The Students' Union has published an update on the legal position of students wanting to terminate their tenancies early. The current crisis does not affect the law of contract regarding fixed-term tenancy agreements, but some private landlords are offering concessions i.e. a reduction in rent.
Key Update: Student Accommodation
We’ve had lots of students get in touch with us to say:
“I am no longer living in my student accommodation and have been told by my Landlord that I need to pay my rent for the remainder of the year. What can I do?”
As a student, it’s likely that your tenancy will be for a fixed-term. With a fixed-term tenancy, you need to pay rent until at least the end of the fixed-term that’s specified in your contract. You can only end your fixed-term tenancy early if your agreement says you can or by getting your landlord to agree to end your tenancy. This agreement might include a break clause, which means you can end the tenancy early. Most student tenancy agreements do not include a break clause, but you should check your agreement for details.
The current legal position:
- You must continue to pay your rent up to the end of the fixed-term that is stated in your contract;
- If you have a joint tenancy agreement, and one of your housemates doesn’t pay their rent, you will be “jointly and severally liable” for the rent. This means that that you and your housemates are liable for all the rent due - so you could be asked to pay it (as could your guarantors).
Our advice to you:
- If you are legally liable for your rent, you should continue to pay it;
- Check your contract to see if you need to give notice to your landlord if you are going to be away from your property for a period of time which if often around 30 days. If this is the case, let your landlord know if you are going to be away;
- Read your contract to see if there is a break clause included in it;
- Speak to your landlord to see if you can come to an arrangement. Your landlord does not have to help you, but we have written a template (available below) that you might find useful when contacting them;
- If your rent includes bills and you are away from your property, you could ask your landlord to reduce your rent. If your rent does not include bills, you remain liable for them until the end of your tenancy.
What is the Students’ Union doing?
The Students’ Union is calling on landlords, agents, and tenants to work together and demonstrate goodwill to ensure that students are not punished for following government guidance. We’re asking students to comply with their legal obligations but we’re also asking landlords to be sympathetic and do the right thing by their tenants.
We’re also joining NUS in calling for the government to meet five key demands for student renters:
- Ensure all tenants and landlords have access to clear and holistic public health advice;
- Every student landlord must offer a no-penalty release from tenancy contracts for the current and next academic year;
- Government must ban all evictions, for all renters, for the duration of the crisis;
- Government must ensure that renters who are financially impacted by the Coronavirus have their forthcoming rents subsidised, significantly reduced, or waived entirely for 3 months – with the option to renew if needed;
- The government must enact a universal freeze on all rent increases for the next 12 months.
What can you do?
We need to be clear that only a change in the law can help student renters now. You can lobby your MP and ask them to join us in calling on the government to do more to support student renters by emailing them and asking for their support.
Template Letter to your Landlord
[Name of Landlord]
[Address of landlord]
Dear [Landlord’s name],
Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, all teaching on my course has ceased. Ordinarily, I would be resident here for the duration of the academic year, but now as there are no facilities on campus and no teaching is available, I would like to be with my family [amend to suit your circumstances which might be:
· that you are abiding by the conditions of the government’s response to stay where you are and so you are unable to return to your accommodation;
· that you are self-isolating, in line with government advice, and are unable to return to your accommodation;
· that you have had to return home to support a vulnerable family member;
· that you are facing serious financial hardship due to the loss of a job as a result of the pandemic;
· any other reasons personal to you].
I understand that I am bound by the tenancy agreement until the end of the contract, but is it possible to come to a voluntary arrangement to terminate this early?
Note: you will stand a better chance if you put the above in your own words. A landlord may be suspicious if they get several identically worded requests.