Private halls companies take £120m hit to let students out of contracts early

Some students are being told they won’t have to pay if they leave halls early

Students in some private halls won’t be forced to pay rent on their rooms if they leave and go home.

Large companies are taking hits of up to £120m in order to let students off rent, as many head home after their unis stopped lectures.

Unite, which also owns Liberty Living, made the offer to its 50,000 students and told the stock market the move had been made to protect its reputation.

“If you do not plan to continue staying in your Unite home for your third University term (so from after Easter),” the company wrote on its website, “we will treat this as a return of your room (in effect a surrender of your tenancy agreement with us) and you will not have to pay your outstanding rental payment.”

Student Roost, who run private halls in 20 cities across the country, also announced it is letting students cancel payments if they’ve moved out. As recently as Monday, the company had told tenants: “whilst we recognise some residents may choose to return to their home location where studies have moved online, this does not equate to a reason for termination of the Tenancy Agreement.”

Today, however, it backtracked and announced: “As these are unprecedented circumstances, we have made an exception to our normal cancellation policy to support our residents.

“We will be cancelling residents’ payments from 1 May if you plan to move out, or have already moved out of your Roost home and will not be returning after the Easter break.”

One student living in Student Roost’s Liverpool block told The Tab it was good, but fell short of a full refund as rent was paid termly.

“We’ve already paid up until 1st May so the final payment covers May through to July, so we’re not too angry. Would be nice for a refund of April payments but I think we’ve got far enough already,” said Maya, a Liverpool Uni student.

Unite is also offering free accommodation throughout summer for international students unable to return home after their tenancies finish.

To pay for it, Unite is deferring development and not paying out a dividend to shareholders.

Not all companies are being so kind, though. Student Housing, which operates in Lincoln and Nottingham, said students should still be paying rent as they’ll be receiving student loans.

“Our tenants have told us that they just want to go home to be with their parents and families rather than remaining in their university cities, as they can now complete their work online from the comfort of home,” Marcus Askam-Yates, director of Student Housing told Property Industry Eye.

“The tenancy does not require the tenant to physically reside within the property, and it is their right to vacate their rented property, but the tenancy agreement remains unaffected.”

Is your private halls company refusing to let you out of your contract? Get in touch at [email protected]

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