The National Union of Students is sounding a warning about legislation that it says could limit the number of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
Tensions can run high in streets where there are a lot of students
The union says councils are calling for "use classes" orders, which would allow them to control the number of HMOs for various categories of people.
The NUS said this could lead to a reduction of lodgings for students.
It said tensions between students and local communities were based on the anti-social actions of a minority.
One concerned group, the National HMO Lobby, says high levels of HMOs can have a negative effect on communities.
"If they are not properly managed, they can give rise to a whole range of problems," the group says.
"Poor management of individual HMOs can give rise to problems for tenants and neighbours.
"Poor management of numbers of HMOs can give rise to problems for whole communities."
The NUS claims students are often actively engaged in their local community.
It says student volunteers give an average of 82 hours a year each to their community.
The NUS has published a report examining ways of improving student and community relationships.
It sets out ways in which student unions can improve "town and gown" relations, such as making links with local community groups, police and councils, as well as encouraging students to vote in local elections.
NUS vice-president Veronica King said the union was concerned that legislation could be used to limit numbers of students renting in residential areas.
"We understand that some students do cause problems," she said.
"However we also believe that the reported tensions between students and their communities are based on some very negative stereotypes that are based on the anti-social actions of a tiny minority.
"The majority of students are excellent neighbours, they are active in the community and a good proportion of them go on to live in their university town as young professionals."