There has been concern among many of our members as student tenants ask for contracts to be cancelled and rent to be waived. As many members have mortgages to pay and they rely on the residual income for their pensions, any rent reduction puts them in a very difficult position financially. The good news is that none of the agencies involved support these requests – the University, the government, local MP's and others are all saying that students need to sit tight and pay their rent if at all possible. We look at who is saying what and where you can go for advice or guidance should you be affected.
Why Are Some Students Asking To Cancel Contracts?
Those staying in University owned halls buildings have been told they can be released from the final 2 months of their contract and will not need to pay from April 25th. On the basis that the vast majority of those in halls have already gone home (unlike most students living in the community in HMO's) the Uni have probably decided it is cheaper and more sensible to get the last few out and close the buildings completely than to continue to operate them for a small few remaining residents. One wag did suggest that the Uni's generosity on rents was perhaps intended to deflect calls for a refund of tuition fees, but we have no evidence to support this suggestion.
Unite for Students have taken a similar position with their halls – partly because they are largely 'Uni nominated' so it would be difficult to refund those allocated by the Uni but not those recruited privately and also, presumably, because with near empty buildings, it is cheaper just to empty them completely than to keep them operating with very few residents.
The bad news is that on hearing that fellow students are being 'let off' their rent, a small minority of students have wrongly assumed that the Coronavirus measures put in place by the government and others entitle them to ask for their rents to be waived.
What Is The Position of the University?
They have advised students living in the private rented sector to continue paying rent if they are able to, the full text of the email sent to students can be seen here.
What Does The Government Say / And Local MP's?
Additionally, several members have written to their MP asking for their support. Here is what Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan has said in response to concerns about the impact on small private landlords of his public statements that student halls waive rent for students: "the issues affecting tenants and landlords in the private rented sector are very different to those of students in purpose built student accommodation, which is why his work is very specific on that sector of the student housing market. This has been made very clear in the communications issued by this office and information published online on this matter.
Stephen is also taking action to help ensure the Government packages support those who are self-employed, and is supporting calls on Ministers to see what assistance can be provided to the PRS and landlords in any financial difficulties. He awaits a response from Government on this matter."
Where Can You Get More Information?
What Is Our Advice?
Obviously, every situation is different and you know your tenants better than anyone else, so you need to look at your specific situation and the various options detailed above and decide what is best for you.
Generally, we would say:
"You have signed a legally binding agreement, please check the terms of your agreement with me.
In some circumstances you can DEFER rent but remain liable for the full amount.
Please confirm that you are still in receipt of a student loan and if yes, the date and amount you are due.
If you have suffered a loss of income, please provide your last 3 months payslips and notice of Furlough from your employer.
Please state what steps you have taken, by seeking Furlough payments of benefits to mitigate your loss.
I will require all of these details, together with an agreed repayment plan, if I am to seek any arrangement with my mortgage provider allowing me to defer my repayments."
He also points out that if they refuse to pay or make an arrangement ultimately, he will have recourse to the county court, and will seek an order that they pay his costs. He also reminds them that they should think very carefully about the impact on their credit score, future ability to rent property or obtain credit, or enter a profession with a CCJ registered against their name
We hope all of the above is irrelevant to you – but if it is not and you do have concerns, do let us know – we have no meetings scheduled at present but could easily set up an online meeting for affected student landlords if you want to discuss some of these issues with others facing the same problems.
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.