Right To Rent Fuelling Fake IDs

Posted by Richard Ward in

Reports by the BBC, suggest Right To Rent Legislation is fuelling a growing market in fake IDs, enabling illegal migrants to gain access to housing.

The legislation has come under heavy criticism from many of those active in the sector, for effectively making agents and landlords act as immigration offices. The scheme was originally piloted in parts of the West Midlands in December 2014 before being extended to the rest of England in February 2016.

Anyone who sublets or takes in lodgers can face a penalty fine of up to £3,000 per tenant if they are found to be letting property to someone who has no right to stay in the UK.

However, the BBC's programme, Inside Out, found it possible to buy counterfeit passports and National Insurance cards. These could then be presented to letting agents, who are unknowingly accepting them as proof of UK residency status.

Although the show acknowledged the fake documents were convincing, it was suggested they wouldn't withstand intense scrutiny.

The Home Office didn't respond to a BBC Freedom of Information request asking how many landlords had been criminally prosecuted or imprisoned as a result of the Right To Rent legislation.

Empiric Sells Its Only Stirling Asset

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Empiric Student Property have sold a student accommodation development site in Stirling for £2.0 million.

The student housing specialists have sold the freehold for the Forthside Way site after undertaking an operational review.

Empiric acquired the 0.75-acre site in August 2015 and was granted planning permission for a 208-bed student development in October 2016.

However, the company has now sold the site and expects the sale to complete on November 27.

Commenting on the sale, chief executive Paul Hadaway, said: "The sale of the Forthside Way site follows an operational review.

"Whilst we will continue to identify opportunities for the development of premium purpose-built student accommodation, our current focus is on building critical mass in our target cities. The Forthside Way site was our only asset in Stirling."

The property was sold with planning approval, which according to Mr Hadaway resulted in a substantial uplift in value above the original acquisition price.

New Student Accommodation Heading to Oxford

Posted by Richard Ward in

New student accommodation at the Oxford University college in Manor Road has been granted planning approval.

Oxford City Council have approved a 78-bed student development, which will consist of three 'pavilion' style buildings connected by glazed stairwells.

The buildings have been designed to complement the existing Grade 1 listed architecture and are being built alongside a three-storey graduate centre, with work due for completion in 2019.

Commenting on the development, Fram Dinshaw, finance bursar at the college, said: "This was a demanding brief to make the best use of a difficult triangular site at the North East end of our main campus, which partly extends into the Green Belt and Flood Plain."

Empiric Make a Bid for 126-bed York Scheme

Posted by Richard Ward in

A former city council care home in York could be sold off to student accommodation developers in a multi-million-pound deal.

Empiric Plc is looking to build a student accommodation scheme able to house 126 students on the site of Willow House, near Walmgate Bar. Under the terms, the developers are looking to purchase the site for £2.8 million, if it can get planning permission.

Councillors will be asked to approval the sale and council staff believe the development will help meet the need for student housing, as well as being much-needed money to fund the broader overhaul of older people's housing across York.

Willow House was put up for sale earlier this year, after the site closed down in January.

The council received a number of bids from different developers, however only five were considered, with four involving new student accommodation.

Empiric's £2.8 million bid, subject to planning permission, is the highest, leading council staff to recommend it is accepted.

Empiric is already active in the York student housing market, with developments such as Foss Studios, Samuel Tuke apartments and Percy's Lane.

Cambridge University Vice Chancellor Refuses to Take a Pay Cut

Posted by Richard Ward in

The vice chancellor of Cambridge University has shot down calls from the Office for Students to take a pay cut in order restore public confidence in the sector.

Professor Stephen Toope said: "People don't understand how a vice-chancellor's job has evolved.

"I am essentially responsible for £1billion a year turnover, 11,000 employees, 19,000 students, and am in the lead to complete a £2billion fundraising campaign.

"I am searching for all possible sources of income, while developing the international reputation of the university, working with business, government and civil society to develop partnerships, while being responsible for operations and the entity of the university."

Mr Toope also described the suggested pay cuts as a national mistake. He added: "I think it is not a good idea, to be frank, because what it does is reaffirm the sense that the UK is not operating in the open market for global talent."

The debate of vice chancellor pay has come into focus in recent weeks, as students continue to find themselves in burdened with thousands of pounds of debt upon graduation.

New Student Flats Proposed for Nottingham

Posted by Richard Ward in

A planning application has been submitted to Nottingham City Council to turn offices in Clarendon Street into student flats.

Despite the building not being vacant, student housing company Kexgill, submitted plans to transform the site into a mix of cluster flats and studios with a total of 18 bedrooms.

The 900 sq m site dates back to the 1960s and under the proposals will have 24 hour CCTV to prevent anti-social behaviour along the roadways adjacent to the student housing.

Documents submitted as part of the application, stated: "It is proposed that the lower ground floor will be also used for accommodation by increasing the depth of the windows and lowering of external ground levels to provide sufficient emergency egress from the building and allow for adequate levels of natural light.

"A realigned entrance stair and modern glass canopy will complement the scheme.

"A secure cycle store will be provided to the rear if the building along with a revised bin store.

"We consider that the change of use to student accommodation is a viable use for the building in this prominent and well-located area, serving the needs for a student population with education facilities easily accessible by foot."

A decision is due on the scheme before the end of the year.

London Borough Seeks to Drive Out Rouge Landlords

Posted by Richard Ward in

The Royal Borough of Greenwich is to bring in an Article 4 Direction, which would make it compulsory for landlords to apply for planning consent if they wish to convert properties into houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

The local authority believes the change in policy, which removes the permitted development rights for properties to be used as small HMOs with no more than six people, will help drive out poor quality and unsafe rental homes in the London borough.

Cabinet member for community safety and environment, councillor Jackie Smith, said: "The Royal Borough has taken a number of measures over recent years to tackle the problem of sub-standard and often unsafe accommodation, and this latest move strengthens our hand even more.

"Over-crowded and poorly maintained HMOs are not just devastating for the families that have to live there, but it leads to other problems such as overflowing bins and fly-tipping."

The council approved the policy last month and will now go through a consultation period with stakeholders across the borough before the new rules come into force in October next year.

Deputy leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, councillor Danny Thorpe, suggested the decision will help drive up standards and drive out rouge landlords.

Unite Group Reports 1.6% Increase in Fund Valuations

Posted by Richard Ward in

Unite Group plc has released its latest valuation update for the Unite UK Student Accommodation Fund (USAF) and the London Student Accommodation Joint Venture (LSAV).

As of 30 September 2017, USAF's property portfolio was valued at £2,137 million representing a like-for-like increase of 1.6% during the quarter. The portfolio consists of 24,450 beds in 69 properties across 23 University towns and cities in the UK.

Meanwhile, LSAV's portfolio was valued at £1,102 million, up 1.6% in the quarter. The LSAV portfolio comprises of 8,477 beds in 13 properties in London, as well as the Aston Student Village in Birmingham.

The company attributed the growth in valuations to increases in rents and 7 basis points of yield compression across both USAF and LSAV in the quarter. The USAF portfolio is now valued at an average yield of 5.5% and LSAV's portfolio at 4.9%.

Commenting on the results, Joe Lister, Unite Students Chief Financial Officer, said: "The lettings performance for the 2017-18 academic year has been very strong with occupancy at 99% and full year rental growth at the mid to upper end of our 3.0-3.5% forecast. Contracts with university partners guaranteeing income and rental growth now underpin 60% of the portfolio providing a high level of certainty over future income and demonstrating the strength of our relationships with high to mid-ranking universities. Demand from direct let bookings remains strong due to our high-quality portfolio and market-leading service platform."

Loughborough University Ranked the Seventh Best

Posted by Richard Ward in

Loughborough University has been ranked seventh out of 131 UK universities in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018.

This was the university's highest ever ranking and puts the institution in the top 10 of every national university league table, as well as top in the region.

Commenting on the ranking, vice-chancellor, professor Robert Allison, said: "This achievement is testament to the incredible work of my colleagues across the university, who work tirelessly to ensure that what we offer our students is the very best, in all aspects of their university life."

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide ranks universities on indicators such as teaching quality, student satisfaction and research quality among others.

Loughborough was also the runner up for the main University of the Year award, but has made the shortlist more than any other institution.

Universities Urged to Tackle Plagiarism

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Universities have been urged to do more to crack down on students buying essays online and submitting them as their own.

An investigation into the practice by the Quality Assurance Agency found hundreds of companies were producing work for students to pass off as their own.

Now, the university standards watchdog has issued new government-backed guidance in order to address the issue, which can lead to students paying hundreds of pounds for made to order essays.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has put forward a series of recommendations. These include providing more support for struggling students, introducing a range of assessment methods to limit cheating opportunities, blocking essay-mill websites, and adopting smarter software that can tell if there is a difference in style and level of ability between a student's essays.

The proposals have been announced after universities minister Jo Johnson called for advice, to help address the issue.

Commenting on the recommendations, Mr Johnson, said: "This form of cheating is unacceptable and pernicious. It not only undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don't cheat."

Meanwhile, chief executive of the QAA, Douglas Blackstock, said: "Paying someone else to write essays is wrong and could damage their career. Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse."

In Britain, individual institutions can develop their own policies regarding plagiarism. However, the QAA now wants a consistent approach to help tackle the problem and has called on universities and colleges to maintain records on cheating to better understand the scale of the problem.