Local councillor slams UniHomes for ‘scrapping student bill packages with only days notice’

UniHomes counter that Minesh Parekh’s claims are ‘full of inaccuracies’

A councillor from Sheffield has criticised student accommodation company UniHomes for changing students’ bill packages at very short notice.

Labour and Co-operative councillor Minesh Parekh shared an open letter to his Twitter on 19th August in which he said he was “deeply concerned” after being contacted by multiple students who say they have faced issues with their UniHomes contract.

However, the Sheffield-based company disagree with his claims and say that Minesh’s letter is full of “inaccuracies”.

UniHomes describes itself as a “student accommodation portal, where properties are advertised and managed by letting agents nationwide, just like other property search portals work.”

Director Phil Greaves explained that whilst the site does advertise properties with utility costs included, UniHomes only manages these bills throughout the tenancy if the student customers ask them to do so.

Minesh shared his open letter after receiving messages from students in Sheffield concerning the removal of utility provisions from their UniHomes accommodation packages. Minesh included emails the same students had received from UniHomes saying that they will now have to find alternative energy providers.

Minesh’s letter says the students were given very little notice of these changes, with one student saying they were told only two days in advance.

In regard to the removal of energy provisions, Phil Greaves told The Tab Sheffield that the Sheffield house in question was actually registered as a business rather than a residential address, meaning that the property’s energy payments would not be limited by the energy price cap.

Phil went on to say that it was in the residents of this property best interest to remove bill management from their rent package, and that UniHomes are actively working with them to lease with a new supplier.

UniHomes explained the price cap is based on the typical domestic household usage, which can “massively differ” from that of properties, most with in excess of four or five bedrooms for students.

Adding that older properties sometimes used for student housing are not equipped to manage energy usage, the company assures customers that this occurs in a “very small number of instances”.

Minesh said: “In the context of a cost-of-living crisis – and with energy bills reaching record highs – leaving students with a very short window to source their own energy provider is essentially throwing student renters to the whims of the energy market.”

In response to these claims, UniHomes told The Tab Sheffield: “We always strive to give as much notice to our customers as possible, however, due to the rapidly changing energy market and the landscape, it has been difficult to communicate as quickly as we would like.”

Minesh adds that he has been informed of multiple instances where students have not received individual contracts and the included terms and conditions are hidden on the company’s website.

UniHomes disagree with this claim, saying: “In terms of individual contracts, we can confirm that all of our customers sign an order form with us which summarises the terms and conditions of the contract and provides them with links to the full terms and conditions.”

Ending his statement to The Sheffield Tab, Phil Greaves says: “We understand the coming months will be tough for students. We strongly call on the Government to consider the complexities of the student rental market, to offer further support throughout this cost-of-living crisis and would welcome an open and honest conversation to help that process.

“We hope that this helps clarify the current situation and the challenges being faced, but also that this provides an understanding that UniHomes is on the side of students as we all navigate through this tough period. We understand the concerns and frustrations of our customers and will continue to do everything we can to help them through the crisis.”

Featured images before edits via Unsplash and Unsplash

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