Covid-19 rental advice given by University – Help?

Covid-19 rental advice given by University – Help?

9:31 AM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago 26

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This is my first ever discussion starter – we are really desperate, don’t know what to do and hope the community here might be able to help.
We specialise in student rental. Fixed term for one year, 4 students on one AST. No HMO.

The University of Surrey decided to close early and cancel rent for the 3rd term for those who live in students’ accommodation and published this plea:

“The University has therefore cancelled all rent payments due for term 3 for over five thousand students in University managed accommodation who have chosen to leave early.

“Not all students are able to be accommodated by the University however, and there are private landlords and providers who have not yet taken the same action to cancel rents for students who have left. It is indeed disappointing to see that many private providers have chosen to prioritise their shareholders over their student occupants, especially in light of the support being given by the government in the form of mortgage breaks.

We are today calling for all providers of student accommodation to follow our lead; do the right thing and relieve Guildford’s students of the obligation to pay rent for empty rooms.”

They also sent the following letter to their students:

“Dear Student,

“Following on from the news bulletin regarding private landlords we have the following information for you, a summary can be found under Renting from Private Landlords here. There is also a Students’ Union Facebook live session at 3pm on 2nd April with Shelter.

“It is likely that you will have signed a fixed term contract which remains legally binding despite the current health pandemic. As such in theory rental payments must kept up regardless of whether you are living in the property or not as per the agreement. We are however in unprecedented times and would like to think landlords and agents would show our students some compassion with regards to keeping up rental payments.

“If your landlord agrees to a rent holiday period you will be required to pay this back & need to agree a repayment plan. If you do not pay your rent your landlord can pursue your guarantor & this may lead to a County Court Judgement against both parties.

“The best way to deal with the current situation is to ensure strong communication is kept with your landlord and come to an agreement with them that all parties are happy with. In general the terms to be reconsidered will be:

“Early Termination: Will your landlord allow you to leave the property sooner than originally contracted? This may not be today but may be at a date between now and when your contract is due to end that is fair.
Rent Reduction: Would you landlord consider reducing the rent to ease the pressure on you financially, this may be justified if you are not actually staying in the property for the coming weeks.

“Find out further information below or review the government guidelines here.
As per your contracts your landlord has the right to refuse the above proposals which is why it is key to outline why you are asking to give them a chance to empathise with you as much as possible. Points to include will be:

“Loss of income: Have you lost your job or means to pay the rent?
Having moved out: It can be argued that you have had to move out of the property through no fault of your own and as such cannot access the accommodation you are paying for.
The University’s position: The University of Surrey has outlined that we feel landlords should do what they can to help students and relieve financial pressure, as essentially that’s the “right thing to do”.

“Be aware you will still remain liable for your bills until you are released from your contract & your supplier has agreed to terminate your agreement with them also. If you withdraw from university you will also become liable for council tax until your tenancy is terminated. Ultimately it is going to come down to a case by case basis, each landlord will take a view and compromise or not.

“Always communicate with your landlord in writing, ideally via email. If you have a phone call conversation follow it up with an email to outline what has been talked about. If you have exhausted the above options & are unable to come to an agreement with your landlord, please contact us to see how we may be able to support.”

Students left in haste (quite understandably), leaving their stuff in the property.

We notified the insurance that the property is vacant and go there about 3 times a week, also installed light timers. We also cut the grass and are putting bins out every week.

They passed to us both above letters asking us to release them from the tenancy. We did not agree – we are unable to lose the 3 months rent completely, and in the same time to pay the bills (however small), 100% Council Tax and increased insurance premium, as well as a tax on mortgage.

We offered initially 17% reduction of rent. That was not accepted as not meeting their expectations.

We then offered 27% rent reduction – it did not meet their expectation either.

Eventually they offered that they will pay approx 10% of monthly rent. That is nowhere near to cover even the mortgage, let alone tax and other expenses.

We think we have been rather cooperative. We tried to reason with them, but they are not listening at all, they think we are making tons of money and should do whatever big corpos and Uni did. They have chosen to leave, and were not forced to.

We do not know what to do now? Should we accept that 10% are offering? (It is rather astonishing they all have the same circumstances and cannot afford to pay a bit more or at least a different amount). In the circumstances should we tell them now that we are going to keep the whole deposit (1 month rent) as per the relevant clause in the AST to cover the unpaid rent? Or shall we wait until the end of tenancy in July? What would be the consequences?

We do not want to go via a court route.
Even if they vacated the rooms we would not be able to rent the property out, as we have the next AST from middle of August. And it is not possible to rent now..

I will be extremely grateful for your advice.

Many, many thanks in advance.

Whiteskifreak



Comments

by Paul Shears

14:14 PM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Freda Blogs at 14/04/2020 - 13:48
"Under no circumstances take back the keys and with them the liability for the utility charges and the council tax – that will just make your own financial situation worse."
What if they invoke a break clause?
There is no compromise possible on that.

by Whiteskifreak Surrey

14:36 PM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Paul Shears at 14/04/2020 - 14:14
There is no break clause in the AST. It is a fixed term contract, specifically aimed at the academic year.

by Keith Mason

17:46 PM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Hi We are student landlords in Canterbury. Your students have a grant for their accommodation and they must pay you in full, do not take less! In our experience the Uni is never interested in your students when they scoot off without paying their bills, so are in no position to dictate whether you should continue to charge. More importantly, you will have to deal with the situation in the next academic year which will be hard so dont leave yourself in a bad position now. good luck!

by Gunga Din

18:27 PM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Next academic year, I would be asking prospective student tenants to provide evidence that they paid all due rent in the past. A chat with their last LL would be useful.

by Keith Mason

19:17 PM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago

good point! its important and I may do likewise.

by Paul Shears

19:24 PM, 14th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Keith Mason at 14/04/2020 - 19:17
Same here!

by JonC

8:32 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

I’ve had many of my student tenants contact me as Uni of Essex has cancelled hall accommodation contracts from 1st April. I had a letter from the student union rep’s asking me to ‘follow the spirit’ of the uni’s decision. I’ve explained to my tenants that I’m not in a position to do that & most have understood but I have 1 in particular whose parent is insistent that I do it for them. There’s no way I’m foregoing rent for any tenant who is not financially impacted by the virus & none of them can tell me that they are. They all had a choice to make at lockdown - stay in the property or return home. The uni tell me even some campus tenants have chosen to stay on & continue paying so it absolutely was a personal choice.
The test will be the end of this month when the last term’s rent is due. At the moment it looks like just 1 will not be paying but I have an anxious wait to find out.

by JonC

8:33 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

I’ve had many of my student tenants contact me as Uni of Essex has cancelled hall accommodation contracts from 1st April. I had a letter from the student union rep’s asking me to ‘follow the spirit’ of the uni’s decision. I’ve explained to my tenants that I’m not in a position to do that & most have understood but I have 1 in particular whose parent is insistent that I do it for them. There’s no way I’m foregoing rent for any tenant who is not financially impacted by the virus & none of them can tell me that they are. They all had a choice to make at lockdown - stay in the property or return home. The uni tell me even some campus tenants have chosen to stay on & continue paying so it absolutely was a personal choice.
The test will be the end of this month when the last term’s rent is due. At the moment it looks like just 1 will not be paying but I have an anxious wait to find out.

by Chris @ Possession Friend

8:37 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by JonC at 15/04/2020 - 08:33
Are that students parents Guarantor Jon ?

by Freda Blogs

9:50 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by JonC at 15/04/2020 - 08:33
If the tenancy is a joint and several contract with other students, and if you also have guarantors, you can go to the other tenants first and subsequently to their guarantors to make up the shortfall. Peer pressure alone from the threat of asking the other tenants or their guarantors to pay could be sufficient to make that student/parent pay up.


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