Student flat-out happy with offers

The Dunedin student who feared she might have to leave the city due to the lack of a rental for next year has been "overwhelmed" with offers since going public to the Otago Daily Times.

Vidya Varma, a doctoral student in employment law, said she and her husband Matthew had tried nearly 50 properties over the past month without success.

But since she told her story, Ms Varma said the couple had been "overwhelmed" with offers.

She had been seeking rental properties in the $500 to $700 per week range, but had been able to secure something "much cheaper" than she had expected, she said.

"It’s been a very positive experience. So many people were sympathetic."

Ms Varma said the couple had received seven "solid offers", and hoped to complete one tomorrow.

"It’s all worked out really well. I am so surprised and happy."

Letting agents say supply issues and changes to tenancy laws have led to a "less than ideal" situation in the student rental market.

Otago Property Investors’ Association president Kathryn Seque-Roche said fixed-term tenancies, and the minimum notice period of 28 days for tenants, had created a bottleneck for available student rental properties.

"The changes to the Residential Tenancies Act were well intentioned, but at the end of the day, the student market is a very different market, as it’s so transient.

"You don’t often get an 18-year-old staying in the same Castle St flat for five years."

Vidya Varma has been snowed under with accommodation offers since approaching the 'Otago Daily...
Vidya Varma has been snowed under with accommodation offers since approaching the 'Otago Daily Times' in frustration about her search for a flat for next year. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Ms Seque-Roche said the situation was "very concerning" for several students, as they would have to take flats "sight unseen".

"It really is a supply issue too," she said.

"There is not enough suitable student accommodation around to meet the demand."

Ms Seque-Roche said reverting to the old fixed-term law could allow landlords to advertise for new tenants for the next year while students were still in town.

This would particularly help students transferring from halls of residence to their first flat the following year, she said.

"Once exams are over, those first-year students tend to head off back home for the summer."

Harcourts Dunedin business development manager Paul Dawson said the changes might be beneficial to families in a more residential setting, "but has had adverse effects on the annual student migration and has changed the availability schedules of many in the student area".

"Good-quality accommodation is still in very high demand with a premium being sought," he said.

"There are still groups of students organising themselves early in the year to secure flats of popularity or notoriety."

Cutlers Ltd director Matt Cutler said the situation was "less than ideal" at the moment, but it would probably get worse in the next couple of years.

Part of the reason was due to the expected increase in students over the next couple of years, coupled with an under-supply in suitable accommodation, particularly in North Dunedin.

"The council really needs to look at rezoning that area to provide for higher density accommodation," he said.

Mr Cutler said the new Dunedin hospital building project would also bring in more people, while rising rent costs would lead to families competing with students for properties in parts of Dunedin.

"If you have a group of say five or six people willing to pay $650 per week against a family willing to pay the same amount, you would pick the family," he said.