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Bristol graduates shake up the student rental industry

The housing market can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for students, especially those in first year. Bristol grads disrupted the industry by founding HYBR twelve months ago, and since then have gone from strength to strength.

By Emma Love, Third Year Politics and Sociology

Picture this – you’re in your first year of uni, scrambling to put together housing plans with people you’ve known for little more than three months. Many of us know that panicky feeling well. Others will have just been through this process this year.

The housing market can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for students, especially those in first year – just two or three months into living independently for the first time, we’re thrust into a world of jargon-filled contracts and rising accommodation prices. With little guidance on what a ‘good’ house looks like, or how much it should cost, many find themselves being taken advantage of.

HYBR's team have run socially distanced outdoor events in Stoke Bishop this year. | Epigram / HYBR

Having experienced a myriad of housing issues during their time at the University, Hannah Chappatte and Pablo Giacomi decided to shake up the industry and solve the problem themselves. They founded HYBR, a student focused platform that supports first-time renters, aiming to disrupt the market by offering competitive prices to keep rental prices down.

HYBR aims to raise the bar for student renting, giving them the support and guidance missing from the current market. The platform has put this objective into action in several ways, including organising a socially distanced event in Stoke Bishop, where ambassadors sat with food and music by the U1 bus stop, offering students advice on renting for the first time.

Students can also find support through the platform’s online blogs, which offer helpful advice on issues such as property management, overcoming typical household problems and finances.

Elliot, a University of Bristol student currently renting through HYBR, said: ‘HYBR have been unbelievably helpful, efficient and professional. It’s a breath of fresh air. I am so relieved I stumbled across them. They are a company that HELPS students/post grads rather than exploits them. I will be recommending HYBR to everyone I know that needs to find accommodation.’

In only one year of operation, HYBR have built a community of just under 1,000 students. securing funding from the Prince’s Trust and the Bristol New Enterprise Competition. Also a finalist in the Bristol Property Awards 2020, the platform has grown a remarkable amount in a short space of time.

Landlords have welcomed the change, leaving rave reviews about the levels of customer service they offer, from educating students on how to be better tenants, vetting the ideal tenants and marketing their properties, all of which are done without any upfront cost to the landlords.

Co-founder Pablo said, ‘For too long there has been a barrier of communication between landlords and tenants, leaving landlords frustrated due to a lack of trust. We ensure every agreement is thoroughly checked and approved by both parties, as to create a better relationship between them.’

The platform also seeks to disrupt the market by addressing the injustices in the current renting system.

Alongside the everyday anxieties of lockdown and adapting to online learning, many students are dealing with difficult living situations during Covid. The platform helped tenants who needed to get out of their contract early find replacement tenants who were in need of leaving their homes.

HYBR uses social media to recruit potential tenants – this has been especially beneficial during the pandemic, as many students have struggled to form house groups and organise viewings.

The platform also seeks to disrupt the market by addressing the injustices in the current renting system. HYBR helps students who struggle to find suitable guarantors – in one case, supporting two students who were repeatedly turned away by landlords to write a letter of consideration arguing their case, securing a suitable property for them: ‘No one gave us a second look because of our background… HYBR were the only ones who really listened to us and found us a place we can call home’.

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The platform has plans to work with Innovate UK to find long-term solutions to renting injustices, and in the meantime, is working with landlords to address these issues: ‘It’s about thinking outside the box and fighting against stereotypes.’

After a successful first year, HYBR hopes to continue making positive changes to the student renting industry. Co-founder Hannah said: ‘We are passionate about disrupting an outdated and inefficient industry that has been serving the needs of the same people for too long. It’s time for a challenger brand to help to shape the future of the industry by focusing on an amazing service to students and landlords. This is just the beginning.’

If you’re passionate about changing the student letting industry, get in contact with HYBR via Instagram to get involved in their upcoming focus groups.

Featured Image: Epigram / HYBR