Behind the Student Letting curtain
How do you win the Gold Student Letting Award for the UK?
A Q&A with Simon Tyrrell, Associate Director
Olympic Double Gold Medallist Dame Kelly Holmes (right) presents Simon Tyrrell and Julia Carraher centre left and centre right) with their Gold Award
So, many congratulations, what is the award for?
We are thrilled to be the best Student Letting business in the UK. It acknowledges six years of hard work getting to grips fully with the market for student accommodation in Oxford. The judges reviewed every aspect of our business including our very detailed systems and services, which are quite different to those of standard letting and management. For example, we programme in the check-outs a full year and a half in advance.
The Judges noted that you make efforts to reduce ongoing costs for landlords – how?
The key is having dedicated, local property managers who can visit a property to check a problem in ‘real time’ before costs escalate. As we speak, a tenant has just called to report a water leak in their kitchen; a property manager has already left the office to assess what needs to be done before instructing a carefully chosen and frequently vetted contractor. We also bulk buy items and have just taken delivery of 800 mattress protectors and 200 loo brushes. This saves money for landlords and tenants.
Sometimes we hear that students live like The Young Ones (famous 80s TV show) and then we hear they are responsible consumers – what is the truth?
In some ways students are very different to those of the 80s and before. They don’t have grants and are taking a serious decision to borrow large sums of money to further their education. This can mean that they are more prepared to take greater care of properties. It is also true that parents are more involved as guarantors. But do not forget that these 19–22 year olds are living away from home, often for the first time, in a vibrant city and many want to enjoy the ‘student experience’ to the full. The truth is that they need professional management!
Will the award make the Summer check-out season easier to deal with?
Not really. The issue is that the student market is very seasonal with most students moving in the summer. Thus all properties need to be checked, cleaned, decorated etc. in a small window of time. This award confirms that we do this well but it is very hard work.
Talk us through a typical check-out for a student property, from start to finish.
The art to a successful check-out is the pre-checkout, which is sometime before the last day of the tenancy and is an ‘amnesty’ time for us to explain exactly what we expect at the check-out. We are very thorough and expect properties to be handed back to us in good clean condition without any damage. The check-out process itself has changed hugely over the years, and rafts of legislation have meant that there is now far more paperwork and photographic back-up required for even the simplest and most obvious items.
To what extent do parents get involved during a tenancy? Does this help or hinder the process?
Sometimes a lot and sometimes not at all. We are happy for parents to take an active role and it is understandable they want the best value for their child’s student accommodation in Oxford but what is not helpful is when mum and dad get involved after the tenancy has ended querying cleaning charges when they have never seen the property.
Going back to letting, how is demand in 2011?
Demand this year has again been strong, with students queuing for the better properties, and rent levels have increased although this is more as a result of some of the less good properties being updated rather than an across-the-board increase in rents.
Both Oxfordshire University and Brookes are going to raise tuition fees to £9000, how will this affect demand for student property?
We’ve yet to see the impact, but both establishments have very good reputations and we don’t see this affecting us here in Oxford, although this may not be the case in other areas of the UK.