As a student, do I still have to pay rent until the end of the year?

Renting Apr 6, 2020

It’s been a strange year for everyone including university students. All teaching is now conducted online and summer exams may or may not go ahead (UK student unions are calling for them to be cancelled).  

If you have already moved home after all your courses went digital and your part-time job got cancelled until further notice, you are not alone. A lot of students like you are asking if they can pause or break their housing contracts to avoid more fees.

Here I break down the common questions for university students.

Are there any updates from universities?

The updates are very much on a case by case basis. Cambridge University has completely shut, leaving students seeking alternative accommodation arrangements, Cardiff University went a step further and wrote a letter to accommodation providers asking them to release students from their housing contracts.

Be sure to get in contact with your student union if you have not received updates about your situation.

What are the updates from accommodation providers?

There has also been no standard that student halls are all following. Here are three different examples responding to the pandemic.

  • Student accommodation provider ‘Unite Students’ has announced that they are going to allow students to cancel their accommodation if they are not intending to return for the summer term.
  • Student accommodation Bristol Digs have sent out an email stating that student’s final rent payment is due on 1st April "regardless of when your student loans come in and the current situation with Covid-19".
  • Private halls provider in Belfast, Student Roost have said that they will give students the option to cancel their accommodation from 1 May.

If you are looking to join action groups or organise one in your area, Rent Strike and various student bodies across the UK are posting information here.

How are Student Unions reacting?

The National Union of Students has called on landlords to meet key demands. Some of them have been met in recent government announcements including the ban on evictions (there are certain variables on this as it does not apply where the entire university and accompanying housing is shut down).  

The key part for you is the demand that “every landlord must offer students a no-penalty early release from tenancy contracts for the current and next academic year”. These have yet to be implemented and would be the most significant. Some MPs have written letters of support but it is still unclear when further action will be taken by the relevant bodies. Follow ⁦⁦@nusuk for the latest updates.

You want to move out, what notice do you need to give?

We understand (all too much) that you might want to cut your losses and try to decrease any costs as soon as possible. Here is what you can to do depending on where you are renting:

Student accommodation or private halls

This will be dependent on the contract you have signed - most student accommodation contracts are for the full university term.

If you have not been receiving updates from your accommodation provider, be sure to get in contact with them now. It is worth reviewing your contract (look for clauses under the heading ‘Termination’) and connecting with other renters to organise a video call to chat about your options with your accommodation provider. The more people together, the more impact you may have.

Private residential tenancies - Scotland

Since the changes in December 2017, there are no fixed terms in your contract. You can serve your notice and will only be accountable for the 28 days notice.

What you need to do if you want to move out

You will have to give the landlord 28 days notice in writing which needs to include

  • Outline that this is your letter of notice
  • State the address of the rental
  • Include the date you want the tenancy to end
  • If there are any outstanding bills, be sure to include when you will pay this
  • Your signature
  • Make sure that it is confirmed that you can send your notice via email

Read more on Scotland’s private residential tenancies here.

Private residential tenancies - England and Wales

If you are privately renting, you’ll need to check on your contract if you are on a fixed term or periodic contract.

If you are fixed term:

This means that you are set to pay rent for a certain period of time. There may be a break clause in your contract, which means an outline of when you can end your contract early. You will want to check this otherwise it will be about negotiating with your landlord or letting agency.

If you are periodic:

This means the contract runs on a week to week or month to month basis. You will need to give:

  • 4 weeks’ notice for a weekly tenancy
  • 1 month's notice for a monthly tenancy

Your notice should be submitted in writing and include:

  • Outline that this is your letter of notice
  • State the address of the rental
  • Include the date you want the tenancy to end
  • If there are any outstanding bills, be sure to include when you will pay this
  • Your signature
  • Make sure that it is confirmed that you can send your notice via email

Read more about ending your periodic tenancy here.

You’ve negotiated with your student housing, agent or landlord and they’ve agreed to end your tenancy early.

That’s great! You’ll want to get everything in writing to make sure that they fulfil the terms of the changed contract. It would also be worth sharing your outcome with those who are renting with you or on your student forums so that others can benefit too.

Make sure you are following these guidelines on best practice when moving. If you have already moved out, you may want to negotiate keeping your belongings somewhere to ensure that you can move at a better time.

Those are the updates for now, I’ll be keeping you updated or follow Fronted here where we’ll also be posting updates.

Jamie Campbell

Co-founder of Fronted