Refund students living in Printworks their 3rd rent instalment
We appreciate that these are exceptional times and that students may be facing a range of accommodation issues linked to coronavirus. Our Advice Service has received many requests for support from students and we have produced the following to summarise our responses to some of the most common queries we have received. We hope this information is useful and encourage any student with further questions to contact our Advice Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that this is an ongoing situation which is constantly developing. We will update this information as regularly as we can.
What is the University advising us to do about our accommodation?
The University has been sending regular email updates to students. Its general FAQs on coronavirus can be found here and specific advice on University accommodation is also available. These pages are updated regularly and, alongside your emails, they are likely to be the best source of information on the University’s current advice.
Email questions can also be sent to email@example.com, but we would encourage you to read the FAQs before requesting specific advice.
Can I be released from my housing contract with a private provider?
Landlords are under no legal obligation to release tenants from their contracts, or to negotiate reduced rent payments. There have been some additional protections to prevent tenants who are struggling financially from being evicted during the lockdown; however this does not prevent landlords and lettings agents from taking steps to recover any debt owed, either from their tenants or their guarantors, and non-payment of rent can lead to County Court Judgments against a tenant, as well as damaging future credit ratings.
With this in mind, students wishing to be released from their housing contract with private landlords, purpose built student accommodation providers or lettings agents should contact them to discuss the possibility of ending the contract, or negotiating reduced payments. This is applicable both to accommodation that students are already living in, and contracts already signed for future accommodation. Whilst the landlord is under no obligation to agree to changes, we are aware of examples where students have secured good outcomes from these discussions. We are also aware of some providers (e.g. Unite Students) who have put in place helpful arrangements to allow students to surrender their contracts for term three.
We have produced this letter to support students who are seeking to negotiate such arrangements and we have written to private providers to request a supportive response to students in this position – see more info here.
We have heard from a small number of students that lettings agents have refused to provide contact details for their landlords, which would enable them to make direct enquiries about release from contracts. It is worth noting that tenants have a legal right to this information – information on this right is available here.
You may also want to take a look at Shelter's housing advice for more information.
I am struggling to pay my rent. What support is available?
We appreciate that many students have lost work or been affected by other changes in circumstances as a result of the current situation, and that this can have a profound financial impact. The first piece of good news is that Government information indicates that term three student loans should still be paid as expected. The second is that the University has created a specific emergency fund, open until the end of June, to mitigate some of the financial impact to students who are in financial hardship.
Please see this page for information about the fund, access to the application form and useful ‘Frequently asked Questions’. To ensure that those who need funds the most are quickly helped, the application process has been simplified.
The amount that can be applied for either as a loan or a grant, will be a capped at £1000. As with any application for assistance for financial hardship this is not a guaranteed award and we would expect that criteria for hardship will still apply. For example, if a student has savings that they can use, they would not be eligible. The most important aspect of an application for the fund is the supporting statement which is an opportunity to explain how your finances have been impacted by Covid-19 and to provide any evidence specific to this.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice about hardship funding.
I'm not sure whether to apply for accommodation for the next academic year. What should I do?
The University plans to begin the new academic year delivering ‘blended learning’ which will combine teaching and resources based on-campus with those delivered online.
The current situation adds complexity for students in considering their housing options; the University intends to deliver some of its teaching on campus, however the pandemic creates additional uncertainty and we cannot rule out the possibility of future lockdowns.
Ultimately, students themselves will have to decide when to apply for accommodation. It can be booked now, but with the uncertainty posed by coronavirus, signing contracts early may pose an additional risk. This risk could be reduced where students can agree contracts that include guarantees of flexibility or protection in the event that teaching does not take place on campus, or future Government guidance and restrictions mean that students are not able to access their accommodation.
Where can I get further advice on accommodation issues and rights?
Students at the University can access our Advice Team by emailing email@example.com.
Useful information on housing rights is also available from a variety of sources:
- Legal advice can be sought from a solicitor. The Law Society has a search tool for solicitors who may be able to advise you.
- Shelter are providing specific housing advice relevant to coronavirus.
- The University of London Housing Services have provided this useful set of answers to questions they have received regarding housing and coronavirus.
What is being done to protect student interests with private landlords?
What have the Full-Time Officers and Guild been doing?
The Full-Time Officer team have been representing students’ issues on accommodation to University Senior Management. Additionally, the Officers co-signed an open letter to private accommodation providers, which has resulted in several providers reducing financial pressures for students. Katie, VP Welfare & Diversity, has been in contact with Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, who is supporting students’ interests. Ben has also signed an open letter to Minister of State for Universities, Michelle Donelan MP, which raises the issue of accommodation costs, as well as exams and lost earnings. You can read the letter here.
What have NUS been doing?
The NUS have been doing the following to support student accommodation issues:
- “We've met with the Student Loans Company to receive updates on their operations. While they have restored most services they are seeing fewer applications from both new and returning students than they would expect at this time and would like NUS and SUs support in encouraging applications to ensure no delays to student payments next year
- Zamzam and Eva met with Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Housing Secretary, to discuss how to protect student renters during Covid-19
- The Labour Party backed our proposals for a student hardship fund to be established as part of a Student Safety Net
- We sent further information on our proposals for a Student Safety Net and the survey we conducted to MPs from all major parties
- We wrote a letter to the National Housing Federation regarding Housing Associations not releasing students from tenancy contracts
- We're gathering evidence to show that institutions' hardship funds are unlikely to be enough to sustain students financially during the pandemic, which is why we need a Student Safety Net. Help us by completing this quick form looking at hardship funds within colleges and universities.”
Can I return to my accommodation to collect my possessions?
For students living in University accommodation, arrangements can be made for property to be collected. Please review the University’s current coronavirus accommodation information for more details on this.
Students living in private accommodation should now be able to travel to collect or remove their possessions from this accommodation, provided they do so in line with Government safety guidance at this time. We would encourage students in this situation to speak to their landlords to make arrangements for collecting property safely, and to coordinate with housemates to ensure safe social distancing can be maintained at all times.
The University has reminded students who are returning to Exeter that they will be returning to communities that have been significantly impacted by coronavirus and that residents may be anxious about people coming back to the area. Please do consider your neighbours when you return to Exeter, following Government guidance and being considerate about the potential worries faced by those around you.
My landlord is seeking to make unreasonable deductions from my deposit – what can I do?
When you enter a tenancy agreement, any security deposit you pay must be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme. You should have been provided with details of the scheme in which your deposit has been placed.
If your landlord seeks to make deductions from this deposit that you do not agree with, you have the right to dispute these deductions and the relevant deposit scheme will consider your situation. You can seek advice from our Advice Service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, if you find yourself in this position.
It is worth noting that some deductions which were allowed in the past, may no longer be permitted. For example, the Tenants Fees Act now means that while landlords can expect a property to be cleaned to a good standard, the use of professional cleaners can no longer be required, even if a tenancy contract says that it is.