Coronavirus: Students and Landlords

This note was issued on 13 September 2021. 

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

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

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Covid-19 Messaging

The Government has recently issued some information on testing, vaccination and the Covid-19 App and asked housing suppliers to circulate to their tenants.  You can read further information on this on the National Code website.

Below is a link to pre-prepared social assets that should be shared that flag up both testing and vaccines for students. There are three formats.
 
 
GUIDANCE ON COVID SELF ISOLATION
 
A number of complaints have recently been received from students arriving from abroad who have been told by their housing provider that they cannot self-isolate in their shared flat because other students occupying the flat have objected.
 
This is a difficult position for suppliers but the legal position is very clear and that is that the incoming tenant is entitled to occupy their room and there is Government Guidance on self-isolating within shared flats which is allowed.
 
It is important that this is not seen as the incoming tenant’s problem and, in the spirit of the Code, it would be expected that an amicable solution could be found to satisfy all tenants. In much accommodation there will be vacant units or studios because of late arriving internationals and it should be possible to suggest that students self-isolate in an alternative unit without undue inconvenience. In some cases, a nearby studio might be booked and provided to the incoming student.

There is some specific advice entitled Higher education COVID-19 operational guidance to be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-covid-19-operational-guidance This was updated on 17th August 2021 and states:

“There are no longer restrictions on the approach to teaching and learning in higher education (HE) providers as a result of COVID-19. There is no requirement for social distancing or other measures within in person teaching. Providers are therefore able to shape their courses without restrictions to face-to-face provision.
 
In line with all other settings, HE providers should continue to conduct risk assessments for their particular circumstances. They should implement sensible and proportionate control measures which follow the health and safety hierarchy of controls to reduce the risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level. HE providers should have contingency plans to deal with any identified positive cases of COVID-19 or outbreaks.”

Other Government Guidance from MHCLG to Landlords and Tenants (Available HERE) covers areas such as rent, possession, resolving disputes and carrying out repairs. 
 
There is also useful Government Guidance on moving home that is available HERE This was last updated on 22 July 2021.  Tenants are entitled to continue to take up their tenancies (which represent an estate in land), however the guidance urges flexibility should someone test positive for Covid-19 during the moving period. This guidance was last updated on 20 July 2021. 

The latest guidance states " Once you have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase or rent the property. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves if necessary, for example if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process, or has to self-isolate.

If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions or other necessary measures to manage these risks. You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating. There is a greater risk that home moves may need to be delayed if someone in the transaction shows symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating."

Universities will continue to update their own guidance for their students.  The links below are examples from some of the institutions Unipol work with:

University of Leeds

Nottingham Trent University

The 2021 - 2022 Academic Year

What will the forthcoming academic year bring in student numbers?

Figures have now been released by UCAS showing that 37.9% of the entire UK 18 year old population is due to start a full-time undergraduate course:  a new high and surpassing last year’s equivalent figure of 36.4%. There will be 272,500 of this age cohort starting at UK universities - up by 7% on last year.
 
Record numbers of 18-year-olds in the UK have accepted university places this year, according to updated figures from the UCAS admissions service.
 
46,610 (up 5%) students from outside the EU have been accepted, while 12,920 (down 56%) students from the EU have a confirmed place. The sharp fall in EU students coming to the UK is why overall university numbers are slightly down this year. More young people (228,470 up 15%) were confirmed onto their first choice of course, which is why clearing numbers are 33% down (at 47,020).
 
In total, 507,610 students (of all ages and all domiciles) have been accepted, down less than 2% from last year.
 
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, says the continuing rise in UK student numbers showed "young people are voting with their feet and behaving entirely rationally". "They are not snowflakes who melt under heat. They are rational, ambitious and full of aspiration." Mr Hillman said university was still an ambition for families and that "when the labour market is in flux and the world is in crisis, getting more education is a very sensible response".

International students

Universities are preparing to welcome their second pandemic cohort. While much has changed for the better since the first intake of the crisis, including over 5 billion vaccines doses administered, the world and the international education sector seem far from a pre-pandemic sense of ‘normal’. Some signs point to a rapid recovery in student mobility to the UK, but close inspection raises more questions than assurances:
  • Will most international students arrive on UK campuses this autumn?
  • If not, when?
  • What risks could derail the recovery over a longer period?

To address these questions, Unipol have commissioned a report by Matt Durnin, Global Head of Insights & Consultancy at the British Council. The report considers:

  • student mobility trends of the recent past
  • the upcoming academic year, and
  • the long-term future.
The overriding finding is hopeful – if cautiously so. While the journey back to pre-pandemic trends will likely be longer than expected, the demand for international study has proved durable during the pandemic and the surprising successes of UK universities in 2020 are a testament to the flexibility and innovative capacity of the sector. It is also possible, however, that these attributes will be tested to an even greater degree over the next few years.
 
 
Social Distancing, Visitors and Social Interaction (subject to change as per local lockdown restrictions)

The latest Government guidance for universities was updated on 19th July covers social distancing on campus, testing, vaccination, travel arrangements and the re-opening of buildings and campuses.   

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.

Moving In and Out of Properties

 

Q: I am an international student from an amber country and my landlord will not let me self-isolate in my new property. My landlord will not provide alternative accommodation either - what can i do?

Find out why the landlord is refusing access as by just refusing the landlord would be in fundamental breach of contract unless there is a fair term in the contract that allows the landlord to refuse you access. Are other tenants complaining?  If so this is for the landlord to explain the legal position to the tenants and to talk through the official Government Guidance that says a shared flat or house is a single household (which people can join or leave) and that those needing to self-isolate should do so within their household.
 
There is specific advice on how to avoid the spread of infection within the household https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do
 
There is no Government guidance that says a self-isolating tenant cannot take up their tenancy and the only way this would be possible is if there was a clause in the tenancy making this condition clear when the tenancy was agreed. If your landlord is accredited with one of Unipol's Codes that your landlord had stopped you occupying your tenancy this complaint is likely to be upheld as a breach of the Code.
 
Q: My landlord has contacted me to say that i cannot move in to my new property as the current tenants are self-isolating - what should I do?

In this instance you should get as much information about when you will be able to move in and how the property will be prepared and cleaned beforehand.  Your landlord is following the Government guidance around self-isolation and although you do have a contract, public safety is paramount in this situation.  Your landlord should deduct the rent for the period you are not able to live in the property.   You should ask your landlord if they have any where temporarily for you to move in to during this period. 

The Government Guidance says "We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate.....You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating."

Q: I am currently self-isolating in my student property and my period of self-isolation 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. At the very least your landlord will be expected to return rent to the incoming tenants for the period they are unable to occupy the property and this will include several days after you leave to enable appropriate cleaning to take place.
 
You are therefore likely to be asked to pay rent for the period of your overstay (or possibly longer), plus cleaning costs .  Please read below for more information.
 

Q: I have told my landlord that I need to self-isolate after the end day to my contract and they have said I need to pay a full month's rent, what should I do?


At the least, you will be expected to pay rent for the period you need to remain in the property.  The legal position in normal circumstances is that when you do not vacate a property on time at the end of a fixed term AST, a statutory periodic tenancy arises.  The period of this new tenancy is the period for which rent was last payable under the fixed term tenancy (if your last payment was quarterly, then this will be the period of your statutory periodic tenancy).  Therefore if you are paying rent monthly, you would have a monthly statutory periodic tenancy.  You would be liable for one month’s rent and would have to give at least one month’s notice to end the tenancy. 
 
However, these are not normal circumstances, and although Unipol and the Unipol Codes can only have a limited role to play in how landlords charge rent, it may be helpful here to outline how the Unipol Codes will approach this were a complaint received about a member:
 
  • Setting unreasonable conditions for tenancy options. This would particularly be the case if a room had to be vacated/or remained in to comply with government guidance, and a landlord was charging rent beyond the period in which a room was occupied to comply with this guidance.
  • Unnecessarily rigid and inflexible conditions have been set by a landlord in matters relating to the tenancy which fail to appreciate the individual circumstances of the complainant
     
Any student making a complaint within these areas will be asked if they think they have any exceptional circumstances where their case should be considered individually by a supplier. Charging for a few extra days after the student(s) move out to allow for proper cleaning of the property prior to the new tenants moving in would not be considered unreasonable as this would be in line with the recommended cleaning guidelines in non-healthcare settings following a period of self-isolation and/or a positive Covid-19 infection.
 
If the Codes Complaints Investigator feels that the exceptional circumstances merits individual consideration they will forward these to the landlord for such consideration and it is expected that these representations will be properly considered and responded to in a timely manner by the supplier. Exceptional circumstances must relate to the individual circumstances of the complainant and could include a need to self-isolate in line with government guidance (with appropriate evidence of why this is necessary provided), they cannot simply state a sense of entitlement that contracted rent should not be charged in the light of the pandemic.
 
If your landlord/ managing agent is not a member of the Unipol Code it may still be helpful to show them these FAQs. However, ultimately it will be down to your landlord/agent to agree an approach with you. 
 
Giving Notice
 
If your landlord is demanding that you pay a full month's rent it is important for you to serve notice before the end of month your contract ends.  If you are still in occupation on first day of the following month, you won’t be able to give a clear month’s notice to end the tenancy at the end of that month, and you could be held liable for following month's rent as well.  An email expressing your intentions should be sufficient. Remember if you are in a joint contract (for example, a property with 5 occupants) under the law you are considered as one tenant so it is important that your notice states the intention of all of you to end the tenancy.
 
Unipol recommends that landlords and tenants try to be reasonable in what is a very challenging time and negotiate a reasonable approach that reflects actual costs/lost rent incurred.
 
It is likely that students who find themselves needing to self-isolate were unaware of the additional financial obligations they could now face.  It will be important that landlords and students take a reasonable approach and are prepared to put in place a payment plan where necessary. 
 
Some students may also be eligible for a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, if they are required to self-isolate. Information is available: HERE

Q: I am not currently in my student property, but am having to self-isolate.  Therefore, I cannot get back to remove all my belongings before my tenancy ends, what should I do?

 
Although this is a difficult situation and you cannot leave your current place of isolation you do still have responsibility to arrange to remove your possessions and vacate your student property on time. If you are in a shared property and you are part of a joint tenancy then you are treated as one tenant within the law.  This means the whole group is responsible for making sure the property is returned on time to your landlord. Your landlord has obligations to their incoming students and will need access to the property as soon as possible to prepare for the new tenants. Please see above for the possible consequences if you do not vacate your property on time.
 
You should arrange for your possessions to be packed and sent to your home address or stored with friends as appropriate.  If you don’t have anyone locally who can help you there are companies who can make the necessary arrangements.  You should also consider asking friends or family that are not local to help you.  If you are arranging for an external company there will be costs involved so you need to check how much the service will be and you will have to arrange with your landlord or the other residents a suitable time when they can let the company have access to the property. 

Here are some examples of companies that provide this service:

Lovespace – shipping and storage

PingLocker – packing, storage and shipping

PACK & SEND – packing, storage and shipping  

Please be aware that Unipol do not endorse any one company, and we would strongly recommend that you research any company you do choose to use.

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 after a period of time if you have not been in contact with them.

Q: I am currently self-isolating and i've informed my landlord that i cannot move out at the end of my contract but have been told that i still have to vacate the property on time.  What should i do?

 
It is likely that your landlord is worried about the disruption this will cause to in-coming students but you should remain where you are for the period of your self-isolation.  This is a public health issue.  There is help available for landlords and students who may need to arrange temporary accommodation and this is detailed above.  It is important that you remind your landlord of the advice surrounding moving home and self-isolation.
 
"Landlords should avoid moving tenants who are showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating." and "We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate.....You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating."
 
If your landlord is unclear of the rules around self-isolation and moving home and would like further advice please refer them to the guidance available here and if it will help please ask them to get in touch with Unipol for further clarification.
 
Do read above for the legal position on overstaying the end of your fixed term AST (Your contract).
 
Q: Do i need to tell my new landlord that i can't move in to my new property on the contract start date as i'm self-isolating?
 
It is a good idea to inform your new landlord of your circumstances as well as informing your current landlord.  This helps them to plan for your arrival.  You will still need to pay your rent for your new property.  If the rest of your housemates will be still be moving in on that day it is advisable to let your new landlord know.   

Q: I do not have a positive Covid-19 test result but someone in my household does.  Our tenancy comes to an end soon and I need to vacate my property, what should I do?

 
It is important to inform your landlord as soon as possible, particularly if the period of self-isolation for the household is likely to continue past the end date of your tenancy.  To protect yourself and other members of the household who have not received a positive test it is important to continue to minimise contact.  Government guidance on how to limit close contact can be found HEREFor example: If you have more than one bathroom in the property you should ask the person with a positive result to use a different bathroom. 
 
You should continue to follow the self-isolation guidelines until all members of the household are no longer symtomatic (at least 10 days from when their symptoms started or from the day they had the test, if they do not have symptoms).  
 
Please see above for the legal position on staying beyond the end of your fixed term AST (Your contract).

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

Yes but you should stay in regular contact with your landlord in case there are any current tenants who have tested positive for Covid-19 and may need to remain in the property longer.

The lastest guidance states: "Once you have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase or rent the property. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves if necessary, for example if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process, or has to self-isolate."

There is no specific Government advice for student accommodation.  However there was some advice updated on 19 July 2021 for cleaning in non-health care settings which states:

“The infection risk from a COVID-19 contaminated environment decreases over time. It is not yet clear at what point there is no risk from the virus, however, studies suggest that, in non-healthcare settings, the risk of residual infectious virus is likely to be significantly reduced after 48 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.

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. 

Repeat or frequent temporary changes in household unit will increase the risk of
disease transmission and staying within the same household unit will facilitate test and
trace activities in the event of COVID-19. Those forming new households should take
account of the guidance on meeting people from outside your household for advice on
household interactions.

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 10 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 10 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. Please note the advice above is likely to change from 19th August following the relaxation of isolation rules for double vaccinated adults.

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. 

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 to check the current social distancing rules.  Help from parents and friends should be 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: 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?  Not all my housemates are here and we 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

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.

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.  

This Section has two sub-sections:

Tenancies and Rent Refunds

Q: I am struggling financially, can my university help? 

A: If you are struggling financially you should contact your Students' Union for advice and support on how to access hardship funding.
 

Q: Should my landlord stop charging rent during the pandemic?

A: The Government issued its latest guidance on 20 July 2021 which states:

"Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability…Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
 
In many if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If your ability to pay will be affected, it’s 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.”

This guidance remains current.

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.

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.

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

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

No, it is unlikely this will be adopted in England.  Some aspects of The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Act have been extended from 30th September 2021 to 31st March 2022. Included in this extension is the provision for students to terminate their tenancies. This means that student who entered into a student residential tenancy after 27th May 2020 can give 28 days’ notice to their accommodation provider until 31st March 2021. Students can only exercise this notice to leave periods for reasons relating to Covid-19.

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.

House Hunting for Next Academic Year

Q: I've received 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 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 is happening about viewing properties for next academic year?

A: Following the lifting of many restrictions in July 2021 property agents, conveyancers and other professionals may choose to retain some modifications to how they work, to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could impact how you view properties and may include initial virtual viewings before in-person viewings, asking you to vacate your current property during viewings, and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else views it or moves in. 

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.

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.  

Living in a student property

Q: I'm self-isolating and my landlord says they need to carry out a repair, what should I do?

No work should be carried out in the home where a tenant or the household is self-isolating because one or more family members has symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk that affects the safety of the tenants, their household or to the public.  Any routine repairs can and should wait until the social isolation period has ended.

The Government has recently updated it's "Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)"

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 self-isolating 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?

  • 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.