Allocate space between the students and landlords so that you can facilitate back-and-forth communication
The first major fear for owners is getting their building back to normality, especially if there have been physical losses or damage or everyone is confused about what they should do. In this situation you need to find a way to efficiently manage the situation and get to work.
There is a new way of working where one landlord handles processes including registration, tenancy arrangements, property management, landlord education and rights and responsibilities. Through this approach landlords know who is responsible for what and can prioritise their requirements to ensure everyone gets what they need, when they need it.
This process operates as a domestic version of how a lot of supercentres work. Everyone is organised around the same procedures and they are much easier to manage if there is no confusion. If you don’t already have a relationship with your tenants or you have just rented the space out, don’t despair. There are a number of people who can help you and can help your tenants.
First, your tenancy agreement needs to be published. If you haven’t printed it you should do so and, if not, contact your lawyer and inform them that you need it printed. Next, get your tenancy agreement registered with both them and the Land Registry. Sign documents with your tenants at a later date to ensure you have the correct details. Remember, you need to remember all your details, whether they are published or not, as part of the tenancy agreement.
You must register the property for extension, either on or before 31 October 2011. Next, contact both parties so that you can convey that everyone is at the same table with the same questions and answers so that everyone can make an informed decision about what happens next.
It can be pretty chaotic getting through the initial stages of forming a common programme of action. On occasions all you can do is use dialogue and persuasion to resolve the issues, and then perhaps discuss where the issues go and who takes responsibility for what. I have been fortunate that I have managed to find some really well established organisations who can help with this.
The student tenancy organisation, First Student Direct (first student.org.uk), helps run several centres throughout the country, in each they have a team of people who work with students, landlords and students on a range of issues.
The reasons they go out and do this are many, but perhaps the main one is that, in my experience, it is a good way of generating a real relationship with local students and one of the staff is a real w***er. My local B&B hosts help too. They rent out to students in two weeks’ notice and will often offer some information and help.
It can be easier than you might expect to find student organisations to connect with, but if you think of them as one big student community they tend to have a range of different interests and these are best represented in local events.
This is an example of how one community can be brought together. Also it makes it easier for your students to share information and feelings and this sort of thing should encourage them to continue their involvement with the wider community, which is often beneficial to student welfare.
All this is not to say that you can ignore your tenants or think that you have done your best to accommodate them.
Now is a good time to show that you care and consider the impact of your actions, and to encourage staff and students to get the best out of the partnership, not just the bits that make you feel good.
• R.B.H. Jones is managing director of First Student Direct, a student accommodation provider