UCL Removes Rent Guarantor Scheme for September 2020 Onwards
UCL have made a decision to remove their scheme to act as a rent guarantor for students from September 2020 onwards.
UCL has made a decision to end their scheme to act as rent guarantors for students from 2020. This means for many students who have typically relied on this support from the uni they are having to look for other alternatives whilst adhering to all the current restrictions preventing people from free movement.
The decision was something which was not brought to student attention, and the only notification was a small change on the website even while other pages confirm that the guarantor scheme still exists.
This decision will also have even larger consequences for students from international, low-income and estranged backgrounds.
After first year, most UCL students find themselves in private accommodation, many with friends who also attend UCL. When renting privately, most contracts require a guarantor for each tenant who basically agrees to pay your rent if you fail to do so. For some, this will be a parent or relative, but the catch for many is that the guarantor must be UK based. This leaves EU and international students without many options for a guarantor when trying to secure a flat in London, but up until September this year, UCL had come to the rescue by acting as guarantor for all UCL students, providing they had no outstanding debts to the university (eg. library fines) and were only living with other UCL students.
Though other private companies exist within the UK and offer an alternative for students to find a guarantor, this is a stressful change which many students have relied on in securing their accommodation, and this news gives students a matter of months to find secure alternatives.
The change made by UCL seems to have happened relatively quietly, with many students becoming aware thanks to a UCLove post:
A UCL spokesperson said:
“UCL is advising students to use external rent guarantor schemes, which are also recognised by landlords and will still ensure their tenancy applications are approved. Moving forward, we will be monitoring this carefully. Students are advised to contact us if they are experiencing any issues so we can offer our support.”
Many students were outraged by this change as it will put most international/ EU students in a difficult position, especially since the alternative to having a guarantor usually entails paying a certain period of rent upfront. This is simply unfeasible for most students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, putting many UCL students who do not have family in the UK at a huge disadvantage in securing accommodation for the new academic year.
UCL student Sara Noro, graduating this summer, was shocked by this decision:
“This is insane, I used the guarantor scheme and it was the only thing that allowed me to rent my flat (no UK guarantors and I couldn’t afford to pay 6 months in advance or go to a fancy foreign student accommodation)…the guarantor scheme was already hard to find, as if they didn’t want us to use it. I’m graduating this summer so I won’t be needing it anyway, but I know it would have been very difficult to find someone that would agree to foreigners renting in London without UK guarantors.”
Clearly, the removal of this policy will disproportionately affect those who don’t have family in the UK, as well as home students who come from low-income backgrounds whose parents/relatives do not earn over the required £25,000 pa.
Zohar, SU UCL Disabled Students’ Officer summed up this issue:
“This is an intersectional issue that is going to disproportionately affected disabled students, black students, students with caring responsibilities, international & low income students. I understand the financial pressures universities are under but this is not one of the things to cut. Students deserve homes.”
One Biological Sciences student who wished to remain anonymous was further concerned by this news as an EU student:
“This is a really sad and disappointing decision from UCL that I cannot believe happened without prior consultation with students. Especially for students on scholarships/financial aid/bursaries like many EU students, including me, not having a guarantor will severely complicate our financial situation.”
A second-year History student, who also wished to remain anonymous, expressed their concern surrounding this change:
“Removing UCL guarantors means that EU and international students have no other options, it’s so unfair… We are now expected to pay 6 months rent in advance.”
These concerns highlight how financially devastating this change will be for many students, especially during a time of great uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which also makes securing flats difficult for those who are not in the UK.
The “Guarantee Scheme Signing Sheet” previously used by UCL has clauses which would suggest this has not been removed due to financial incentives. This sheet clarifies that students were required “to reimburse University College London in the event of the College incurring any expenditure or loss as a consequence of acting as guarantor.” As well as stipulating “If the University has to pay a student’s rent arrears, the Student Residences Office will invoice the student. In the event of the student defaulting on the payment of the invoice, UCL reserves the right to take legal action through the courts, to recover outstanding debts.”
UCL Student Support and Wellbeing provides a wide range of services, including mental health, psychological support and financial assistance. Students can access this support anytime via askUCL and more information can be found: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/student-support-and-wellbeing.