The University of Edinburgh has agreed to introduce a pilot rent guarantor scheme, aiming to support students, especially international students, who are finding accommodation to rent in the city.
Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Vice President Services Tasha Boardman was the driving force behind the decision.
In August, Boardman submitted a proposal to university authorities regarding the scheme, and in September she worked alongside the Advice Place (AP) to produce a report containing research supporting the move.
When asked by The Student if a date had been set for the scheme’s implementation, Boardman said: “There isn’t an exact date yet but over the next few weeks the university and myself will be having meetings to discuss how the pilot will be implemented.”
She continued: “I am happy with the proposals adopted by the uni and I think it will roll out to being a permanent scheme.
The research highlighted loads of other issues which the uni is also keen to address.”
Boardman and the AP’s report was presented in October and included five examples of international students having difficulties with letting agencies.
One student was unable to find a UK guarantor and had to pay six months’ rent upfront.
She found that the flat was filthy when she moved in, despite assurances it would have been cleaned.
The letting agent was dismissive of her complaints.
The report concluded: “Had she had a rent guarantor, she would not have had to pay 6 months of rent upfront and would be in a much stronger position, as she could have considered withholding rent, or requesting rent abatement.”
Another visiting student told the AP that she had arrived two weeks early to find accommodation yet, but ended up staying in a 38-person dorm in a hostel “full of students who had not managed to find accommodation.”
She said many times, while phoning letting agencies, she was told that they had already received hundreds of calls.
This international student also recalled “a couple of instances when she thought she had found a property and on the day she was due to move in the landlord pulled out in favour of giving the accommodation to UK students”.
The AP’s findings include frequent reports of letting agencies prioritising UK students over international students.
In September, the AP received 325 accommodation search enquiries, 302 of which were from non-UK students.
15 of these enquiries directly referred to the need for a UK rent guarantor scheme.
In the report, the AP pointed out: “It is important to note that this is the first time we have recorded the number of students who directly enquire about a rent guarantor scheme on our system and the number of enquiries for such scheme is a lot lower at this time of year, therefore this figure for direct enquiry is not representative of the scale of demand.
“We receive a lot of direct enquiries for such schemes in the second semester as this is peak season for students’ flat hunting and moving out of halls, thus it is something which we will continue to record.
The AP continued: “However, the fact that only 7% of enquiries were from home students demonstrates that it is disproportionately difficult for EU and International students to find accommodation.
“A reason for this is because letting agents often preference students with a UK based guarantor when allocating accommodation.”
A rent guarantor scheme is already successfully being used in a number of other universities, including the University of York and Goldsmiths University of London.