The first lockdown in the UK saw thousands of university students head back home for their studies in order to isolate with their families but such a sudden move left both students and their landlords lost on the next steps. Questions about whether students were entitled to refunds or even whether students could be forced to leave privately rented properties on the originally agreed dates during lockdown were common, among many more. Here, we’ve gathered some of the most commonly asked accommodation questions from the past nine months.
Can I Move Home?
One question that was and still is on students’ minds is whether they could move back home from University during Lockdown. In May 2020, the Government published guidance suggesting that students could move to alternative accommodation on a one-off basis, meaning that they could travel home providing that they were to stay there. They also allowed students who were already at home to return to student accommodation only to collect their belongings.
As we edge towards the holiday period, the question was brought up for a second time, with students unsure if they could be at home for Christmas. New guidance was published on the 11th November stating that students could return home, as well as guidelines on the best and safest ways to do so, including leaving University early to ease the strain on travel. The window set out is between 3rd to 9th December, following the four-week national lockdown. This means that for landlords, properties could sit empty for longer periods of time than originally planned.
Do I Have To Pay Rent If I’m Not At The Property?
During the first and second lockdowns, questions were raised as to whether students would need to continue paying rent on accommodation that they weren’t using due to moving home. The general consensus appeared to be that, in most cases, the answer was yes.
For University-owned accommodation, it was at the University’s discretion as to whether they waived or refunded any accommodation costs. For most Universities, they allowed students to close their contracts early without any excess fees or charges to do so. Others waived the rent for all students regardless of whether they were there or not. Now, all students are allowed to be at University to study, and so this may not be as clear as before.
For private accommodation, students have set up a tenancy agreement with the landlord, and so remain liable for any rent payments until the contract’s expiry date. It’s at the landlord’s discretion as to whether they negotiate rent payments with the tenant, and landlord insurance is available to provide financial help if a student can’t make the payment or is in arrears.
What Help Is Available?
Throughout both lockdowns, there has been no Government-backed support for students who need to make rent payments. Their stance has remained that students will receive their scheduled loan payments and that University’s have hardship funds available for those that are struggling. Any arrangements or help that is needed will need to be discussed with the University or your accommodation provider.
Can My Landlord Force Me To Leave?
In order to protect private tenants from eviction during Lockdown, even in cases where rent hasn’t been paid, the Government introduced measures that prevented landlords from being able to evict anyone without at least three month’s notice. This was only the case for evictions served between 26th March and 28 August at the time. For students, this meant that they would receive plenty of notice and at the end of those three months, the landlord would even need a court order in order to evict students from the property.
The above was the case during the first lockdown, however, the notice period has risen to 6 months since the 29 August 2020.
Can My University Ask Me To Leave My Hall Of Residence?
Guidance was released in May 2020 stating that Universities during lockdown should operate a ‘non-eviction’ policy. This meant that they were unable to evict students during holidays or at the end of a contract, or even if rent couldn’t be made. This was to protect students during such a vulnerable time. Whether this is still the case depends on the circumstances in the coming months. It’s important to keep on top of changing guidance to be sure.
Can I Get A Refund On Student Halls?
Refunds aren’t required by law if the student has chosen to move home, but many Universities are offering different forms of help by the way of waived rents or early contract termination without charge. Students that are unsure of their University’s or their accommodation provider’s stance on refunds or help should contact them to find out more.
Can I Terminate A Private Tenancy?
Early contract termination during the last school year was a case-by-case basis for landlords. Some were willing to terminate the contract early without fees, while others required charges.
For the 2020/21 year, some students had already entered into tenancy agreements earlier this year to beat the rush, but are now wondering whether they can be terminated. This could be because of a deferred year, a need for alternative accommodation types or even just because they’re learning remotely. Students should check with the tenancy agreement as to whether it can be terminated early. Some contracts will allow for early termination and others won’t, so it’s always best to check with your landlord or letting agent.
For both students and landlords, the guidance can seem foggy and so questions are a given. The best way to find answers is to check official government guidance regularly or for landlords, get in touch with us for information about how insurance can protect you during this time.