Frequently Asked Questions

 

  • Coronavirus and housing

    LAST UPDATED 15/05/20

    • Now that teaching is online and I’ve gone home can I cancel my contract and get a refund?
      • University managed halls (University Locks)

        'The University has agreed that students living in our managed accommodation at University Locks will not be charged for the remainder of their contracts if they have now left the halls. This can be backdated as far as 18 March – the point at which it was announced face-to-face teaching would end.

        Students’ bills will now be recalculated and they will be send a new statement showing whether any rent is still outstanding or if a refund is due. Any students who have not left yet, but are planning to do so, will not be charged from the point at which they depart, and they should let the Accommodation Office know what their plans are.

        This agreement also applies for students who have left University Locks, but still have possessions there as they were unable to take them when they left. Students should not come back to collect belongings at this point as that would contravene government guidelines – the Accommodation Office will be in touch to make arrangements as soon as it is safe to do so.'

      • Private halls

        Some private providers are offering refunds; you should check with your provider regarding whether they can terminate early. These providers are allowing cancellations provided the instructions are followed:

        • Unite (Jennens Court, Lakeside, Staniforth House and others) – see here for full details
        • Student Roost (The Heights, Old Fire Station) - see here for full details
        • Liberty Living (Queens Hospital Close and others) - see here for full details
        • HOST (Londonderry House) - see here for full details
        • IQ (Studio 51, Penworks House, Broderick House) - see here for full details
      • Properties managed by BCUSU Homes

        BCUSU Homes have sent the following information to tenants: ‘Your Students’ Union does not own the property that you live in. Our position is a neutral one since we only provide a service to the property owner which involves a combination of letting the property, collecting rents and providing a maintenance service.

        At this time, in a constantly changing landscape, the Students’ Union’s advice to you is to continue paying your rent in the manner prescribed in your tenancy agreement until further directives are received from central government.

        By continuing to pay your rent you preserve your rights as a tenant and should there be any type of recompense or compensation in the future it can be paid to you retrospectively.

        Your tenancy agreement does not make any provision for terminating early, even in these extraordinary times, however we will follow any government guidelines regarding student accommodation once they have been announced.

        It is worth mentioning that your property is privately owned whereby your landlord still has all his or her financial obligations to meet.

        So our advice to you is to maintain your payments so as not to negate any rights that you have as a tenant.

        Our Accounts Department is happy to discuss any payment terms with you if you need more flexibility in the way that you pay your rent. If you feel you would benefit from this, please send a proposal to Nancy in our Accounts Dept who you can reach at nancy.molanga@bcsh.co.uk.'

    • Is there any other way of ending my contract early?

      Most student tenancies do not have a ‘break clause’ so you will remain liable for the rent until the end of the fixed-term. 

      If you have a joint tenancy agreement, as most students in private-rented accommodation do, if one of your housemates doesn’t pay their rent, you have “joint and several liability” for the rent. This means that that you and your housemate are liable for all the rent due - so you could be asked to pay it (as could guarantors). 

      Our advice is as follows:

      • As you are legally liable for your rent, you should continue to pay it.  
      • Speak to your landlord or agent and see if you can negotiate an agreement with them. Whilst there is no obligation for them to make any concessions, you may be able to arrange something such as deferring rent payments, creating payment plans or reducing/waiving rent. You can download a letter from the BCUSU President and send it to your landlord to persuade them to either release you from your rental agreement early, or to reduce your rent.
      • Check whether your contract has a break-clause. If in doubt, send SU Advice a copy of your contract and we can check for you. 
      • Your contract will usually say that you need to give notice if you are going to be away from the accommodation for a period of time – check your contract and let your landlord/agent know if you are going to be away. 
      • You will remain liable for the utility bills until the end of your tenancy agreement. If your rent includes an amount for bills – you could ask the landlord/agent to reduce your rent amount if you will not be staying in the property (and they do not agree to end your tenancy early).

      If you’re struggling to pay your rent because you’ve lost your job or have moved out and need to pay rent on another property you can apply to the University’s Hardship Fund. Details on how to apply can be found here. If you need help with your Hardship Fund application or have any other questions about financial help, please log a call via iAsk.

    • What about contracts for 2020/21?

      If you are wanting to cancel the contract due to the uncertainty around the Covid-19 crisis you could try contacting the landlord. They will normally release tenants if suitable replacement tenants can be found before or after the contract starts.

      If you have signed a contract and/or paid a deposit then it is likely that you still have a legally binding contract. A landlord could take action against you if you fail to pay the rent and they were unable to re-let the property.

      It may be too early to make decisions about next year and hopefully the situation will be improving by the summer and normal study arrangements will be in place for the start of the new academic year. Of course, this cannot be guaranteed at this stage.

    • I’m moving out, what will happen to my deposit?

      If you have paid a deposit and are moving out ask when you will get your deposit back. Deposit scheme rules vary but you may only have 3 months (less one day) from the end of the tenancy, or from vacating the property, to access the “alternative dispute resolution service” that the schemes offer.

    • What happens if I move out before the end of my tenancy and don’t pay my rent?

      The landlord may take action to get the rent from you, or from your guarantor if you have one. They may take some of this money from your deposit. If the amount you owe them exceeds your deposit, they may write to you to formally request the money. You might be charged interest on the amount owing which should not exceed 3% above the bank of England base Rate. If you still don’t pay, they may start a court claim against you.

      If your landlord starts court action against you for unpaid rent, this is not a criminal trial or a criminal offence, and you won’t get a criminal record. You will be asked to attend court, and if you don't attend the hearing will go ahead in your absence. If the judge decides you should have paid the money, you will be asked to pay it as part of the judgement. You may also be asked to pay the landlord's court costs.

      If you still don’t pay the money after the court has decided you should, you may receive a further judgement that can negatively affect your credit rating in the UK. This may make it difficult for you to borrow money or pass reference checks for rented accommodation in the UK in the future. If you are worried about the impact of this on any current or future visa in the UK, please seek advice from an immigration advice service.

      If your landlord is threatening to take you to court, please contact Shelter for advice.

      If you’re struggling to pay your rent because you’ve lost your job or have moved out and need to pay rent on another property you can apply to the University’s Hardship Fund. Details on how to apply can be found here. If you need help with your Hardship Fund application or have any other questions about financial help, please log a call via iAsk.

    • Will I be evicted if I get into rent arrears?

      In reality, evictions in the student housing sector are very rare even during normal times. Landlords are more likely to pursue small claims action to recover any unpaid rent after the end of the tenancy.

      Most students will have an assured shorthold tenancy, in which case a landlord cannot evict you without first serving appropriate notices and obtaining a court order granting possession of the property.

      The Government has published guidance protecting renters during the Covid 19 outbreak, which means that landlords must give at least 3 month notice prior to applying for a possession order. This will apply until at least 30.09.2020. Any evictions which were due to take place are suspended until 18.06.2020.

      There is also an expectation that landlords will work with the tenant to find alternative payment plans and strengthening of the pre action protocols which landlords must follow prior to taking possession proceedings.

      If you live with a resident landlord, you do not have the same protection from eviction; there are different rules for your landlord. In this situation, the landlord can evict you without a court order but you are still legally entitled to reasonable notice. This may depend on what is in the contract you signed but is usually one month. The landlord can change the locks themselves.

      If a landlord is threatening to evict you please log an enquiry with us, BCUSU Advice Team. You can also ring 0121 303 5070 and speak with the private tenancy team at Birmingham City Council if you think you are being illegally evicted.

    • Where can get further information?

      The University of London Housing Services has more useful information about Covid-19 Coronavirus & Private Housing Rights such as more detail on evictions which we advise you to read. 

    • Where can I get further advice?

      You can log an enquiry with us, BCUSU Advice Team.

      You can also contact Shelter who are housing specialists.

Further Advice