Digs is demanding students pay extra rent as they self-isolate beyond end of tenancy

Bristol SU has called letting agencies and landlords ‘disgraceful’

Bristol-based letting agency, Digs, is demanding students pay extra rent as they have to self-isolate beyond the end of their tenancy agreement.

The students say they feel “anxious” as they are trapped between following self-isolation rules and not being able to afford paying extra rent. One student took aim at Digs saying they, “don’t have an ounce of decency to let us stay on while we have Covid.”

Digs has defended their decision, saying that while they “sympathise” with students, they own none of the properties they manage and the decision to charge extra rent lies with individual landlords.

Bristol SU has described the actions of Digs, other letting agencies and landlords as “disgraceful.”

The SU has secured a commitment from Bristol Uni to make hardship funding available to students to cover the extra rent.

Screenshot of email sent by Digs to student tenants

The Bristol Tab spoke to a final year student whose flat began isolating on the 20th June after one of their flatmates tested positive. This meant they had to self-isolate at their current address for 10 days in line with government regulations.

However, their tenancy ended on the 25th  June, meaning they’ve had no choice but to stay in their flat for an extra five days.

The students have been told by Digs that the landlord expects them to pay an additional five days rent as well as pay for a professional cleaning service to disinfect the flat, which could cost several hundreds of pounds.

The students have been left in an impossible position where they have to stay in their accommodation but can’t afford to pay for it.

One student expressed how this made them feel “anxious” as they “don’t know where to go”. She explained: “Our parents don’t want us to go home with Covid, especially as some of our friends who have been double vaccinated are actually quite poorly so our parents could be at risk even if they’re vaccinated.”

As Covid infections have rapidly increased across the university population, students are wary of trying to limit the spread of the virus in Bristol. Last week, polling by The Bristol Tab taken by over 900 people, found one in five students said they were currently self-isolating.

As most student tenancies finish at the end of this month, this is in an increasingly worrying situation for students who can’t afford to pay this extra rent.

Bristol SU Student Living Officer, Ruth Day, confirmed to The Bristol Tab, the SU has “secured a commitment from the university to make hardship funding available to cover this extra rent”.

They went on to say: “It is disgraceful that Digs, and other letting agencies and landlords in the city which we have been made aware of, are charging students extra rent to follow the law and self-isolate past the end of their tenancy.

“This will leave many students out of pocket, sometimes paying double rent for their current flat and the one they are due to move into.

“We believe that landlords and letting agencies should follow the University of Bristol’s example, and give self-isolating students a free tenancy extension”.

In a statement, Digs General Manager, Nick Jackson said: “This is an unprecedented situation that everybody currently finds themselves in. We completely sympathise with anyone who has been or is currently affected by the ongoing pandemic.

“We act for in excess of 100 landlords on a letting and management basis. When a situation such as this arises we contact the individual landlord and they instruct us how we are to proceed on their behalf. We then pass on their instructions to their tenants, as has happened in this case.

“Different landlords make different decisions on what will be charged to their tenants and what they are willing to absorb.

“In this case the Landlord has said that they unfortunately are not in a position financially to be able to cover the cost of the rent they will lose from the ingoing tenants not being able to take up occupancy and for a disinfection of the property.

“We are in touch with all our landlords as we do not see this being the only property where we have to amend move out/in dates. Other Landlords are in many instances not requesting the rental on days of isolation, (staying on) or additional costs of disinfecting.

“We are a letting and management agent that collects the rent and manages properties on the behalf of the landlord. None of the properties we let and manage are owned by our company.

“We are confident that we are operating strictly within Government guidelines in a very safe controlled way and we will continue to act within the law to limit the spread of this virus over this very difficult changeover period.”

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