Thursday 12th November
As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column, this week we focus on your rights if you live in student accommodation.
I am studying at University and thinking about leaving my accommodation before the end of the rental agreement? What do I need to know and consider before I make a final decision?
Given the current uncertainty, it is understandable that you are thinking about your accommodation arrangements. It is important that you consider the following scenarios and potential implications before you make a decision.
1. If you are a student in halls of residence who wants to move out and end your contract.
Students who want to end their contract with the university and move out of halls of residence are unlikely to be entitled to a refund. However, in the Spring when the national lockdown came into force, many universities did waive rent due on their own accommodation.
It might be possible to put forward a “frustration” argument if you can’t access your accommodation, for example because campus has been shut down, or it is impossible or illegal for you to travel to the accommodation.
This might also be relevant if the purpose of the accommodation is radically altered. For instance, if it was closely tied to you attending a course in a particular location, and the provider is now delivering the whole course remotely.
However, the unprecedented nature of the pandemic means that legal arguments have not yet really been tested in the context of student contracts, and so it is not yet clear to what extent these arguments might succeed.
An argument that any contract is ‘frustrated’ (i.e. it is impossible to perform) is certainly less likely to succeed in a case where the accommodation continues to be available, but it is your choice not to occupy it.
It is worth speaking to your landlord, particularly where the landlord is the university, as they may be sympathetic to a short-term reduction in rent, or ending a contract early if there is no longer any reason for you to remain in halls.
2. If you are a student in privately rented accommodation who wants to move out and end your tenancy.
Generally you are liable for any rent due until the end of your fixed term (and any guarantor may be pursued if you don’t pay). Some tenancy agreements contain a break clause. But this would be unusual in a student tenancy agreement where the letting is intended to be for an academic year, and the landlord is only likely to be able to re-let it for the following academic year.
If you share accommodation with other people, then unless you each have a separate agreement, you are likely to be jointly and separately liable for rent. This means that the landlord can pursue any of the tenants (or their guarantor) for any rent due under the joint agreement, regardless of which tenant failed to pay their share.
That said, it’s still worth trying to negotiate with your landlord, and they may agree to release you from the tenancy early, or to waive or reduce rent if you are not living in the accommodation.
For more information and advice visit: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Look out for our column next week when we focus on renters worried about eviction.
The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk