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UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand (@HousingHandUK) has reported an increase in the number of universities enquiring about commercial arrangements, as Covid-related pressures continue to impact the UK’s higher education sector. The increase speaks to the difficulties that universities are facing as they seek to do more with less, welcoming all students back to in-person learning from 17 May.

Universities have spent the last year in crisis mode. They have had to deal with multiple lockdowns, set up widescale home/virtual learning and manage the impact of students who have tested positive for Covid. All while dealing with the economic fallout of a lower intake of students for the 2021/22 academic year as Covid fears persist (mainly fewer EU and other international students, but also those from the UK).

Universities being overworked and under-resourced is nothing new. Budget cuts were already biting, even before the pandemic. However, Covid has exacerbated the financial difficulties that universities and their students face. Increasing rent relief bills are taking their toll and many universities are now seeking alternative ways to support their students to remain in their accommodation should they experience financial hardship.” 

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

 Many students struggle to provide a qualifying UK rent guarantor when renting in the private sector. Housing Hand partners with universities in order to help alleviate this issue for their students. The award-winning company acts as a rental guarantor service for students from the UK and overseas, covering rent, damages and dilapidations.

The university model enables higher education institutions to partner with Housing Hand as a white label service. The university promotes the service to its students, while Housing Hand provides integration, co-branded application pages with an affiliate link and marketing materials. Students pay a reduced fee for the Housing Hand service, while the university doesn’t need to worry about the admin side of the process.

“The way we work with universities provides a win-win. Students can access the rental guarantor service they need at a lower cost, while the university takes on no financial risk. The risk sits with Housing Hand, and is backed by quality and financially rated insurance products. With some unusual fluctuations in the usual student rental patterns due to Covid, this no-risk approach is inspiring increasing numbers of universities to investigate the role of rental guarantor services.” 

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

Although UK universities expect to re-open for in-house lessons this month, many students are hesitant to enrol for the 2021/22 academic year while Covid remains a threat. This is compounded for European students by Brexit for all international students by the current difficulties in moving between countries.

We can see this playing out across houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), where returning students have provided a steady stream of bookings. However, the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector has been a very low uptake of rooms by its traditional cohort of first years.

“As the UK’s vaccination programme progresses and confidence improves, it’s likely that there will be a last-minute dash for places. This will create a flurry of activity in the accommodation sector, as students rush to secure rooms with far less planning than would usually occur. With costs spiralling and high levels of debt, UK universities are already under significant pressure. They need to do all they can to accommodate a rush of last-minute enrolments, including helping students to find the accommodation they need.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand 

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