Students in Scotland will be able to end halls contracts early, under new law

Students in England haven’t yet been given the option to cancel contracts because of coronavirus

Students in Scotland will be able to end their halls contracts early, under a proposed new law.

Existing agreements for students currently have no built-in notice period, meaning students are reliant on the goodwill of landlords to get refunds or rent waivers. Across the country, students have battled to get out of paying thousands for halls they can no longer use.

The bill, to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament today, will change that, giving students under contract the ability to give seven days’ notice, and those entering into a contract the power to give 28 days’ notice.

However, in England, students are yet to be offered this option by government. Instead, some landlords are deciding to release students, while others charge thousands for empty rooms.

With no notice period to leave a contract, students are being told to break lockdown and collect their things, or put their rooms on Gumtree in order to get a refund.

If passed by MSPs, the measures introduced in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill will apply to students living in uni-run and privately-run halls, but not student houses. Students will be able to serve notice for COVID-19 related reasons, rather than more general reasons.

Constitution secretary Michael Russell said: “To reduce the spread of this terrible virus, many students have returned to their family homes for the duration of the lockdown but are still paying for their term-time accommodation.

“During this time of great uncertainty and financial hardship for many, these proposals would relieve a significant extra financial burden on students. Introducing a 28 day notice period for contracts entered into during the lifetime of this Act, recognises the uncertainly around the impact of ongoing lockdown measures, as well as providing the same rights as for those students renting in the mainstream private rented sector.”

Liam McCabe, NUS Scotland president, said: “Since before the lockdown students have been paying for student accommodation they moved out of.

“NUS Scotland’s message to accommodation providers is clear: provide refunds to the students you have been exploiting, finally giving them the peace of mind you have been denying them.”

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