Should I pay my rent and other important questions
Over the last few weeks Accommodation for Students has been taking feedback
from students and the landlords that advertise properties on our website.
It is clear that both students and landlords have been hit by the current
crisis and in some cases are struggling to adapt.
Most of the students who completed our recent survey had left their student accommodation and returned home, to maintain social distancing, be with friends or family or because the University told them to leave. While almost 90% of students expect to be back at University in September, there is still some uncertainty about this for some. It is also clear that many of you also feel that your studies have suffered as a result of this crisis and that you have not benefited from the student experience you anticipated.
We have had feedback from over 250 different private landlords recently. Many landlords of private housing often had students still living in them. It is fair to say that many of them were struggling to adapt to the current circumstances and in many cases trying to work out solutions with their student tenants.
We have had hundreds of questions from students over the last week or so. Many of these were around similar themes and we have grouped these together. We have published a selection of the main questions and answers below.
Question ‘Do we have to pay the last rent in full’?
We received hundreds of questions from students on a number of topics. The most popular question was about paying rent. Many of you wanted to know if you should continue to pay rent if you were not living in the accommodation anymore, or if you were still living in the accommodation but could not afford to pay.
It is important to understand that your tenancy agreement remains binding for the period you have agreed to, whether or not you are living in the accommodation. You can be released from the agreement, but that is up to the landlord of the property and can be quite difficult to achieve.
However, given the scale of the disruption caused by the crisis, many student accommodation operators and landlords are working with students to try and achieve a fair and balanced outcome in difficult circumstances. In some cases this can involve rent reductions or payment holidays for example.
We would recommend that you read the advice published by Unipol, the leading student accommodation charity. It contains a list of larger accommodation providers and Universities that have adapted their rent collection policy and also contains advice for those of you that are struggling to pay rent. https://tinyurl.com/ybfcgohy
You can also review the UK Government advice to landlords and tenants here, under section 1 https://tinyurl.com/qtyqxcw
don't know how to get my stuff back, I had to leave all of my
belongings and I don't know when I can come and collect them’
Another frequent question was from students who had left their belongings in their accommodation. This was quite common for students who had been unable to return after the Easter break or who had to leave at short notice. For many the current rules on social distancing do not allow students to return and clear their belongings.
In many cases the tenancy agreement you signed when you moved into the property will explain what the landlord of the property should do with any belongings left behind at the end of the tenancy. However, the current situation is more complicated because, for example you may have left the property suddenly midway through the tenancy, but left some of your things behind. If you find yourself in this situation then it is likely to be quite a common one, as many students only intended to leave their accommodation temporarily. Once the current ‘lock down’ ends and it is safe and legal to do so you should be able to return to your accommodation to collect your belongings. If you are unable to return to collect them, if for example you do not live in the UK, you will need to liaise with your landlord or accommodation provider. Again Unipol provide a helpful summary under the section headed ‘picking up my belongings’ https://tinyurl.com/ybfcgohy
Question ‘Students in halls have had their money for the term refunded to them which is great for them, but for other years like me, I am in a shared student accommodation house. I understand that it is the landlords choice if we continue to pay rent or not, but my landlord has said we still need to pay’. A number of students posed this question and felt it was unfair that some students were let out of contracts or had reductions, while others had to pay rent.
In this case a lot will depend on where you are living. Students living in University accommodation or private halls of residence are more likely to have their contracts cancelled or rents reduced. Generally speaking this is because these are larger, well-resourced organisations that are able to raise finance or in the case of Universities request government support.
Many student landlords do not have this luxury and, for them the majority of their costs will remain. In short many feel compelled to request rent, even though they appreciate the difficult circumstances that students face. It is also important to note that a lot of landlords are offering flexibility, either through reductions, deferrals or payment plans. The key is to speak to your landlord as soon as possible and explain your position and to bear in mind that everybody is being impacted by this crisis and nobody had planned for such an eventuality.
Is there any type of grant for estranged students during this time?
A number of students who were estranged from their families asked this
There is useful information here https://tinyurl.com/y8kygmq3 , under the section vulnerable students. It is also worth and important to speak to your University or Students’ Union who may have a fund available to support you.
In addition we would suggest that you review the government advice, which also includes details of assistance and support for students in difficulty. https://tinyurl.com/qtyqxcw
Question How will this pandemic will affect future tenant contracts?
Some students are turning their attention to the next academic year and finding accommodation. Many are concerned about committing to a place to live, in the event that University does not start on time or they are prevented from attending University. Answer There are still places available to rent and it is likely that there will be for some time. A large number of properties on www.accommodationforstudents.com have even introduced video tours to help students choose a room without actually visiting it. At this stage it is vital to be sure that you are able to commit to a full tenancy before signing up. It is also worth being aware that some accommodation providers are offering a cancelation policy to students who are unable to attend University because of Covid -19.
Accommodation For Students
We have been helping students to find accommodation for over 20 years and remain here to help during these difficult times. It was clear from both students and landlords that more support from the government was required. In many cases students are looking for more support with their rent, where they are struggling to make payments, often as a consequence of reduced income due to the lack of part time work. Landlords also felt that such support would ease the pressure for both landlords and tenants, in difficult circumstances. Many landlord respondents were sensitive to the difficulty some students would face in meeting tenancy obligations and to balance this requirement with their own cost obligations which remained in place.
We have recently released a press release calling for such assistance and will support the initiatives of organisations like the NUS who are also demanding more support for students.