By Jeremy Heath-Smith, CEO, Spike Global
More than 210,000 students are heading off to university for the first time this month – with most taking on the adult responsibilities of renting a home and living independently for the first time. Around a third of students are accommodated in on-campus student halls, with not much to worry about except getting their essays in on time; but as student numbers grow, the majority of those studying for a degree will find themselves renting in the private sector.
For many young people, dealing with a landlord for the first time can be a stressful experience. Nine out of 10 students experience some kind of issue with their accommodation, and all too often, novice renters find themselves putting up with all kinds of problems because they either don’t know how to bring them to the landlord’s attention, or, worse still, are simply too afraid to do so in case they are penalised in the future. In addition, while traditional letting agents and landlords respond most rapidly to phone calls, that’s a means of communication that younger people actively dislike – a massive 81% find having to make this type of phone call very stressful.
So, since good communication is the key to a successful landlord-tenant relationship, what can be done to create a system that works for both students and landlords? Well, it certainly helps if landlords and student tenants are on the same page – and that means making the most of technology such as smartphone apps. At Spike, we have developed software that takes the worry out of the renting experience and provide a communication interface that’s as natural as breathing for today’s digital natives.
Our Spike Lettings software helps to make the initial tenancy arrangements straightforward, guiding the new tenant through all of the paperwork involved in taking charge of their first rental property. Then, once moved in, Spike Student provides around-the-clock communication between management and tenants that makes life easier in a multitude of ways – especially for students renting for the first time.
From organising all the practical stuff like keeping track of rental payments, to booking a laundry slot, opening their front door or checking whether the reception desk has received their parcel – students can use the Spike Student app, all without ever having to make a phone call. From the point of view of day-to-day lettings management, the use of apps can revolutionise communication by enabling students to log problems, make payments and send messages when they think of it – even if that’s at 4am on the way home from a club!
Well-designed apps can also offer extra value above and beyond the practical. Here at Spike, our software has also been designed to help newcomers to town make new friends, find local activities and get to know their neighbours, whether that’s in the virtual world or the real one. It’s a sad reflection on modern society that a third of students report that they ‘often or always feel lonely’, and up to one in five suffer from a mental health problem while at university, exacerbated by the stresses of being away from home and feeling unsupported. Unlike social media, Spike Student can be building-specific, enabling students and other newcomers to meet like-minded people just down the hall, without being at risk from scammers and strangers, so they can find a real-life support network right on their doorstep.
And from a landlords perspective, an app that can be perfectly tailored to the facilities and services they offer makes sound business sense. We create white label versions of our app that are personalised for every client, so it is always tailored to the specific requirements of both the management and the building. As well as accessing amenities and services available onsite, it can also be linked up with external partners to provide additional services, from bedding packs and weekly cleans to pizza delivery and beauty services, which could also provide an added source of income through commission if desired.
A high-quality app will be simple and intuitive to use, and will certainly be second nature to students and young professionals who have been brought up running their lives on their phones – they already do their banking and investing, order their shopping and manage their social lives using phone apps, so reporting that their tap is dripping should be done the same way, bringing the process of being a tenant into the 21st century. Whatever worries a new student may have this autumn, managing their accommodation shouldn’t be one of them.
Spike Student is used by a growing number of leading PBSA providers across Europe, aiming to enrich the student living experience and helping to build connected communities. For more information, please visit www.spikeglobal.com.