Letting agents operating in the student lettings market should encourage landlords and tenants to dedicate the necessary time, care and attention to the inventory and check-in process, according to No Letting Go.
The UK’s largest provider of inventory services says that with many students returning to university housing for the first time since March over the next few weeks, a well-executed inventory can help to protect landlords’ properties and students’ cash deposits.
Different landscape, same check-in process
The 2020/21 academic year will be very different with increased remote learning and higher education establishments taking steps to minimise risks on campuses.
Despite this, many students will be returning to rented housing as normal, so agents and landlords will need to carry out the same processes at the start of a tenancy.
A key part of this is the check-in which documents the condition and contents of a property at the start of a tenancy. It can also be used to confirm smoke and carbon monoxide alarm installation, carry out legionella risk assessments and ensure properties comply with key elements of the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
“Although the student experience will be very different this year, the rental process will be largely the same,” says Nick Lyons, Founder and CEO of No Letting Go.
“Landlords and agents need to make sure a thorough inventory and check-in process is carried out, while tenants need to assess the documentation carefully and only sign it off when they are happy.”
Automated check-ins appeal to student tenants
According to No Letting Go, a fully electronic check-in process can save time and money for letting agents and landlords while also appealing to modern renters.
“Thanks to technology, the days of tenants needing to physically attend check-in are long gone,” says Lyons.
“Most student renters are likely to want to carry out as much of the rental process as possible from their smartphones, so being able to view and sign-off an inventory online has become increasingly popular,” he explains.
The electronic check-in process allows tenants to make comments and add their own photos before agreeing to the inventory report.
Meanwhile, agents and landlords can automate the chasing of signatures which saves time on administration and is a more effective way of getting the check-in process completed.
The tenant is sent automatically scheduled reminders to advise them that the inventory will be deemed accepted if they do not reply within an agreed timeframe (normally 7-14 days).
Limiting contact remains essential
Although lockdown restrictions have been relaxed in recent months, the government is still advising people to practice social distancing where possible. Following a recent rise in reported cases of Covid-19, the government has banned social gatherings of more than six people.
Since the property market reopened in mid-May, No Letting Go has provided its services with a ‘no contact’ policy in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“We still all need to do our bit to prevent the spread of the virus, which is why we’re limiting contact through automation and electronic signatures,” Lyons explains.
“We have been offering this service for a number of years as it is the most efficient way to complete a comprehensive inventory check-in which suits all parties.”
“As students return to a new university landscape, it’s important they feel safe and secure with the opportunity to limit contact with others when finalising their tenancies.”
“However, it’s vital that the process is still carried out professionally and thoroughly so that tenants are aware of how they must return the property to the landlord, reducing the chances of deposit disputes at the end of a tenancy,” he adds.
“It’s important that agents and landlords continue to reassure renters that they won’t be disadvantaged by not attending a check-in at the start of the tenancy, mid-term inspections and check-outs at the end of their tenancy if they are carried out by an independent third party.”
“The check-in, mid-term inspection and check-out process can now all be carried out with zero contact while still maintaining independence and protecting tenants and landlords,” concludes Lyons.