Coronavirus: Students and Landlords

This note was issued on 11th November updating that previously issued on 3rd November, 16th October, 26th September, 9th September, 24th and 13th August; 26th, 9th, 2nd, 1st July, 25th, 18th, 10th, 6th, 2nd, 1st June, 28th, 22nd, 14th, 5th May, 23rd, 15th, 9th, 8th, 6th April and 31st March 2020.

This article includes FAQs in the areas of Rent Payments, Moving in and out of properties and living in student properties. 

Take me to the FAQs - Rent and Contracts (including a look at house hunting for next academic year), Moving in and out of properties and living in student properties 

 

Travelling home at the end of the autumn term 2020

Guidance has now been issued in relation to students travelling home for the Christmas holidays.  

This states that students will be able to start to travel home from 3 December, after the national restrictions come to an end, and it’s strongly recommended that you travel home on or before 9 December (your university will tell you when). This is because anyone who remains at university after 9 December and contracts coronavirus (COVID-19) or is contacted by NHS Test and Trace will have to isolate for up to 14 days at their term-time address and would therefore be at risk of not being able to travel home in time for Christmas Day.

It is important that students check the individual advice issued by their institution for further guidance, which should be issued in the next week or so.

The OfS has issued some useful FAQs in this area that can be viewed HERE

The complete Government guidance on student movement and plans for the end of term can be viewed HERE

The Situation in Accommodation

Arrival in September

Following the arrival of students at University it is clear that there was a burst of social activity primarily from many first year students living in PBSA when their “freshers' week” would normally have taken place. Most freshers’ weeks consisted of very little activity and the “rule of 6” and local restrictions meant that many of the limited actual social events planned by universities and students’ unions were cancelled - which meant that students had nothing to do other than create their own social events - which many did within their accommodation.

This resulted in most accommodation providers increasing their security and now have “differentiated security teams” consisting of front of house security and roving “bouncer” type security. Most PBSA have extensive CCTV systems and so it is easy to spot large “in flat” gatherings and request tenants to move on.

October 

Now that the academic year and teaching has begun things settled down. Students have also now met their peers and so the need for indiscriminate socialising is diminishing. 

In the “settling down” phase a few observations can be made:

  • partying significantly reduced
  • many of the in-household social events are now having a positive effect
  • the number of students seeking tests has increased
  • social isolation is now taking place properly.

It is likely that, following the “arrival stage” which saw infections spread across the student population, the number of those self-isolating peaked in tmid-October and then cases started to reduce.

Although face-to-face teaching is unlikely to have been responsible for the virus’ transmission, a few universities have adjusted their blended learning to reduce face to face teaching further. A handful of universities have stopped face to face teaching where this can be done. A few universities have stopped face to face teaching altogether - although this is again likely to throw students back onto their residential settings even further.

November and National Lockdown (part 2)

Universities and accommodation providers are currently in the process of setting out their plans following the announcement on 31st October that the country would go back in to a national lockdown from November 5th.   

The full Government advice can be consulted at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

Special arrangements and exemptions from restrictions affecting most of the population are available to those studying in universities (and schools). The Government “has prioritised the wellbeing and long-term futures of our young people and is not closing schools, colleges or universities”, so:

  • you can leave your home for the purposes of study
  • workers in essential services, including education settings, can continue to go into work.

A new piece of Government advice is “If you live at University, you must not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time. You should only return home at the end of term for Christmas.” The Government will publish further guidance on the end of term and when they do Unipol will publish a link here.

The universities that Unipol works with (and whose students we house) have made it clear that their services remain open and studying is continuing:

Leeds Conservatoire

The 2020 - 2021 Academic Year

Clearing 2020

On the 19th August UCAS announced that approximately 15,000 students who were originally rejected by their original firm choice university with their moderated grades, will now meet the A level conditions of their offer with their centre assessed grades (CAGs).

Approximately 100,000 students who had their grades upgraded were already placed at their first choice university on A level results day.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive from UCAS said "It’s clear from this data that universities have already exercised flexibility when making their original Confirmation decisions and have looked closely at the backgrounds of students.

We are all focused on supporting the 15,000 students who now meet their conditions of entry and may want to make a different decision and take up a place at their original first choice university."

This situated has caused additional pressure on students and universities and many universities are still working through offers made through Clearing. 

As of 10th September:

  • more direct applications to Clearing than ever before and this will mean many universities dealt with many additional applications on top of the usual applications coming through. 
  • Many universities have looked to recruit extra students up to the 5% cap. 
  • 515,650 students have been placed of which 52,610 have done so through Clearing.
  • Higher tariff universities have performed the best with a 12% increase in placed applicants on the previous year, whereas the medium tariff providers have only seen a 1% increase and the lower tariff providers have remained static, continuing a decline seen across the last few years. Higer tariff universities are likely to have taken an agressive approach to Clearing in particular to try and secure as many undergraduate students to mitigate a large drop in international student numbers

Student Accommodation Demand

There appears to have been no post A level “bounce” in rentals throughout the sector (both PBSA and off-street). This could well be caused by the A level results not being the A level results, with considerable student movement between institutions taking place longer than usual. There were still a significant number of students going through clearing in early September and institutions were still reporting no clear idea of their final first year student numbers.

There are signs that some students (both returning but particularly new students) are choosing to live at home and commute because their contact teaching times are so low (around 2 hours a week). This is particularly affecting post-92 institutions whose accommodation demand appears to be reducing, even though their overall student numbers have not.

An increasing number of students are starting postgraduate taught courses in January which is shifting demand down the line (although how many of those students actually turn up in January is an unknown quantity). It is still not clear whether those students will require accommodation up to December 2021, but for now most suppliers are signing them up until July.

The possible increase in home postgraduates seems to be the case at only certain institutions and many of those will not have an accommodation need.

New international student numbers remain low - around the 30% of normal demand mark. This reflects a whole number of difficulties:

  • travel problems, particularly from China but common throughout
  • very significant visa delays with students being told visas are likely to be issued between mid-September and mid-October
  • moves in postgraduate teaching programmes until later in the year.

Social Distancing, Visitors and Social Interaction (subject to change as per local lockdown restrictions)

Many universities are requiring the wearing of face masks by staff and students in communal areas on campus and have chosen to retain social distancing at 2 meters.

The Government published guidance for universities on 3 June 2020 (last update: 3 November 2020) looking at reopening buildings and campuses. There are some useful sections on social distancing on campus, social isolation and wellbeing.  The accommodation section has mainly being covered by prior guidance already detailed below on cleaning in non-healthcare settings and moving homes.

The guide covers the new 3 local COVID alert levels and outbreak plans. HE providers will remain open at every alert level, with their facilities and activities reflecting wider restrictions. There is an introduction of 'educational tiers' and theses are:

Tier 1 (default position): HE providers are expected to provide blended learning with face-to-face tuition while following the provisions of this, and public health guidance (for example, the appropriate use of face coverings).

Tier 2 (fallback position): HE providers should move to an increased level of online learning where possible. Providers should prioritise the continuation of face-to-face provision based on their own risk assessment. We expect that, in the majority of cases, this will be for those courses where it is most beneficial (for example, clinical or practical learning and research).

Tier 3 (where stricter measures are needed): HE providers should increase the level of online learning to retain face-to-face provision for priority courses (for example, clinical and medical courses), and in as limited a number of situations as possible.

Students should follow government guidance published as part of any additional restrictions applied locally, including where this says that students should remain in their current accommodation and not return their family home or other residential accommodation to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus through travel. In these circumstances, providers should support students to do so by keeping services for students, such as university libraries and catering facilities, open.

Tier 4 (last resort): We expect the majority of provision to be online, with buildings open only for essential workers and students who are required to attend because in-person teaching is essential. This should include the continuation of essential research.

The guidelines on visitors and social interaction will be changing constantly but both students’ unions and the educational institutions themselves will have an important role in communicating expectations to students. Some institutions are developing “Community Responsibility Agreements” (or something similarly titled) to encourage appropriate behaviour.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing have been recognised as areas of serious concern for students.  The Minister for Universities announced a 3M funding award to the Office for Students (OfS) on 17th June that would see a new online platform delivering targeted and high-quality mental health support, designed to respond to additional pressures caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Student Space is designed to complement the mental health support already in place through universities, colleges and NHS services in England and Wales – filling potential gaps in provision and ensuring that all students have access to support they need.

What's happening more generally in the HE Sector?

On 4th May 2020 the Government announced a package of measures aimed at supporting students and the HE sector. There is a web link to the Government measures here and the full statement can be accessed here.

The U-turn on A levels is likely to impact middle and lower tariff universities.  An article from Universities UK details the potential financial crisis faced by a number of institutions

Rent and Contracts

Please note if you are living in a student hall of residence the advice on the National Codes Website will be the most relevant for you.  If you are living in a smaller shared property in the private rented sector please see information below.

Earlier in the year during the first lockdown Unipol, along with many landlords received requests and questions from their tenants and their parents about paying rent.  Unipol's Board met in May and June 2020 and decided a number of measures affecting rent across the Summer period and next year's tenancies.  Find out more here: Unipol's current position on rent reductions

The information below will hopefully provide some clarity based on the latest information from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Department for Education DfE, the Office for Students (OfS), Universities UK (UUK), the National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) and Unipol.  

House Hunting for Next Academic Year

Q: I'm starting to get information about house hunting for next academic year and don't know what i should be doing?

A: In many university cities across the country students will be facing decisions on what to do about their accommodation for next academic year.  Although many providers will be making these properties available for students to sign.  Students are advised to take their time and give proper consideration to what the situation is likely to be in the next few months. 

It is generally thought that 'house hunting' will be a much slower process than in previous years and students can take their time.  In most cases it is unlikely that you would get released if you changed your mind.  This is particularly important if you are considering entering a joint contract with friends. 

Always seek independant advice and get your contract checked with your Students' Union advice centre. 

Q: What will happen about viewing properties for next academic year?

A: Viewings are a bit of a tricky due to the restrictions currently in place.  One thing we are recommending to our landlords is to create videos tours and virtual viewings online which will minimise interaction between current/future tenants and landlords.  

There are a number of different types of virtual viewings currently being used by landlords.  These are the virtual tour, the pre-recorded video walk-through and the live-streaming video.

The virtual tour is a self-guided 'fly-through' of the home, created by capturing a series of 360 degree footage shots that are then stitched together to allow the viewer to navigate through the property.  

The pre-recorded video walk-through is the most straightforward and can be filmed on a mobile, this may include music or a voice over talking about the property.

The live streaming video is where the landlord hosts a WhatsApp or FaceTime call and the viewers are added to the video call.  The landlord would walk around the property and the prospective tenants can ask questions whilst seeing the property live.

Physical Viewings will be very limited and will need to adhere to the current Government Guidance on viewings available here

Q: Is Unipol doing anything different during house hunting this year?

A: Yes. In order to give you peace of mind, all students renting a room in a complex for next year will be able to give notice on any agreement they sign with Unipol up to 1st March 2021 and this would end their 2021-2022 obligations. If you are renting a shared student house where occupancy is 6 or under then you can also give notice but this must include all the occupants of the house. For houses 7 and above Unipol will accept individual notices. We will give you this Peace of Mind Promise when you sign up and you will be able to withdraw on-line from your contract any time before 12.00 midnight on the 1st March 2021. This information relates to the Unipol Housing Portfolio is Leeds and Nottingham.

This way, you can secure a room or house of your choice, but allow yourselves more time to take stock of the situation in early spring. We hope that is fair and helpful at this difficult time.

Q: I've moved in to my student property but no longer want to live there as all my courses are now online.  Can i give notice?

If you have signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement you will be bound by the terms of that agreement and will be financially liable for the rent.  The vast majority of agreements do not contain break clauses or allow  you to give notice.   You can speak to your landlord and explain your situation but it is very unlikely that you will be released.

Some universities have reduced rent to students where a so-called “lockdown” has been implemented, often in the face of media and student criticism of their actions. These rent refunds are effectively “sweeteners” and leave the key question of academic fee refunds in the case of lower than expected face-to-face teaching unanswered. For private accommodation providers, where their main business is sustained by rent (rather than academic fees paid to HEIs) it is unlikely that the rent refunds that took place in the previous academic year will be repeated.

Q: I no longer want to move in to my accommodation for next academic year, what can i do? (You may have changed your mind about attending university or due to a change in your course delivery you are looking to stay at home).

A: If you have signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement you will be bound by the terms of that agreement and will be financially liable for the rent.  The vast majority of agreements do not contain break clauses or allow  you to give notice.  In normal circumstances this would only be possible if you came to a mutual agreement with the provider or found a suitable replacement for yourself.  You are recommended to talk to your landlord at the earliest opportunity to talk through your options.  If you live in Leeds, Nottingham or Bradford you can use Unipol's Student Noticeboard to advertise your room. 

There are ongoing discussions between the Govenment, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Office for Students (OfS) and the OfS has issued a guidance document on consumer protection, stressing the importance for HE Providers to be clear in what they will be providing by way of teaching and services so students can make informed decisions.  It is possible that students may be entitled to a rent refund where what is provided differs significantly to what was stated beforehand and students entered in to accommodation agreements with their institution as a result i.e. a link between the rental and the course. This would mainly affect 1st year UGs going in to university provided accommodation and is unlikely to be applicable to students renting in the wider private rented sector.   

Q: I am due to pay my rent but due to my changed circumstances I don’t think I am going to be able to do that.

A: Speak to your landlord if you're struggling to pay rent. Most will be sympathetic, especially if you and/or the person who assists you with paying the rent has lost that source of income due to the Coronavirus situation.  They might agree to a rent reduction for a period or to accept rent at a later date.  However if you come to an agreement to delay your rent payment the full rent will still be due at a later date. Repayable rent reductions are where rent is reduced for a period but the overall amount will still be due just at a later date by mutual agreement.

If you agree a plan with your landlord to pay off arrears at a later date, it is important that you both stick to this plan, and that you talk to your landlord immediately if you are unable to do so.

If you are struggling and would like advice around other options open to you and how to access financial assistance contact your university AND Student Advice Service at your Students’ Union. You may be able to access certain hardship funds.

The Government has worked with the OfS to help clarify that providers can use existing funds, totalling £46m, to boost their hardship funds for students in financial difficulty. This can include help for IT equipment and internet access.

Additionally, students are also able to claim Universal Credit under certain circumstances. Find more information about Universal Credit

Q: Should i sign a contract when i don't know what is happening to my course across the academic year?
 
At present, Unipol is simply advising “if you are not happy signing a contract then don’t” try and negotiate a period of time (say a month) with the landlord where they will hold the accommodation whilst you work out what to do. In the case of students renting as groups under joint contracts a single failure to sign up (or a parent refusing to act as a guarantor) may bounce back on the other tenants rather than the landlord.

Some student suppliers are giving students who have not already entered into contracts a promise of flexibility. This seems more prevalent in the PBSA sector.  The National Code has written to its members to ascertain how prevalent this practice is and from responses already received some level of contractual flexibility has been built into 70% of members’ contracts affecting some 252,917 tenants . Unite have recently announced “If your university term dates change, tell us and you won’t be charged for those weeks”.

Q: I heard that in Scotland students can give notice to leave a contract.  Is that likely to happen in England?

The Scottish Government has introduced new emergency coronavirus legislation in the Scottish Parliament relating to student accommodation. If the legislation is approved, it would put in place in Scotland:

  • a 7-day notice to leave period for those currently tied into a student accommodation contract; and
  • a 28-day notice to leave period for new agreements entered into.

There is no indication from Whitehall currently that a similar approach is likely to be adopted in England. Given the new guidance issued on 1st June maintaining the position that rent should be paid it looks unlikely that the Scottish approach will be adopted in England.

Q: Now there is a new national lockdown will my landlord release me from my contract?

Government advice is that you should stay in your place of study during this restrictive period, but if you choose to go home, your room remains contracted to you. Unlike last year when the universities closed their doors, all universities are saying they remain open and the Government has endorsed that in their advice. Students are specifically being told they should not go home: “If you live at University, you must not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time. You should only return home at the end of term for Christmas.”

It is our understanding that many landlords will not be in a position to offer any rent reductions.  You should check with your landlord directly.  In any case if your rent is due you should pay it as normal and discuss any payment difficulties with  them as soon as possible.  Any decisions on rent reductions will be up to your landlord and will be an individual business decision. Where this is not possible landlords should be working with their tenants to offer support and guidance.

The Government have been clear in their guidance and updated this on 1 June 2020 and this states:

"In the case of private landlords and letting agencies, the negotiation of rent waivers with student tenants is a matter between the parties concerned. We encourage landlords, letting agencies and tenants to adopt an understanding, common-sense approach to issues that may arise in the current circumstances."

It is also important to say that this was not a foreseeable set of circumstances and no one will be covered by insurance or would have had it on their risk register. It should also be noted that for many landlords in off-street housing, this is their only asset and pension.

Two Warwick University students give their views on rent reductions

Q: Should I stop paying my rent during the outbreak?

A: Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity. 

For students experiencing financial hardship the Government has issued additional advice that students should contact their higher education provider to see if any hardship funding would be available and the Office for Students (OfS) has published guidance for those providers to support this.

In many cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. however if your circumstances have changed it is really important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are in difficulty.

Q: What is Unipol doing around rent reductions?

A: Unipol's own response can be found elsewhere on the website on the button below

Unipol's response to Rent Payments

Q: Should my landlord stop charging rent during the Covid19 outbreak?

A: The Government issued guidance on 1st June 2020 which states:

"Landlords are not required to do this. Most tenants will be able to pay rent as normal and should continue to do so, as they will remain liable for the rent during this period. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, as each tenant’s circumstance is different and some will be worse affected in terms of their ability to pay than others. It is important for landlords to be flexible and have a frank and open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity, to allow both parties to agree a sensible way forward."

Unipol has written to accredited landlords and managing agents in Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham to explain our own decision and the model adopted by our Board of Trustees.  Unipol's decision is its own and it therefore follows that there is no legal or other obligation on other landlords to follow suit.  As stated above Unipol is a charity and is guided by its values.  Our operation and setup is very different to private landlords, who in most cases will not be able to sustain a drop in rental income.

 

Moving In and Out of Properties

Q: Will i be able to go on viewings when i start searching for a property for next academic year?

A: Physical Viewings have become a lot harder under current restrictions, particularly where there is a group wanting to view a property.  For example, if you are in a group of six and are all currently living in different households and then want to view a property that is currently occupied and shown around by the landlord/ agent, you can see that this becomes unmanageable under the current restrictions. 

Many accommodation providers are offering viewings virtually.  There are two pre-recorded options a video walkthrough or 360 degree footage where you can navigate your way around a property.  The third option is via live streaming.  In this option the landlord would be in the property and the viewer would connect to the call and could ask questions during the viewing.

To find out more please see the current Government Guidance on viewings available here

Q: Will i need to book a move-in time slot to ensure social distancing is achieved?

A: The majority of suppliers are asking students to book timeslots ahead of their arrival, with many also making contactless arrangements for the collection of keys and making of any payments required.

A number of providers have issued videos to help explain to students what to expect, both on arrival and throughout the period of their stay.

If you are moving in soon contact your supplier and ask what arrangements are in operation.

Q: Will any other restrictions be placed on my parents or friends helping me to move in? 

A: Most PBSA suppliers have indicated that they would be restricting numbers who could accompany students on arrival, some were going to allow just one parent whilst others would permit two.

Most providers had ceased offering assistance to students with the movement of belongings on their arrival.

For off-street properties it is important that you take precautions and that help from parents and friends is kept to a minimum once you reach the property and due care is taken such as following guidelines for the cleaning of hands and wearing face coverings as appropriate.  You are forming a new household with your fellow housemates and your parents and friends are not part of that household so appropriate precautions should be taken.

Q: Will I be able to move in to my new student home after vacating my current one?

The Government guidance issued on 21st May states: 

In terms of preparing properties for incoming tenants the Government advice states:

"Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants, this may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the virus in line with government advice. Letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing to minimise possible spread of coronavirus.  Agents should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover."  

There is no specific Government advice for student accommodation.  However there was some advice issued on 15th May 2020 for decontamination in non-health care settings which states:

“The infection risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) following contamination of the environment decreases over time. It is not yet clear at what point there is no risk. However, studies of other viruses in the same family suggest that, in most circumstances, the risk is likely to be reduced significantly after 72 hours.”

So although it not mandatory for properties to be deep cleaned before new tenants move in, Unipol has recommended an approach to landlords that takes in to account this guidance.  In any case it will be important to communicate any cleaning arrangements to incoming tenants in advance of the start of the new tenancy.  If you are intending to take up residence in your new accommodation from the first day of your tenancy it would be really helpful to communicate with your landlord so they can make plans to prepare the property for you.

To see the latest information provided to Unipol landlords and to read Unipol's approach to the tenanch changeover click here

Q: I will be moving in to a new property with friends who will all be coming from different households, is this permitted?

A: The current Government advice envisages people moving house and the formation of new households. Although you are from different households you are essentially joining and becoming one new household and therefore social interaction is permitted. This means that interactions with others outside of the household must follow the guidance issued in respect of visitors. This will change over time but social activity with other houses, flats or parents falls under guidance for visitors. Even where local lockdowns are in operation students are still permitted to take up residence in their new accommodation.

After you become a new household there are number of things to consider:

If you join a new household and someone develop symptoms you should self-isolate at home for 7 days from when the symptoms started. In line with Government guidance, all other residents of the home must also stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days, providing they remain well for that time. Should they develop symptoms they should then self-isolate for 7 days from the onset of symptoms or longer if symptoms persist. Where possible, individuals should not go out even to buy food or other essentials, and any exercise should be taken within your home. 

If you share facilities or common areas with other people, all residents should always do their very best to follow guidance to stay at home and away from others. Everyone in the household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces. 

Travel between your new household and parental or previous home. An area of public health concern may relate to the interplay between the old household (parental home or previous residence) and the new household. Again, the guidance is quite clear: the household is the main viable unit and conditions for visitors are laid down.  This may continue to be relaxed as the R rate reduces.

The guidance below may vary depending on whether a local lockdown is in operation. 

From 12th October the Governemt have introduced the Local COVID alert levels. It is important to know what level the area you live falls in so you know what restrictions are in place.

To see the full guidance click here

Q: My accommodation provider is pressuring me to travel back to my room to pick up my belongings. What should I do?

A: On the 21st May 2020 the Government further amended the guidance for moving home and made it clear that people who wished to move home are now able to do so as long as the necessary public health guidance is followed.  Wider travel in England is permitted but restrictions remain in place in certain areas of the UK.  If you are living in England you are able to come and collect your belongings.  If you have not already received information from your accommodation provider on the moving out procedure it is strongly recommended that you contact them before coming to collect your belongings however now that travel is permitted you should make sure that you collect your belongings and arrange to clean the property before the end of your contract.

Transport will be almost entirely by car and some parents/students will have a long “there and back” drive with only limited opportunities to stop for refreshments and toilet facilities. Many parents travelling long distances frequently break their journeys by staying part-way in a hotel and that will not be possible. Those returning should be aware of the lack of facilities en-route. Motorway service stations and their toilet facilities are, however, open

Q: I cannot get back to collect my belongings before the end of my tenancy.  What should i do?

If you are unable to return you will need to get in touch with your landlord to let them know. You should arrange for your possessions to be packed and sent to your home address.  If you don’t have anyone locally who can help you there are companies who can make the necessary arrangements.  There are costs involved so you need to check how much the service will be and you will have to arrange with your landlord a suitable time when they can let the company have access to the property.  You will need to ensure that your belongings are removed by the end of your tenancy agreement or the landlord may charge you rent/storage costs and may dispose of anything if you have not been in contact with them.  

Q: Will I still be expected to clean my property?  All my housemates went home at the beginning of the lockdown and will not be back together again.

 A: Most landlords will have already issued end of tenancy information detailing what you need to do concerning cleaning and returning your keys.  If you have not received this information you are recommended to get in touch with your landlord so you understand what is expected of you. In shared properties it will be important for you to communicate with each other and decide how any required cleaning will be split and agree the timings for your visit to ensure social distancing is maintained.  

Unipol will expect our own properties to be clean.  Our guidance to our tenants states:

  • Ensure your room and the communal areas of the property are left in a reasonable condition, free of waste and that the keys are returned in a timely manner.
  • Remove all waste to the outside bins.
  • If an item is unwanted, please take this home with you to recycle/re-use to avoid being charged for waste removal.

It is important to remember that communal areas need cleaning as well as your bedroom. Unipol's end of tenancy information can be found here

Q: I am currently self-isolating and will not be finished by the end of my contract, what should i do?

You should stay where you are in line with the current Government guidance but you should contact your landlord as soon as possible to explain your situation and update them on the date your isolation period will end.  It is likely that your landlord will have contractual responsibilities to incoming tenants so this will cause a significant level of inconvenience. You will be expected to pay rent for the period you are remaining in the property.

Living in a student property

Q: I need a repair doing in my home, what should I do?

A: It is important to report repairs to your landlord as you would normally do.  Tradespeople can visit people’s homes to carry out any work or maintenance provided it is carried out in accordance with guidance for professionals working in people’s homes. Further guidance on visits to properties to make repairs

If you are not shielding or self-isolating, you can allow your landlord or contractors access to your home in order to carry out a range of works. This includes:

  • routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks;
  • essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance;
  • planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home.

Services should be designed to ensure appropriate social distancing is maintained (insofar as possible) and hygiene procedures should be followed. Some landlords will have a backlog of repairs that they will need to address, so it may take longer than normal to carry out more non-essential work.

Q: My landlord wants to carry out viewings, do i have to let them in?

Your safety will be your letting agent's and landlord's top priority. Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where they have been determined clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding. In other cases, where viewings can proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings.  

Q: I live in a shared student property, some of my house mates are symptomatic and my landlord is refusing to find alternative accommodation for me.  What can I do?

A: Nobody can be removed from their home because of the virus. Landlords are not obliged to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus.

If you are living in accommodation which you share with other people, or share facilities with other people, you should follow current Public Health England guidance.

You can find Government guidance on cleaning your home to minimise the risk of infection.

The Government has issued guidance for households with possible coronavirus (covid19) infection. The same guidance applies to occupants of shared properties. All the occupants of the home should behave in the same way as a single household if one or more occupants have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

And on what to do if you are in a shared home with someone who may have the virus

Q: My landlord wants to arrange for a gas safety check to be carried out what should I do?

A: Gas safety inspections save lives. Landlords should take all reasonable steps to carry out annual gas safety checks at this time as failure to do so could put tenants at risk of serious illness or fatalities from gas explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning, particularly as people are spending all or most of their time at home.

If you are clinically vulnerable, but have not been asked to shield, you should inform your landlord. Before undertaking the check, prior arrangements should be made to ensure that appropriate social distancing is maintained during the visit. 

If you are self-isolating or shielding, you should inform your landlord. The gas safety check can be delayed until after your isolation period has ended. Your landlord will be best placed to determine whether an inspection is required – further guidance is available from Gas Safe the regulator. In such circumstances, prior arrangements should be made to avoid any face to face contact and the engineer must follow the latest guidance on working safely in people’s homes.

Q: My neighbours/other tenants in the property are disrupting my life with their anti-social behaviour. What can I do?

A: If you have already attempted to resolve instances of anti-social behaviour or feel uncomfortable resolving the matter yourself, you should contact your landlord, the local authority and the police to report anti-social behaviour. You can also contact ASB Help who can provide specific advice on dealing with anti-social behaviour.

Local authorities and the police have strong powers to tackle anti-social behaviour available through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. These include the use of Civil Injunctions, Community Protection Notices, and Closure Orders, 24 which can be used to address instances of anti-social behaviour. We expect these powers to continue to be used during the period affected by coronavirus.

If you or the tenant causing the problem live in a licensed House in Multiple Occupation, the landlord will be required by their licence to take action to prevent and alleviate the effects anti-social behaviour in the property. You should therefore contact your local authority regarding your concerns. 

Q. How can I avoid spreading coronavirus to people I live with?

A: If you are self-isolating because of coronavirus, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of spreading any infection to the people you live with.

Try to stay away from people you live with

If you have symptoms, you should stay away from other people you live with as much as possible.

If you can:

  • stay on your own in one room as much as possible and keep the door closed
  • avoid using shared spaces (such as the kitchen) at the same time as other people – eat your meals in your room
  • use a separate bathroom - otherwise, use the bathroom after everyone else and clean it each time you use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces you've touched using strong household cleaner (disinfectant).

How to reduce the spread of infection in your home

DO

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Clean objects and surfaces you touch often (such as door handles, kettles and phones) using your regular cleaning products.
  • Consider wearing a face covering when in shared spaces.
  • Keep windows open in the room you're staying in and shared spaces as much as possible.

DON’T

  • Do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels.

Q.  What should my household do to try to do stop the virus spreading?

A:

  • Use a different bathroom if possible. If you use the same bathroom clean it each time after you use it. Wipe all surfaces you have touched using strong household cleaner (disinfectant).
  • Use different towels.
  • Do not share a bed.
  • Do not use the kitchen at the same time.
  • Clean surfaces that you often touch several times a day. Use household cleaner (detergent).
  • Use a dishwasher. If this is not possible, wash and dry each person’s things separately. Use a different sponge and tea towels for each person.
  • Do not shake dirty washing before putting it in the washing machine. If you do not have a washing machine, wait 3 days after your staying at home period ends before taking it to be washed.
  • Put rubbish such as tissues and disposable wiping cloths into rubbish bags that are tied shut. Then put these bags inside a second bag. You should wait 3 days before you put them outside for the rubbish collection.

Q.  What are the new rules from 12th October 2020? Can I see my friends and family?

A: This will depend on what your local COVID alert level is.  Find out here

Q: Do I have to socially distance from my partner/boyfriend/girlfriend?

A:  People in an established relationship do not need to socially distance. If in the early stages of a relationship, you should take particular care to follow the guidance on social distancing. If you intend to have close contact with someone, you should discuss how you can help to prevent risks of transmission as a couple, for example, by ensuring you are both avoiding close contact with people you do not live with.