Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the University of Nottingham Students’ Union


As an elected representative of over 35,000 students at the University of Nottingham, I speak for a large percentage of the students within the city. According to the 2011 Census data, 10% of the population of Nottingham are full time students aged 16–74. Being such a large section of the local population, it is important that we have a voice regarding the issue of housing. It is neither possible nor desired by students that they all live in University provided accommodation and therefore the Private Rented Sector makes up, and will continue to make up a large proportion of student dwellings. As we have previously stated in our response to Nottingham City Council’s Housing Plan, we believe that the city must have a balanced housing market which offers a range of homes and tenures which meet citizens’ varied needs and choices, with a broad range of options in the market. But more than that, we believe that everyone deserves high quality, affordable housing.

1. Quality of Private Rented Housing

(a) It is the experience of our students that there is no consistent quality when it comes to Private Rented Housing. For as many students who will find good quality, well-maintained housing, there are as many, if not more, that will struggle with poor property standards.

(b) In addition to this, where there is a poor standard of property, students will also struggle to get their landlords or letting agents to respond to requests for repairs or concerns about problems with their accommodation.

(c) Housing is a growing issue for students at the University of Nottingham, with casework through our Student Advice Centre increasing by 151%1 year on year. These cases relate to both of the above points.

(d) In the Nottingham Housing Plan, the objective of improving housing standards was identified and we wholeheartly support that. However, we believe that there needs to be mechanisms in place to encourage landlords and letting agents to continually improve the standard of their housing stock.

(e) Having worked alongside UNIPOL2 for many years, we have seen the benefit of accreditation schemes. However, we have concerns that voluntary codes will never catch those landlords who continue to provide low quality housing. We believe that additional licensing in addition to properly supported and valued accreditations schemes would result in improved standards.

(f) We agree with the National Union of Students (NUS), that increased regulation on a national level including landlord registration could result in improved property standards by increasing landlord accountability.

(g) Similarly, we believe that where there are local schemes that would be either enhanced or replaced, local authorities need to be provided with appropriate resources to ensure that they can enforce property standards and take action against rogue landlords.

(h) We also echo the recommendations of Shelter in calling for local authorities to implement Landlord accreditation schemes.3

2. Levels of Rent

(a) Nottingham City Council has a desire for greater purpose built student accommodation. As well as our concerns about balanced communities and ensuring that this is only part of the rental market for students, we also have concerns about the cost of such accommodation.

(b) We are concerned that local authorities such as our City Council are granting permission to this type of development without concern for the affordability of accommodation provided, due to their desperation to relieve pressure on local housing stock. This is likely to be counterproductive and unsustainable as many of these developments are now operating with voids due to prohibitive pricing structures, decreasing student numbers and no consideration of whether students within the city actually want to live within this type of accommodation.

(c) We would like to see a requirement for all private providers of student accommodation to be permitted to develop only when they have entered into a nomination agreement with an institution. This would ensure that provision is more affordable and better aligned with student need.

(d) NUS have completed substantial research in this area and we support their findings and recommendations. We would urge the Inquiry to take note of their 2012/2013 Accommodation Costs Survey.4

3. Regulation of Landlords and Letting Agents

(a) As stated above, we agree with the National Union of Students (NUS) that landlord registration could result in improved property standards by increasing landlord accountability.

(b) Whilst accreditation deals with property standards, we believe that registration would improve management of properties by landlords and letting agents. To be registered would indicate that a landlord or letting agent were “fit and proper” to manage properties.

(c) The aim would be to ensure all landlords and agents were working to minimum management standards, and exclude those few landlords who’s informal practices leave their tenants in a vulnerable situation should problems arise.

(d) We would also like to see the abolition of “administration” fees by letting agents, which are often at unjustifiable and unquantifiable levels.

4. Regulation of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

(a) We are concerned that Article 4 Directions have been implemented by a large number of local authorities and that these serve to restrict supply of HMOs in these areas. Shared housing of this sort represents the most affordable option for many, beyond just students, who live in the private rented sector, often due to lack of an affordable or appropriate alternative.

(b) We believe that in and of itself, an Article 4 Direction could be a positive method of ensuring that balanced communities are maintained.

(c) However, we believe that some local authorities (and local community lobby groups) misguidedly see Article 4 Directions as a way of removing some of the problems that come with HMOs. However, the direction does nothing to address the causes of these issues, instead serving to disperse the problems more widely across the city.

(d) We believe this is particularly true when the Article 4 Direction is used alongside discriminatory local authority housing strategies.

(e) We would like to see the government review the impacts of Article 4 Directions on affordability, supply and community cohesion as we believe that not only have these measures failed to address the problems they set out to, but they have exacerbated and created other issues.

(f) We believe that additional licensing could help to improve some of the concerns that both the local community in general, and student residents in particular have about Private Rented Housing.

(g) However, we believe that additional licensing schemes should not cover issues which can be addressed through other means such as anti-social behaviour and waste disposal. Often the content of such schemes penalise and typecast those living in HMOs rather than proactively addressing this issue where it actually occurs.

(h) It is understood that this may be due to lack of funding available for local authorities from other sources to address such issues, but it is not fair to effectively place this cost on those least able to pay it based on a perception that they are responsible for the issues at hand.

(i) We believe it would be useful for national guidance to be produced to inform local authorities as to how additional licensing should be implemented and enforced.

5. Tenancy Agreements and Length and Security of Tenure

(a) We do not believe that there should be any requirements enforced on landlords or agents regarding length of tenure—this should be agreed between tenant and landlord/agent when negotiating tenancy agreements.

(b) Any improvements in security of tenure would be welcomed.

(c) We would also like to see some acknowledgement of the flexibility needed by some sections of the community, for example students, who may need to be more transient.

Information about University of Nottingham Students’ Union

University of Nottingham Students’ Union is a charity that exists with the specific mission of ensuring that our 36,000 members have the most incredible time at University. To achieve this mission we provide a range of services including a comprehensive advice service to help students with academic, legal, financial and personal problems; Societies, an Athletic Union, a magazine, a theatre company, a TV station, a radio station, and a range of community projects; Academic representation and democratic functions that ensure that students are able to change their university experience whilst at Nottingham. We also run 3 Shops, a Bar and a Print Shop. We employ over two hundred staff with around half of our staff being students who balance work with their studies and social lives.

Our work is directed by a team of 16 annually elected officers, with oversight from a Trustee Board who take responsibility for the overall management of the organisation. By representing students on the issues that matter to them, helping them gain the skills to achieve their dream job and providing a huge range of events, and activities we aim to ensure that our members have the best student and academic experience possible.

January 2013

1 September to December 2012 compared with the same period in 2011 (311 cases in 2012; 124 cases in 2011)


3 Landlord Accreditation—April 2010:


Prepared 16th July 2013