To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what reports he has received on university students being charged additional fees by landlords if they are told to self-isolate due to the covid-19 outbreak at their term time accommodation beyond the end of their tenancy; and what steps the Government plans to take to support students in that position.
5 July 2021
Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own rent agreements. The government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation whether the accommodation is managed by universities or private sector organisations.
If a student is contractually committed to move home and has been told to self-isolate, they should seek to delay their move until all members of their household have come to the end of their self-isolation period. All parties involved should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates where someone is self-isolating or has tested positive.
There is no prohibition on moving house where necessary, and anyone in England who wishes to move house can do so. This includes forming new households and moving into and out of shared student accommodation and houses in multiple occupation. Guidance is available here for: landlords and tenants on renting and COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-and-renting-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities.
If a student thinks their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found here:
https://www.thesac.org.uk/, https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain, https://www.nrla.org.uk/.
The government is aware of the disproportionate impact the crisis will have on some students and we recognise that in these exceptional circumstances some students may face financial hardship. The department has worked with the Office for Students (OfS) to clarify that providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million for this academic year, towards hardship support. The government has made an additional £85 million of student hardship funding available to higher education (HE) providers in the 2020/21 academic year. Providers have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to their students, in a way that best prioritises those in greatest need.
We know that not all students will face financial hardship. The current measures aim to target support for students in greatest need and the government continues to monitor the situation to look at what impact this funding is having.
Some students may also be eligible for a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, if they are required to self-isolate. Information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/test-and-trace-support-payment.
It is vitally important that universities continue to make sure that students feel as supported as possible should they have to self-isolate. This robust package of support needs to include mental health and wellbeing support, daily communications and ensuring students have access to suitable free or affordable food.
Universities UK have also produced a checklist for providers to support students who are required to self-isolate as well as bespoke guidance for HE providers on how to prepare for and care for students who are required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK. We encourage providers to review this guidance when considering how best to support their international and other students arriving from overseas.
The OfS have published a statement on support for students in self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak, available here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/blog/ofs-student-panel-statement-on-support-for-students-in-self-isolation-during-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic/.