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CUSU Housing Q and A – National Lockdown 3.0

You may have heard that some students across the UK are planning to take part in a rent strike over the lockdown period. This has come about due to students feeling they are being charged rent unfairly for accommodation they are unable to access with the current lockdown restrictions. Some students are also looking to end their accommodation contracts early as they feel unsure about what the rest of the academic year might look like in terms of on campus teaching and learning.

It is a stressful and challenging time so we want to ensure that you are fully aware of your rights as a student and any potential repercussions of taking part in a rent strike so you can make an informed decision on whether or not to participate.

 

What is a Rent Strike?

A rent strike is a form of protest whereby those involved refuse to pay their rent until their demands are met by their landlord.

The strikes at Coventry University involve students who reside in University owned Halls of Residence and private accommodation. These students have pledged to withhold rent until the following demands are met by Coventry University, private accommodation providers and landlords:

  • 100% rent rebate for the duration that students are unable to return to campus due to lockdown restrictions.
  • Contract releases for those unable to return to campus for the remainder of the academic year.
  • No repercussions or penalties for those who partake in the rent strike.

 

There are also demands not directly related to rent more specifically targeted at just the University:

  • The University to lobby the government for more investment in student mental health support and increased financial hardship support.
  • No job losses at the University due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Better communication from the University to students.
  • Further staff support and training on online teaching through zoom and other related platforms. 

 

What is the University currently offering?

Following the most recent national lockdown announcement, the University confirmed:

"All students who have not returned to university-owned accommodation after 5 January as a result of government restrictions and have paid their first instalment in full as of 5 January will be eligible to request an 80% rebate for the period from 5 January - 6 February. If eligible, the rebate you receive will be dependant on your individual payment schedule. Recipients of accommodation bursary awards will only receive a rebate on the payments you have made. Rebate applications must be received by 16 February with a view for the discount to be credited to student accounts before the April rent scheduled payment."

For more information, you can contact the FutureLets by emailing unihalls@futurelets.co.uk.

 

What if I live in private accommodation?

We also know most students stay in accommodation not owned by the University and have either not been offered refunds or offered rates at a much less generous level than the University. We are working hard to pressure private landlords to also offer equitable rebates to all students.  FutureLets are also in talks with the private landlords they work with about offering reasonable rebates to students.

 

For those who rent with Unite Students Accommodation, they have stated:

"Eligible students will be able to apply for a discount of 50% of their rent for a total of four weeks, to be credited in March. … To be eligible, students will need to be up to date with their rent payment as of 31 January 2021 and not be in residence in a Unite Students property between 18 January and 14 February 2021."

 

For those who rent through iQ Accommodation, they have stated:

"If you pay your rent directly to iQ, and have been unable to return to your room, we will be offering up to a 6 week rent free period  from 5 January until 15 February. The relevant amount will be credited to your iQ rental account by the end of March 2021, provided you are up to date with your payments. To request your rent free period, you need to log into your iQ resident portal and select the ‘Lockdown Discount’ button to submit your request."

We will continue to update this article as other private accommodation providers release statements.

 

What will happen if I stop paying my rent?

Not paying your rent will be a breach of your tenancy agreement. As a result, the University, your accommodation provider, or landlord may take legal action against you, such as eviction and obtaining a County Court Judgement (CCJ) to recover the money owed. If granted a CCJ, they could also take further legal action against you for example, getting another court order which allows them to have money deducted from your wages to pay off the debt you owe them. A CCJ will affect your credit rating meaning you may have difficulty getting credit and borrowing money in the future. Further information can be found on the Citizens Advice page.

 

Will I be asked to leave my course?

The Competition and Markets Authority guidance on consumer law in higher education confirms that universities cannot prevent students from progressing or graduating if they owe non-academic debts.

 

Where can I get Housing Advice?

We know this will be a very worrying time for many students and we want to do our best to support our members. If you would like general housing support, we would encourage you to look through the CUSU Housing webpages or the Citizens Advice Student Housing webpage for more information.

For those who would benefit from individual support, you can make an appointment to see a trained welfare advisor from the Student Union Advice Centre (SUAC). For more information about this service and how to book an appointment please click here.

 

Can I end my tenancy early?

Due to the uncertainty around how long lockdown restrictions will last, you may be wondering if it is possible to end your tenancy agreement early. Each tenancy agreement will be different so we would encourage you to thoroughly read through yours so you understand what your options are.  

Some may allow you to leave the accommodation early but still require you to pay most or all of the balance of the rent payments set out in the tenancy agreement. Others may have a 'break-clause' within them that allows you to end a fixed term tenancy early and tell you when this can apply. 

If you currently rent University owned halls, there may be a break-clause within the contract that allows you to end the tenancy early if the campus is closed for more than 21 days. Please ensure you thoroughly review your tenancy agreement so you are aware of the available options and any requirements to be met.

 

How else can I voice my opinion?

We know how important it is for students to be able to voice their opinions which is why we work hard to ensure students are well represented.

Our Student Voice team have secured an opportunity to discuss these issues with members of the University Senior Leadership team. This will be livestreamed on Facebook at 14:00 (GMT) on January 26th. You can submit your questions in advance and find out more about the event.

If you would like support with accommodation campaigning, please reach out to our current VP Welfare & Inclusion, Abimbola Ojo, by emailing vpwelfar.su@coventry.ac.uk. You may also want to consider running in the upcoming spring elections if you are interested in representing the views of your peers.

 

 
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