Covid-19 Coronavirus and Private Housing
The SU Advice team are currently receiving lots of enquiries from students in relation to their accommodation in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. After looking at the information below, if you need any further advice, please contact us.
Liability for Rent
We appreciate that these are exceptional and difficult times for our students, and the University has recommended that students return home where possible. However, your housing contract is with your landlord/agent and there is no contractual relationship between them and the University. This includes most purpose build student accommodation providers.
Therefore, accommodation agreements are still legally binding, and it is up to accommodation providers to decide whether they will agree to end agreements early or negotiate with residents/tenants.
Most student tenancies do not have a ‘break clause’ so you will remain liable for the rent until the end of the fixed-term.
If you have a joint tenancy agreement, as most students in private-rented accommodation do, if one of your housemates doesn’t pay their rent, you have “joint and several liability” for the rent. This means that that you and your housemate are liable for all the rent due - so you could be asked to pay it (as could guarantors).
Our advice is as follows:
- As you are legally liable for your rent, you should continue to pay it.
- Speak to your landlord or agent and see if you can negotiate an agreement with them. Whilst there is no obligation for them to make any concessions, you may be able to arrange something.
- Check whether your contract has a break-clause. If in doubt, send SU Advice a copy of your contract and we can check for you.
- Your contract will usually say that you need to give notice if you are going to be away from the accommodation for a period of time – check your contract and let your landlord/agent know if you are going to be away.
- You will remain liable for the utility bills until the end of your tenancy agreement. If your rent includes an amount for bills – you could ask the landlord/agent to reduce your rent amount if you will not be staying in the property (and they do not agree to end your tenancy early).
Moving Out and Into of Accommodation
If you have or are moving out of your private accommodation early, please visit this page for more information about things you need to consider. At the very least, you should have let your accommodation provider know you have moved out.
If you have moved out and left your belongings, please see the University’s guidance collecting belongings from your term-time address.
If you are due to move out in the summer when your tenancy ends, you need to be aware of current restrictions on home moving – you can move home within England if you can do so safely, as long as you follow public health guidance and you are not self-isolating.
The current guidance is changing quite frequently, and we are aware that the practicalities involved with students moving into and out of Houses of Multiple Occupancy may be more difficult to manage.
You will need to discuss with your landlord or agent how usual matters associated with moving in and moving out will be addressed (e.g. inventory check in/out reports), bearing in mind social distancing measures.
If you have paid a deposit and are moving out, ask when you will get your deposit back. Deposits can’t be released until the tenancy ends, so unless your landlord agrees to a mutual surrender of the tenancy the deposit can’t be released early to pay rent or offset rent arrears. Deposit scheme rules vary, but you may only have 3 months (less one day) from the end of the tenancy, or from vacating the property, to access the “alternative dispute resolution service” that the schemes offer.
If you are due to move into a property for the next academic year and aren’t currently living together, you will need to speak to your landlord or agent to lead on this – it may be that a phased move in may be required, to enable social distancing.
If you are clinically vulnerable, shielding, self-isolating or have tested positive for Coronavirus, and you are supposed to be moving out of your current accommodation and/or into new accommodation you should seek advice regarding your situation from public health agencies and let any professionals involved in the process know your circumstances.
However, because of the current situation you need to be prepared to be flexible, and be prepared to change plans if circumstances change. You also need to make sure you are aware of the latest relevant guidance on social distancing, travel and other restrictions.
2020/21 Academic Year Tenancies
If you have signed an accommodation contract for the academic year 2020/21 - this agreement will still be binding and the above information will be relevant to you.
If you haven’t signed an accommodation contract for next year, you may be wondering what to do about looking for somewhere, viewing properties and signing contracts.
In this case, you need to think carefully about what to do and things will depend on your individual circumstances as once signed, the contract will be legally binding. The University of Nottingham has announced that term will start on 21st September 2021 and is looking at a blended learning model with social distancing measures in place. Bearing this in mind, you will need to consider the best thing for you to do. There is nothing to say you can’t arrange your accommodation – however, you need to weigh up your concerns about not arranging somewhere to live now, with waiting to see what your studies will look like and then getting something sorted nearer the time.
If you do decide to look for accommodation now, you can view properties in person, but you will need to ensure these can be done safely. It may be that you can use video technology to view the property instead.
Just be cautious about paying a holding deposit or signing a contract for a property you haven’t viewed in person.
You should ask the accommodation provider whether clauses could be added in that would allow you to change the start date of the tenancy, or cancel the contract if you don’t move in. However, there is no obligation for them to do so, so this is a negotiation situation.
More Information and Advice
Unipol has useful information about Coronavirus: Students and Landlords.
The University of London Housing Services also has more information about Covid-19 Coronavirus & Private Housing Rights.
The University of Newcastle Students’ Union has some useful Covid-19 Housing FAQs
Please get in touch with Students’ Union Advice if you have any queries relating to private-rented accommodation at firstname.lastname@example.org