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  • Writer's pictureGavin Rothwell

Student Renting in a Pandemic

Well, here we are entering the 6th Week of the Corona Virus lock down. As you have been holed up in your protective cocoon made from loo roll, tinned tomatoes and spaghetti with the rest of your family, it may be time to peek out from behind the barricade and think about what happens before the restrictions start to ease. I appreciate that there are many unknowns here but for the last week or two, some student renters have been raising their heads to look for property for the new term.

Why now? Well, it maybe you have been cooped up at home with that annoying sibling you thought you’d got away from by going to Uni and you are desperate to get back? Or you just want to see your mates? Or it could be that you want to get back to completing that project, which let’s face it, may require specialist equipment or materials that only a University can provide.

Whatever your reasons, I hope that the following guide through the maze of renting in a Pandemic may be of help. With an eye on the eventual releasing of lockdown let’s look at the choices ahead of you and see what we can figure out.

Nah, we’ve got plenty of time … haven’t we?

We know that a great many students would normally look for accommodation in March and April. Any later is cutting it a bit fine as tenancy agreements start on 1st July and they usually take 4 weeks to set up. Can’t we just sign the contract I hear you say? Well organising 4/5 people to provide ID, letters of enrolment, guarantors, guarantor ID, guarantor agreements, draw up a contract. It just takes time and usually around 50 emails. With the potential for a big rush it pays to be ahead of the game.

If all the students who have put off looking for 2-3 months wait until lock down is nearly over, all hell will break lose. As always, the best properties will go first so if you don’t want to find yourself fighting over the scraps you need to act now!

Ok, I’m convinced. But how the heck do I look for a house anyway ?

Firstly, rush to your device and frantically google “Unicorn Property Services Ltd” purveyor of High Quality Student Houses. 😉 Ok, well probably you will start with the major portals, Zoopla, Right Move, or specialist Student Rental websites like (Don’t forget to look us up as well though!) You can get a pretty good impression from these adverts but the problem for most Landlords, including us, is that pictures on their own don’t really cut it.

Most Landlords haven’t got video footage of their properties. You can get a great impression of a place but, let’s be honest you really need to get in there and that ain’t gonna happen right now with the lock down in full swing. Personal viewings, are of course, in direct breach of the law, for obvious reasons. This is where everyone needs to get a little innovative.

Is anyone doing virtual tours and virtual viewings?

There are some landlords, like ourselves, who offer Virtual Tours or Virtual Viewings for properties. These methods rely on the good will of existing tenants. That should also tell you something about the relationship between the landlord and their tenants if the tenant is prepared to go to the trouble of putting together and editing a video.

One of my tenants has made an amazing house video to help us promote it and another has volunteered to do viewings by Face time. Both of these methods give you as the prospective tenant great access to the inside of the property. The added bonus of course is that you can also talk directly to the tenants and find out what the landlord is really like.

Can I meet my landlord?

Yes, why not! Technology of course means that Landlords can be available on Zoom, Skype, Face time and other platforms to answer your questions. I would really recommend it but remember that the average private Landlord is around 50 and wasn’t brought up with this technology so please be gentle . However, I think it’s essential to establish a relationship and understand each others expectations and ideas.

If you are part of a group I would advise a group meeting so that everyone feels included. Just a quick tip though, really engage and look at the screen and be well presented as they are also judging you as a person and prospective tenant. Looking shabby and disinterested is not going to impress a potential Landlord. Savvy Landlords of course know this works both ways!

What questions should I ask?

Especially if you are a first-time renter it’s all important to have a list of questions prepared in advance. Don’t try to do it on the hoof. Whilst a responsible landlord will guide you through the best questions to ask, too often I have met groups who have not prepared for this vital part of the process. You need to be clear about the terms of the contract, deposit, bills, insurance and safety certification. I will go into this in more depth in next week’s post.

Ok, I like it – actually I love it! Should I sign up now?

If you really love a place and think it’s right for all of you then how should you proceed. There are a couple of options here.

Option 1 is to go for it. You can exchange all the details by email and sign contracts electronically as well. There are ways of making this legally binding for those Landlords that have the technology. If this is not an option, the contract can be sent round by snail mail if it does not require witnesses.

Option 2 – put down a deposit or booking fee and don’t sign until you have actually seen the place. This option allows you a little more breathing room so that you have time to allow your decision to settle, raise any issues with your Landlord and it will require less financial commitment upfront. If you do choose this option I would advise you to get a receipt and prep all of the paperwork so its ready to go when restrictions lift.

I hope that you hove found this blog thought provoking and informative. If you have any questions or comments please email us on We look forward to helping you with your rented accommodation in the Southampton area.


For full disclosure, Unicorn Property Services Ltd are not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this blog.

For further information visit us at

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