Covid and Lockdown
Covid has had a particularly significant impact on housing this year and we know that this is really difficult for students with worries about money, welfare and where to live.
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The University has decided to waver 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 feedback from the Guild, Elected Officers and from you, the students. You can read the University’s statement on the University website.
From Monday 4 January, England entered its third national lockdown and the government advised that students, where possible, remain where they are, and that online teaching would be standard except for a few specific courses. We expect that?the majority of?students will have stayed in their family homes, leaving their Exeter accommodation empty.
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 will 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. Unfortunately 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.
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.
Unfortunately, the University cannot ensure that those students in private rental have the same offer, they have no authority over this.
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 certainly worth contacting your landlord to see if a rent rebate or reduction is an option.
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. We did not see this in the last lockdowns and would not expect to see it this time. 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.
Exeter Guild Elected officers have written a letter that is attached requesting landlords to release students from their contracts where possible or consider reduced rental payments. You are welcome to use this to support your request when approaching your landlord or agent.
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. These are extraordinary times, therefore Collegiate is offering further unprecedented financial measures to support our students.
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.
Exeter Guild Elected Officers have written a letter that is attached requesting that landlords release students from their contracts where possible or consider reduced rental payments. You are welcome to use this to support your request when approaching your landlord or agent.
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 pay theirs.
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 writing a letter that you can take to your landlord, the Guild is working with other unions to lobby the government to consider the impact on students and the financial burden of the rent. View Letter.
What should I do if I have left 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.
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 a 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.
Can I return to my accommodation?
The government's guidance does allow you to travel in certain situations where you are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if escaping harm (including domestic abuse).
If you cannot stay in your ‘home’ accommodation and you are not able to study you may be able to travel back to your term time accommodation. Where possible consider ways to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid and you should not be regularly going between the 2.
Viewing properties during lockdown
This year we are recommending that virtual viewing will be the safer option to prevent the spread of Covid and mixing of households. While in person viewings are still an option, we would suggest, where possible, to do viewings virtually as this is the most sensible way so to reduce the risk of infections.
We are aware that many agents, landlords and PBSA’ have been preparing for this and have virtual tours for their properties and payment options online to avoid unnecessary mixing.
If viewings in person are happening we would advise that this be with 1 lead tenant, rather than the full house and every practical effort made to reduction, as per Government guidance.
Viewings should be by appointment only and agent’s offices should not be open to walk ins.
We would expect the following
- Face masks worn as standard
- Property fully ventilated
- Ideally tenants are out of the property at the time of viewing
- Surfaces that are high touch to be clean before and after viewing.
- No viewings should take place if anyone in the property or viewing the property is self-isolating
Repairs and mandatory safety checks
Landlords still have a responsibility to ensure that the property is safe for you to live in and that repairs are done in a reasonable time.
As per your contract 24 hours notice should be given before the landlord or a contractor visits the property unless there is an emergency.
Contractors should still be following Covid Safety guidance such as wearing appropriate PPE, maintaining distance and having good hand cleaning and cleaning touch points.
If your contractor will not follow guidelines you can ask them to leave.
If you are self-isolating due to testing positive you must inform your landlord if there is meant to be someone coming to the property.
Housemates not following lockdown rules
We realise that lockdown is difficult, and all would like to live our lives normally again, but while so many are vulnerable it is crucial that we all think of others and the rules are clear that we should all be following the government guidance and not mix households.
It is a difficult conversation to have, but important that you say to your housemates that this is not OK with you.
On the University non academic misconduct webpage about half way down is a Covid breach reporting form. As a suggestion you may want to say that if your housemate does this again you have been advised by ourselves to report them. You do not want to do this, so for your housemate to please not put you in this position.
We cannot tell you the outcome, but it would likely involve a fine and this could increase depending upon the level of breach and the number of times this has happened. Unfortunately, the outcome could become much more serious depending on the situation.
I’m in rent arrears and facing eviction- Help!
Most of our students who are privately renting will not be concerned with being evicted and the major concern is the outstanding rent. However, if you are concerned that you are facing eviction, the Government has reviewed its guidance. This is based on the Corona Act 2020 and they have taken steps to delay when landlords can start proceedings to evict tenants.
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?