Private halls company tells student to put room on Gumtree to get a refund

‘They’re more concerned about profits than the wellbeing of their students’

A private halls company told a student to put her room on Gumtree if she wanted to get out of paying thousands for a room she was no longer using.

Amira Khoda, who rents with Stay Club in Camden, left her halls because of lockdown and was trying to negotiate a release from her contract when the company told her “the only option to recover any rent paid is to find a replacement tenant,” suggesting she sublet her room for them using Gumtree, Spare Room, an estate agent, or social media.

Amira says Stay Club, who even reminded her that subletting is illegal, are “more concerned about profits than the wellbeing of their students”.

As the crisis interrupted her first year of law and UCL told students to return home, Amira left her halls. She shares her room and paid an instalment of £3-400o, out of the £19,000 annual rent, covering the time she can’t use it.

Frustrated at seeing other halls providers offering refunds and releases to students who cannot use their rooms, Amira feels unfairly treated, as she has not managed to get out of her contract.

When Amira first asked for a refund, at the end of March, Stay Club refused, but told her: “Please note, that subletting is illegal in the UK, however if you introduce to us the new London student taking over your tenancy, we will be happy to have them in our residence.

They told Amira that the decision to leave “has been taken by yourselves, thus a refund will not be possible.”

Stay Club pushed the idea she should fill her room during lockdown, telling Amira: “The only option to recover any rent paid is to find a replacement tenant.

“Most of the students are using websites like Gumtree, Spear Room [Spare Room], their own social media or even paid estate agent to find a replacement tenant,” the email told her.

Amira claims she was also told by an employee at the reception desk that the rent she had paid for months she wasn’t able to use the room could be used as credit towards next year’s rent.

However, when she asked the person at Stay Club handling her case, she was told the scheme was not on offer: “We do not have a written proof, thus we are not able to offer this credit scheme.”

When she then asked the person working on the desk to confirm in writing what he had allegedly said, he told her in an email “clear memory of speaking to you directly is difficult to recall.”

Amira and other tenants pushing for a refund were told they’d hear back two weeks ago, but haven’t, and have even had calls and emails ignored.

“Everyone is going through this is unprecedented thing and they’re just trying to capitalise on it,” says Amira. “They just really don’t care about the people who live there.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to do, because I don’t really think they can ignore us forever.”

SOAS fresher Lucia Cuco also rents from Stay Club in Camden, and returned to Spain when coronavirus hit. “My mother owns a company and she will probably have to close it down. We are really going through tough times,” Lucia told The Tab.

“I paid the last instalment of my residence before leaving, with money I earned working in two different jobs, all my savings. When I understood that I wouldn’t come back to London, I wrote The stay Club asking for solutions.”

However, Lucia says she’s received similar treatment to Amira. “The Stay Club not only was not supportive or understanding at all, but it is now ignoring me and not replying to my emails and demands.”

Martyn Duguid, Chief Operating Officer of The Stay Club, told The Tab: “The Stay Club continue to provide our London leading services for the remainder of this academic and future academic years, by continuing to offer a comfortable and safe place to self-isolate through the extended ‘lock down’ period and thereafter, as per the UK government’s guidance. We are in constant communication to our residents to ensure they and our communities remain safe and are adhering to the social distancing measures within each Stay Club – Camden, Colindale, Kentish Town and Willesden.

“We are mindful that a proportion of our residents have returned home to self-isolate and have requested to terminate their contracts ahead of their agreed end dates. We have and continue to collate these requests through our property concierge desks, emails, calls, social media and other platforms. All requests have now been centrally collated to our central reservation team and we are communicating with each individual guest regarding their specific request. The Stay Club have kept each of our guests updated weekly throughout this process, with the latest update provided on Friday 1st May confirming that all requests will be concluded by Friday 8th May, this week.

“We thank our residents for their patience throughout this period of uncertainty, and as communicated on Friday 1st May, [aim] to conclude all requests this week.”

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