Most students live away from home during term time in either university owned or privately rented accommodation. The Government lockdown and closure of campuses resulted in many students leaving their rented accommodation and returning home – in many cases leaving their accommodation before letting contracts had expired. This has given rise to numerous questions about liability for rent, refunds and evictions. Below are some of the mostly frequently asked questions.
Do I have to pay my rent if I have moved back home?
University owned accommodation
Many university-owned halls of residence and privately run Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) have allowed students who have left university accommodation due to the coronavirus to terminate contracts early without any charges. Some have waived rent for all students, regardless of whether they are still in their accommodation. (Office for Students briefing Student accommodation). Students should contact their university for advice.
Private rented accommodation
Students with a private rented tenancy agreement (contract), as a rule, remain liable for rent payments until their contracts expire. See section 1 of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.
Some landlords/agents have negotiated rent reductions or agreed to early release from contracts for students but there is no obligation on them to do so.
Is there any additional help with rent payments?
The Government has not introduced specific financial help for student rent payments. When asked about assistance with rent payments, the Government has said that students will receive scheduled tuition and maintenance loan payments for the remainder of the 2019/20 academic year.
Students who are struggling to pay their rent, e.g. because they cannot work should contact the accommodation provider (university, halls of residence manager or private landlord/agent) to find out what, if any, arrangements can be made.
Students may also be able to access help from their university’s hardship funds. Any student who is worried about their financial position should contact their university to find out what support is available. Certain students may be able to access benefits, including assistance with rent payments. Government guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants, provides information for private tenants who are struggling to pay their rent.
Can students who have left halls get a refund on their rent?
Whether or not a student can get a refund will depend on the university halls of residence provider. Students should contact them directly to find out.
Can the landlord force me to leave my private rented tenancy?
Some students have not left their privately rented homes and are struggling to pay the rent. The Government has put measures in place to ensure that most tenants in the private sector are entitled to at least three months’ notice where the notice is served between 26 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 (this period may be extended). When a notice expires, the landlord must seek a court order to evict. With few exceptions, the courts are not issuing possession orders for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020. Evicting a tenant without a court order can amount to illegal eviction, a criminal offence. Tenants in this position should seek urgent assistance from bodies such as the local authority or Shelter.
Can universities ask students to leave halls of residence?
No, students in halls must stay there in accordance with stay at home advice. The Department for Education has issued guidance on living safely in residential education settings during the pandemic.
Can students move back home, or can those at home go back to university?
Students still living in halls of residence should remain there and not attempt to travel and students living at home should not move back to university – students should stay put where possible. However Universities UK suggest that Government advice on moving home may be applicable in some situations:
The UK government has also published advice suggesting that those wishing to move house at this time should delay this while current measures restricting travel and are in place to fight coronavirus. If moving house is unavoidable, advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus during the move should be followed. While this advice does not specifically refer to students moving between student accommodation and another residence, landlords and students should follow the advice where it applies to their situation.
The Government advice on home moves was updated and revised on 13 May 2020.
Can students return to halls to collect belongings?
Universities UK states:
Where tenants, or former tenants, of student accommodation have belongings to collect, arrangements should be made for this to happen after the current lockdown period is over.
UK government advice is clear that individuals should only leave home for very limited purposes including for food or health reasons or travelling to and from work but only where work cannot be done from home.
If for any reason accommodation providers or landlords are pressuring students to travel back to halls or private housing to pick up belongings left behind before the government lockdown on 23 March, this practice should stop.
Where can I find information?
Information is available on the following websites:
- Office for Students: Student accommodation
- Universities UK: Student accommodation
- GOV.UK: University students and COVID-19 FAQ
- University websites
- Shelter: Housing advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)
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