Ambiguous CMA guidance over student lets

Ambiguous CMA guidance over student lets

9:34 AM, 28th May 2020, About 4 years ago 1

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The Government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has told Landlordzone that its recent pandemic emergency guidance could cover students lets where public health instructions under lockdown have precluded the use of rental property.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, consumer contracts, cancellation and refunds guidance issued by the CMA on April 30th (click here) states:

Where a consumer receives regular services in exchange for a regular payment as part of an ongoing contract, the CMA considers that consumer protection law:

  • will normally require the consumer to be offered a refund for any services they have already paid for but that are not provided by the business or which the consumer is not allowed to use because of Government public health measures (this may be a partial refund of the total amount the consumer has paid, to reflect the value of the services already provided);
  • will normally allow the consumer to withhold payment for services that are not provided by the business or which the consumer is not allowed to use because of Government public health measures;
  • may allow a business to require payment of a small contribution to its costs until the provision of the service is resumed, but only where the contract terms set this out clearly and fairly.

The CMA said: “in most cases, businesses should offer refunds where a consumer isn’t allowed to use a service as a result of lockdown restrictions.”

However, government coronavirus legislation did not say student, or ideed any type of tenants, were not liable for the contracts they signed. The legislation only added a 3 month extended notice to any evictions thus making the CMA’s response to Landlordzone very ambiguous.

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Robert M

23:36 PM, 30th May 2020, About 4 years ago

I am hoping that the solution here is quite simple. My instinct is that university halls of residence and purpose built blocks of student accommodation were, in effect, forced to close just like hotels. This would especially be the case where there were shared facilities. In contrast, a shared student house is very similar to a family house despite all the regulations that Housing Acts seek to apply.

It might be interesting to debate whether the situation for a four bedroom houses differs depending on if a group occupies the house on a joint tenancy or if the rooms are let separately. However, I will leave that to those who have more time on their hands and like to argue technical points, or like to seek answers to problems that do not actually exist.

I can categorically state that no legislation or guidance I have seen specifies that small shared student houses could not be used and they have remained available for the student tenants’ use.

Anyhow, the CMA advice refers to businesses and we can all rely on HMCE to confirm that private letting is not a business.

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