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Reimburse student rents for all accommodation not used during this academic year

Submitted by Kelvin Karim on Monday 16th November 2020

Published on Thursday 26th November 2020

Current status: Open

Open until: Wednesday 26th May 2021

Current Signatures: 39,912
(count is updated approximately hourly)

Relevant Departments

Tagged with

2020 ~ Access ~ billing ~ Bills ~ Covid ~ Covid-19 ~ Education ~ Government ~ Higher Education ~ Landlord ~ Landlords ~ learning ~ Library ~ Outbreak ~ property ~ remain ~ Return ~ Universal ~ Universities

Petition Action

Reimburse student rents for all accommodation not used during this academic year

Petition Details

Government needs to reimburse students who have paid for university or accommodation rented from private landlords they have not used during the Covid-19 outbreak. This is to include rent, utility bills and standing charges relating to the rented property. Students are least able to bear the losses.

Additional Information

Higher education students for 2020-21 were advised that universities would be open for business. Tuition was to involve varying degrees of face-to-face learning. Given that learning is now exclusively online and that students are often unable to access library areas in which to do self-study, universities are far from open. Social activity is nil. Students now have no need to remain in accommodation and should be free to return home without incurring financial (rent/bill) losses going forward.

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Government Response

The Government responded to this petition on Tuesday 2nd March 2021

Accommodation providers are autonomous and responsible for setting rent agreements. We urge them to ensure policies are fair and have students’ best interests at heart.

Since universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and responsible for setting their own rent agreements, the government plays no role in the provision of student residential accommodation.

This has been a very difficult time for students and we welcome the decision from many universities and accommodation providers to offer rent rebates for students who need to stay away from their term-time address, and we urge all large providers to join them and offer students partial refunds. We ask all providers of student accommodation including universities, to make sure their rental policies have students’ best interests at heart and are communicated clearly. Government has no plans to reimburse student rents at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation to look at what impact our funding is having. Whether a student is entitled to a refund or to an early release from their contract will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between them and their provider.

We recognise that in these exceptional circumstances some students may face financial hardship. The Department for Education has worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support. The Government is also making available an additional £50m of hardship funding this financial year. In total we have made £70m of funding available for student hardship given the £20m made available to higher education providers in December.

Maintenance loans are available as a contribution towards a student’s living costs while attending university. The system targets the most living cost support at those from the lowest income families, who need it most.

The Government wants to make sure all students receive the right amount of student support to complete their studies. Students who have been awarded the maximum loan for living costs for 2020/21 do not need to do anything, as they will receive the maximum level of support as planned. Students who have applied for a loan for living costs for 2020/21 and have been awarded a lower amount than the maximum and believe their household income for the current tax year (2020-21) will drop by at least 15% compared to the household income they provided when they were initially assessed, can apply for their entitlement to be reassessed. Information on entitlement and how to apply can be found online at https://media.slc.co.uk/sfe/currentyearincome/students.html. Students and their parents should read the guidance fully before making an application or phoning Student Finance England.

Because of the changing position relating to face-to-face teaching and occupation of accommodation, students’ loan entitlements for the current term will not be reassessed if they are still incurring accommodation costs away from home; meaning that students in receipt of the ‘living away from home’’ loan will retain the maintenance loans paid at the start of term, which will be repaid in the usual way. This should help to ensure students have the financial support they need during these exceptional circumstances.

Students undertaking courses that would normally require attendance on-site, but for which learning has moved either fully or partially online due to Covid-19, will qualify for living costs support in the 2020/21 academic year as they would ordinarily, provided they continue to engage with their higher education provider. This also applies when the student is prevented from attending the course physically and is required to study online due to shielding.

If students have concerns about their accommodation fees, they should first raise their concerns with their accommodation provider. If their concerns remain unresolved, and their HE provider is involved in the provision of the accommodation, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) for Higher Education to consider their complaint. If a student needs help, organisations such as Citizens Advice offer a free service, providing information and support.

If a student thinks their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/, https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain and https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml

Department for Education

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/560735)

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