The purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector has become the latest property sector to embrace flexible leasing, with operators slashing lease lengths ahead of the new academic year.

Many students are being offered one-term leases at a higher price amid uncertainty over whether university courses will continue against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Empiric Student Property chief financial officer and chief operating officer Lynne Fennah told Property Week that she was starting to see “all the players in the sector now be very flexible about lease length”.

She added: “In our business model and that of our cohorts, we were fixated on 51-week tenancies. Now, we’re being very open to lettings for just one term instead of the whole year.

“A lot of courses are now being run from January to December, rather than the usual academic year from September, so you’ll begin to see that shift in the sector with term-long lets happening.”

Students are preparing to start or return to university later this month, but much face-to-face teaching has been put on hold until Christmas amid fears of a second wave of Covid-19.

Merelina Sykes, joint head of student property at Knight Frank, told Property Week: “A lot of private sector operators are saying to students that if courses are cancelled or universities are shut down, they will be able to get out of their tenancy.

“There’s definitely a lot more flexibility.”