This is where we are...
We have raised the issue with Mike Shore-Nye, Registrar, Linda Peka, Deputy Registrar, and other Senior Managers within Campus Infrastructure and Operational Support Services (which is the department that managers the halls of residence). They are working with UUK and other institutions to lobby the government to support the HE sector to be able to rectify the funding issues many Universities are facing.
As of Thursday 7 January 2021, the University has decided to waive the accommodation fee for students who are in University owned accommodation or those in nominated spaces in private providers while we are in this national lockdown. Not all universities have chosen to do this and Exeter is one of the few universities who have taken this step at this time. This has been in collaboration with the feedback you have provided the Full-Time Officers and your Students’ Guild. You can read the University’s statement on the University here. Find our statement here.
26 January Update: Both Unite Students (now Host) and Collegiate Private Accommodation Providers have announced that they are (for a select period) reducing rents by 50% but you need to apply. For Collegiate more information here and for Unite Students here.
What does this mean for you?
If you have accommodation with the University that you are not currently in and you have not yet paid, you will be not charged at this stage. When more information comes to light about the lifting of lockdown the University will update you as to what to be expected regarding future fees.
What to do if you have already paid?
If you have already paid and are not in your accommodation your fee for accommodation will be adjusted to reflect this. We would expect this to be an adjustment to further rent for term three rather than a refund. We do not know how long this lockdown will last so are unable to tell what the payment for this term could end up being.
Will this happen automatically, or do I need to do anything?
You do not need to do anything at this stage. The University will be processing this as quickly as they can and will communicate with you what steps you need to take as soon as the process has been formalised. We would advise that you do not contact the accommodation team directly unless it was a necessity, They will inform you when and how they will require you to contact them.
How long will this last?
At the moment we do not know, as this will be dependent upon when and how the national lockdown is lifted.
What to do if you are on campus?
If you are already in your University or nominated accommodation, that is fine and you can continue to stay in this and will be charged accordingly. You should not leave your accommodation to travel to any other accommodation now that you are in Exeter.
How do I know if I am in nominated accommodation?
If your contract is with the University but you are in purpose-built student accommodation, it is likely that you are in nominated accommodation. This would be more relevant for first year students who applied for accommodation with the accommodation guarantee, although there are some other students that this would apply to.
What about private rented?
We know, however, that there are a large portion of students who rent or are in private accommodation, please know that we have not forgotten you. We are still working hard to see what can be done to support you. Sunday, Guild President, has met with other Presidents from SU’s all around the country to put plans in place to collaboratively lobby the Government to create a financial package for landlords to allow students a relief from rent charges. This is an issue that goes beyond Exeter, but one that we intend to be at the forefront of tackling.
Most student contracts are fixed term, tenancies and most landlords will be reluctant to release students from this contractual obligation especially if they have mortgages to pay, or student accommodation is the business model. However, it is worth having that conversation.
The Government has so far not indicated that students will be exempted from paying rent if they are not using their property due to lockdown. They have offered some initiatives to help landlords such as mortgage payment holidays and guidance for being reasonable in working with tenants struggling with rent.
Some students may have break clauses or some purpose-built student accommodation providers may have payment waivers if all learning is online, so it is worth checking what your housing provider is offering. If you’re are in purpose-build student accommodation and your provider is a member of the Unipol National Code assured accommodation scheme you may wish to refer to Unipol guidance
What can you do if you are struggling with your rent?
In the first instance we strongly recommend that you can contact your landlord to discuss the possibility of coming out of the contract or if you are struggling to pay to see if you can negotiate reduced payments.
Here is a template for you to use to request a reduction or waivered rent costs.
You may be eligible from some financial support towards living costs from the University Success for All Fund .
The information provided is current based on guidance from the Government. This may change in future.
Can I stop paying my rent?
No, unfortunately you still need to pay the rent as this what you have agreed to do by signing the contract.
My housemates are refusing to pay their rent and I am worried that I will have to.
You all signed an agreement to pay the rent and they are still liable for this. Most student contracts are supported by guarantor agreements and the landlord will likely seek payment from the guarantor if the student is unable to pay.
What is the Guild doing to support you?
As well as campaigning for the University to not charge accommodation fees during lockdown and we've created a letter that you can take to your landlord here is a template; the Guild is working with other unions to lobby the government to consider the impact on students and the financial burden of the rent. It’s important that you continue to update your Students’ Guild on how you’re being affected through the coronavirus feedback form.
What should I do if I have belongings I need in my room?
Government guidance is that only essential travel can happen over lockdown and if you can avoid travelling to Exeter this is advised. If you need anything collecting from your halls or have any concerns you can contact the University's Accommodation Team to see if they can arrange for it to be sent to you.
Will I still get my maintenance loan?
The Government information indicates that students will still receive their expected maintenance loan payment this term so for many students this will help them pay the rent. We do recognise that for some students who do not get maintenance loan or whose loan amount does not cover their rent, that this is oversimplifying the situation. If this is you may want to look at applying to the Success for All Fund for assistance.
It’s not safe for me where I am, what can I do?
The government's guidance allows you to travel in situations where you are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if escaping harm (including domestic abuse). If this is your situation you may need to contact services to support this, such as University Welfare, or if relevant, the police, or relevant domestic abuse support charities.
I am planning to move house what can I do?
According to current government guidance house moves can go ahead in a socially distanced manner, and house viewings are allowed provided they are done safely.
If we have not answered your question or you need more information, you are very welcome to contact our advice service for further information or support with housing issues, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on your housing rights during the pandemic visit Shelter, the national housing charity