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.



by JonC

11:00 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Possession Friend at 15/04/2020 - 08:37
Yes they are

by JonC

11:04 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Freda Blogs at 15/04/2020 - 09:50
Yes 1 AST so J&S liability & that’s exactly how I see it panning out (hopefully). The key is the others paying for the final term though. That way the house deposit is enough to cover the 1 tenants arrears & none of them are going to be happy about that

by Chris @ Possession Friend

11:30 AM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by JonC at 15/04/2020 - 11:00
If you have a Guarantor for the defaulting student, go for them.
There isn't any harm in including EVERYONE on the claim though, as Freda mentioned ( You never know what effect that might have, hopefully )

by Dee Mc

17:48 PM, 15th April 2020, About 2 years ago

I have been contacted by my student tenants, the day before their rent was due, for a rent deduction in respect of bills (their rent is all inclusive). There is no separate rent or bill figure so in effect they were requesting a discount in general. There was no mention of financial hardship or loss of a job. They are on a joint tenancy, their belongings are still in the property and one tenant is still living there.
Here are the facts:
Some bills are fix, ie not metered (eg water, broadband etc). Others are calculated over the year and divided by 12 on direct debit (gas and electricity). On this basis they are in consumption “arrears” as consumption is higher in the winter months and now the milder months go to offset the colder months. Further, as previously mentioned, the are still receiving student loans etc.
I responded to my students and explained to them about their joint tenancy and the way bills are offset. All rents were paid the next day in full. I think, in some case, some are seeing the current situation as a reason for a discount or worse non payment of rent (I guess it’s the old saying don’t ask don’t get and the worse situation is you get a no). I contacted my agent who arranged rent guarantee to see what the position was regarding non payment of rent for future reference and was advised that the current situation had no effect on my guarantee. Of course I have not tested this and the position may change with time but worth checking if you have rent guarantee what your position is if your tenant does not pay their rent in full.

by JonC

9:49 AM, 17th April 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Anonymous at 15/04/2020 - 17:48
I've had the deduction for bills request too & requests for a delay in paying due to loss of local job & parents stuck abroad & unable to transfer funds.
I've been open & flexible with all of those and it's been fine. The bills I've just said there's unlikely to be much if any difference but I'll look at it at the end of the contract & take it into account when I return the deposit.
After a number of other tenants just trying it on with asking me to cancel the contract or discount rent, I'm down to just one problem student tenant but it's their parent/guarantor I'm dealing with.
Looking forward to this nightmare being over!

by Marie

9:34 AM, 18th April 2020, About 2 years ago

I have a situation where 2 student tenants have gone back home abroad in March before the lockdown. Then get an email from the father who is the guarantor saying his business is doing badly and he had to sack his employees and therefore cannot carry on paying the rent for his daughters as in any case they wont be back now. They still have the keys and some belongings in the property. The contract runs until September. Even if I wanted to find replacement tenants at the moment there is no interest at all (I have another property empty and enquiries are zero).

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