COVID-19: Important Updates (26th March)

Below is an update on the work of our Advice Team, who are continuing to operate and empower students to make the right decisions for them.  

If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the team or visit our Student FAQ page. For the latest information on Covid-19, please head to our Union or University Webpages, the MyStaffsUni App or check your student email.

Please take care, #BeKind, and Stay Safe

Key Points

  • Details for contacting the Advice Team
  • An update on the FoodHub
  • Key updates on Student Finance and accommodation
  • Where you can access additional support

Contacting the Advice Team

The Advice Team have been working hard all week to support students as usual and are adjusting to working remotely. We’re offering email advice and digital advice via Microsoft Teams.

  • If you want general advice via email, get in touch with us at sac@staffs.ac.uk
  • If you are looking to book an appointment and speak with an Advisor via Microsoft Teams, get in touch with us at union@staffs.ac.uk or call us on 01782 294629 weekdays from 9am. As always we advise you to contact us as early in the day as you can for appointment slots as they can go quickly.

You can read more on our remote work here.

Our work continues on Student Finance, Money, Debt, Housing and Academic Issues so you should continue to contact us if you need help in any of these areas.

The FoodHub

We are continuing the provision of the FoodHub for students who are experiencing severe financial hardship and are without food. We will be providing emergency food bags to students who we have spoken with and assessed as being in need. The details on collecting the food bags from campus will be shared with the student at the end of their virtual appointment.

Key Update: Student Finance

The Student Loan Company have confirmed that students will still receive the next instalment of their maintenance loan as planned.

Whilst the Customer Contact Centres have temporarily closed until alternative arrangements can be organised, you can continue to apply online for student finance as normal.

You’ll find the full update here and you can contact the Advice Team on sac@staffs.ac.uk if you are experiencing any issues with your Student Finance.

Key Update: Student Accommodation

This week 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:

  1. Ensure all tenants and landlords have access to clear and holistic public health advice;
  2. Every student landlord must offer a no-penalty release from tenancy contracts for the current and next academic year;
  3. Government must ban all evictions, for all renters, for the duration of the crisis;
  4. 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;
  5. 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 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]

 

[Date]

 

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? 

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Your Address] 

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. 

 

Where you can access additional support

We understand the impact that current events are having on our students and we want you to know that you are not alone.

Firstly, Mind, the charity for better mental health, have some handy guidance on Coronavirus and your wellbeing which you should give a read.

Secondly, staying connected is really important in these tough times and there are plenty of ways for you to do this remotely. Lots of students have already joined our COVID-19 Community on Facebook and are finding new and unique ways to keep in touch and have fun.

Last but not least, the University’s Student Support and Wellbeing services remain operational and you can continue to connect virtually with:

  • The Student Hub Team
  • The Student Guidance Team
  • The Counselling Team
  • The Wellbeing Team
  • The Disability Support Team
  • The International Student Support Team
  • The Regional Access Centre
  • The Sexual Violence Liaison Officer (SVLO) Team
  • The Chaplaincy
  • The Library Services Team
  • The Careers Team

Don’t forget that you can also email Covid-19@staffs.ac.uk or call the University’s Helpline on 01782 298500 and your query will be directed to the most relevant person.