NUS (National Union of Students) welcomes today’s changes to the Scottish government’s emergency Coronavirus Bill to introduce notice periods for student accommodation and is calling on other UK governments to provide similar support for students in England.
Students up and down the country have previously been locked into student accommodation contracts, despite leaving their rooms as campuses closed before the ‘lockdown’ came into force.
This change now means students in Scotland currently tied into contracts in institution-owned halls of residence or privately-owned purpose-built student accommodation would be able to give seven days’ notice before ending their lease – for Covid-19 related reasons. New agreements would be subject to a 28-day notice period while the new Bill is in force.
This follows NUS Scotland’s #NotStayingNotPaying campaign, which seeks to ensure students can leave student accommodation contracts penalty free and NUS’ Student Safety Net campaign which seeks to secure support for students on a range of issues including accommodation. Universities UK confirmed to the House of Commons Petitions Committee last week that many institutions have introduced foodbanks to support students on their campuses. Students are being forced into considering whether to pay rent for rooms they’re not using, or to feed themselves with 72% worried about their ability to pay for their accommodation and 38% cutting back on food spend because of the crisis, according to NUS’ recent Coronavirus and Students Survey.
Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS National President, commented:
“The pandemic has really crystallised a crisis for student renters. We’ve been saying for years that the student accommodation system is unsustainable, and that students can’t afford to pay sky high rents when they are funded by a maintenance system which relies on them topping up with wages or support from their parents. Now those things don’t exist, students need a safety net more than ever.
"The Scottish Government has shown that it is possible to legislate to support students. This is a welcome relief for students and students’ associations north of the border and we thank the Scottish Government for listening and responding to the urgent needs of their students. We need governments across the UK to follow suit and bring in a safety net for all student renters without delay.”
Commenting, NUS Scotland President Liam McCabe said:
“Far too many student accommodation providers have disgraced themselves in the past months by refusing to release students from their contracts in the midst of a global pandemic. As such, we welcome the Scottish Government’s intervention on this issue.
“This will allow students to end their accommodation contracts with notice periods. This is a victory for students up and down the country who took part in our #NotStayingNotPaying campaign.
“Since before the lockdown students have been paying for student accommodation they moved out of. NUS Scotland’s message to accommodation providers is clear: provide refunds to the students you have been exploiting, finally giving them the peace of mind, you have been denying them.
“NUS Scotland has long called for the Scottish Government to instigate a comprehensive review of the student accommodation sector. The conduct of some accommodation providers during this crisis makes that review all the more urgent.”