Housing Minister calls on student accommodation providers and tenants to “act flexibly” and adopt a “common-sense” approach to solving rent payment dispute during the Covid-19 crisis and suggests this issue is “a matter between the parties concerned”.
Many UK universities have waived accommodation fees or released students from contracts for the third term without further charge as face-to-face teaching suspended and students returned family homes due to Covid-19.
It may encourage landlords not to rent to students in a long term…students may also have to pay more in subsequent year.
Darrel Kwong, DWK CONSULTANCY
However, most private student accommodation providers are yet to offer this. It has led to a nationwide rent strike that has involved thousands of student tenants, claiming it is “completely unfair” to continue to pay with many losing their sources of income.
⚡ The Covid-19 student rent strike is spreading ⚡
Get in touch if you want to run a rent strike at your university and we can help you out and put you in contact with student strikers from all across the UK!https://t.co/LjbG0RTUVc
— RENT STRIKE (@rentstrikenow) April 15, 2020
Darrel Kwong, owner of DWK Consultancy, who has been providing legal advice for both landlords and letting agencies, suggests there seems to be misunderstandings from students that because they cannot live in a property, any rent that is contractedly due cannot be pursued or there is no obligation to pay that rent.
“It may encourage landlords not to rent to students in a long term,” says Kwong, “students may also have to pay more in subsequent year.”
Interview clip from Darrel Kwong
Student landlords are among those “hit hardest” by the Covid-19 pandemic, as universities and colleges closing campuses indefinitely, says Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA).
Responding to calls from National Union of Students (NUS) for no-penalty early release from tenancy contracts for current and next academic year, Beadle says decisions are left up the individual landlords according to their own financial position.
I support @NUSUK in asking all landlords to release students from their tenancies if they have left the property. But Government has a role too – Ministers need to ensure that no students are penalised for following public health advice. #ReleaseTheStudents #SaveStudentRenters
— Lilian Greenwood (@LilianGreenwood) April 1, 2020
He adds, “The majority of landlords are ineligible for any of the other business or personal support measures announced by the government, making it extremely difficult to provide direct support to tenants.”
BLOG: Student landlords are facing a unique set of challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. NRLA Chief executive Ben Beadle @BeadleBen has written to @UniversitiesUK to ask for their support in ensuring students honour rental contracts. Read more: https://t.co/LAKlSUjyta
— NRLA – National Residential Landlords Association (@NRLAssociation) April 27, 2020
In response to this dispute, the Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher, Conservative MP for Tamworth says students will continue to receive maintenance grants for remainder of the current academic year (2019/20) and hardship funds from universities can still be accessed where necessary.
He continues saying students who are workers under PAYE will be paid up to 80 per cent of their wages.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive at Universities UK argues although students are still in receipt of maintenance loans, they may be experiencing financial difficulties with their ability to earn additional income as part-time work curtailed.
Please see the latest government guidance on university or college halls of residence, which includes information for students who may be infected with coronavirus: https://t.co/fYoUAc1Pvh
— The Office for Students (OfS) (@officestudents) April 17, 2020
He also suggests that family incomes may also be challenged by the lockdown.
The Minister of State says, “The department is actively engaging with stakeholders across the student accommodation sector, including private student accommodation providers to understand the challenges posted by the current crisis and to establish the most effective means of supporting the whole of the sector.”