Unite College students and Pupil Roost provide rental refunds to college students who’re late returning to school

I live in a private rented apartment. What can I do to get a refund?

According to the House of Commons Library in March 2020, around 30% of students live in private rental apartments. Another 20% live in halls close to the university, 18% in their own residence and 8% in private halls.

Private rental housing can include anything from large blocks of corporate-managed properties to houses rented out by individual landlords or real estate agents – but this is probably a lot harder to get money back from as there is no due diligence like there is with universities .

1. Talk to your accommodation provider or landlord. Both landlords and tenants can be financially affected due to the pandemic. Therefore, forbearance, tolerance, and meeting in the middle are best for both of them. But it's worth asking for help.

When it comes to individual landlords, those with mortgages can apply for a payment vacation if their tenants are having trouble paying – that's the conversation. However, it is important to understand that private renters, including college students, are not entitled to payment leave like mortgage holders do. For more information, see Renters Covid Help.

2. Review your rental agreement. You signed a rental agreement and the fact that you cannot use your property is not a private landlord's fault. However, it is worth checking whether your rental agreement contains any clauses about whether you are entitled to a rental discount or rebate for a time that you cannot spend in the property.

I live in university accommodation – what can I try to get a refund?

Here are some things you can try to get a refund if you are staying in university-provided accommodation:

1. Check if your university has a refund policy in place. There is no legal obligation for universities – or private landlords – to return your money, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the government in England will "review" the cost of university accommodation to ensure that students are treated fairly will.

Even so, it's worth checking with your university in the meantime to see if they offer refunds. When we did a straw poll of nine major universities, three – the University of Bristol, the University of Manchester, and the Manchester Metropolitan University – said they would offer some form of rent refund or discount, and another (University of Cumbria) shared us this before the English lockdown announcement (on Jan 4th 2020) that it would do the same thing, although we are checking that this has not changed.

If your university offers help, ask how much discount or refund you get and how it works – for example, if you keep paying your rent and then need to reclaim it at a later date, or if it will be deducted from a future rental bill.

2. Review your rental agreement. If your university says no initially, check your lease to make sure that there is definitely no exit clause. It is unlikely, but check to see if there are any clauses in your rental agreement as to when you may be eligible for a rental discount or rebate for a time that you cannot spend in a property.

3. Get involved in your university or student union. If your university has no guidelines and your contract does not include a refund, it may be argued that your contract has become "frustrated" – that is, it is impossible to perform if you cannot access your accommodation because of travel impossible or illegal. This is because the views of the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) on consumer protection law also apply to university providers.

Given that many universities are saying their policies are being reviewed, it is worth working with your university to offer refunds using this clause or explaining your own circumstances. The National Union of Students (NUS) says that students can contact their student union or student union to find out how best to advocate it.

Charity Citizens Advice, however, warns that the unprecedented nature of the pandemic means that legal arguments about student contracts have not yet been examined in court. Hence, it is not clear to what extent this “frustrated” argument could work. This argument is also less likely to stand up when lodging is available, but you choose not to take it up.

Comments are closed.