommodation providers. The organisation has covered more the £646m worth of rent in that time, much of it in connection with students renting in the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector. 

Demand for the support of a professional guarantor when renting in the PBSA marketplace is strong. While Housing Hand deals with working professionals, as well as student renters, a full 24% of its applications relate to those looking to live in PBSA. The company is working with a large proportion of PBSA providers in the UK and Republic of Ireland, including CRM Students, GSA, Host and other market leaders. 

The impact of Covid has certainly been felt when it comes to renting PBSA for the coming academic year. Many international students, in particular, opt to live in the PBSA sector for the security and companionship that it brings – as well as the quality of the accommodation and facilities. But the Covid pandemic has thrown a sizeable spanner in the works.

“We’re seeing some notable changes in student behaviour when it comes to renting in PBSA this year. The uncertainty around Covid, potential second (and subsequent) waves and further lockdowns means that many students are reluctant to pay a full year’s rent in advance for their accommodation. This is particularly the case for international students, whose situation is further complicated by changing travel restrictions.”

Jeremy Robinson, Managing Director, Housing Hand 

Housing Hand has found that increasing numbers of students are looking to choose better instalment options than forking out for a year’s rent upfront. By involving Housing Hand, those students are able to pay monthly instead. The company also has agreements in place – for example with the University of Bristol and the University of Salford – that mean it can offer a better price, making it the cheapest option in many cases. 

From the provider side, Housing Hand’s guarantor service offers fully comprehensive cover of rent, damages and dilapidations, with incentives and bulk cover opportunities available. 

Stories of international students in the UK struggling to access hardship funds and even food during the lockdown period, plus universities charging hundreds of pounds for international arrivals who have to spend two weeks in quarantine as soon as they arrive are furthering the anxieties and uncertainties that international students are facing.

“Covid-19 has had a fundamental impact on the way we live, and its repercussions will continue to be felt as we try to adjust to living with the pandemic.

“With the World Health Organization projecting two more years of this, we need to do all we can to support students from at home and overseas to access homes in the PBSA sector in order to fulfil their educational dreams.”

Jeremy Robinson, Managing Director, Housing Hand