Convid-19 Coronavirus and Student Accommodation in Huddersfield

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Convid-19 Coronavirus and Student Accommodation in Huddersfield

The Students’ Union accommodation service, HudLets, are receiving lots enquiries from students asking about what their legal obligations are when it comes to their accommodation contracts. These questions are mainly about finances, end dates and support for students self-isolating.

This is an exceptional and difficult time for all of us and since the University announced that all future learning would be delivered remotely, we are aware that a lot of students have either returned home or are currently unable to leave their student accommodation.

The information below will hopefully answer some of the frequently asked questions for students living in halls or private student accommodation. Please note that advice is constantly evolving so some guidance may have changed, particularly if there are changes to the law.

If you are still unsure about the information below or need any other help or support connected to your student accommodation please contact HudLets.

Email: HudLets@hud.ac.uk

Phone: 01484 473435

 

  1. My contract has not ended but I’m leaving Huddersfield and do not intend on returning – do I still have to pay rent?

Accommodation contracts are legally binding and its up to landlords and halls providers to decide if they will agree to end agreements early. However, if you have signed a tenancy agreement for a fixed period and you are still within the dates, there are a few things you can try:

Check if your contract has a break clause: this may mean you can terminate your contract after a certain date or so many days after the contract commenced, but before the end of the fixed term. You may have to provide notice and you will still have to pay rent until the notice period has ended. If you are living in a shared house this will often require all tenants to want to move out. Unfortunately, the majority of contracts do not have a break clause.

Try to negotiate with your landlord: As it stands there has been no changes to the law to allow tenants to terminate contracts early because of the impact of coronavirus. If there is no break clause in your contract this will mean you are obligated to pay rent until the end of the agreement, even if you have moved out.

However, you should discuss your wish to end the tenancy early with your landlord or halls provider as if they are happy to let you go before the end date of the agreement, you will not be required to pay rent. BUT make sure, if they agree you it directly from your landlord in writing. If you live in halls, then make sure you get in touch with your halls provider in writing.

If you want to leave but other tenants are staying in a shared house/flat: It is unlikely that you will be able to leave your property without having to pay rent and without finding a replacement tenant. Again, you should discuss this with your landlord as if the landlord is willing to be flexible and release you early, you will not be required to pay rent. BUT make sure you get this directly from your landlord in writing.

If you are in doubt with any of the above information, please contact HudLets.

  1. What happens if I move out before the end of my tenancy and I don’t pay my rent?

The landlord or halls provider will be able to take action to get the rent from you, or your guarantor if you have one. They may take some of this money from your deposit or may write to you to formally request the money. If they do this the landlord or halls provider will have the option to charge interest on monies owed and they may even start a court claim against you.

If you have a joint tenancy agreement for things such as a shared house and one of your housemates doesn’t pay their rent, you have ‘joint and several’ liability for the rent. This means that you and your housemates are jointly liable for all the rent due – so you (or your guarantor) could be asked to pay any shortfall in rent from other tenants.

If your landlord is threatening to take you to court, please make sure you contact Hudlets for advice and support.

Please be aware that you will also be liable to pay any utility bills until the end of your tenancy agreement.

  1. I can’t afford to pay my rent due to coronavirus – can I be evicted? What should I do?

The government has brought in emergency legislation to stop evictions for at least 3 months, however they have not yet outlined what these protections will involve. It’s been advised that the expectation at the end of this period will be for tenants and landlords to work out a realistic repayment plan. Other details of how this will work are unclear at this time.

We would advise you to contact your landlord or halls provider to make them aware of your situation as they may be able to offer reduced rent or a repayment plan. If you need any help with this please get in touch with HudLets.

The full statement from the UK government on evictions can be found here. [https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters]

  1. My contract is due to end soon, but I am unable to leave – what should I do?

If you are coming towards the end of your tenancy and unable to leave you should contact your landlord or halls provider. Most landlords and halls that work with HudLets they have indicated that they would be willing to extend contracts on a flexible basis.

For any extension you will remain liable for paying any rent due.

If your landlord is unable to extend your contract, please get in touch with HudLets who will support you to find alternative accommodation.

  1. My flatmate has confirmed or suspected Covid-19 coronavirus – can I leave the property?

You may wish to stay elsewhere if someone you live with has been diagnosed with coronavirus, but please make sure you are following the recommended self-isolation guidelines which can be found here. [https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/].

If you do not stay at the property because someone you are living with has been confirmed to have coronavirus you will still be liable to pay rent.

If you live in halls, they may be able to move someone who is self-isolating to another flat if you speak to your halls management team.

Most of the halls in Huddersfield will have communicated regular guidance on what to do if you or a flatmate contracts Covid-19.

  1. I’m self-isolating and don’t have anyone that can help bring food, toiletries, etc. – how do I find help?

There are several things you could do to get connected with people that can help:

If you are living in halls: you should notify your halls provider via email or phone to support you with things such as removing waste and getting food. Some of the halls have got food banks set up at receptions to support students who are self-isolating or are struggling financially.

Reach out to other residents: Do you have any connections with other student who live close by that would be able to help with things such as shopping.

Join a social media group: The Students’ Union have set up a community support group on Facebook to help students connect with each other to provide the valuable support needed across our student community. [https://www.facebook.com/groups/hsusupport/?source_id=230984410255889]

Kirklees Community Response: here you can both request support and offer support depending on your personal situation. The council are doing what they can to create a co-ordinated community response across Kirklees. [https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/advice-support-and-sharing/covid-19-community-response.aspx]

Get in touch with HudLets: If you are struggling to get the support you need pleas get in touch with HudLets who will try to support your needs.

  1. My landlord is bringing people into the house to do viewings – can I prevent this to reduce my chances of infection?

Most tenancies offered by HudLets are on what’s called an assured shorthold tenancy. With this Landlords have no implied right to enter a property to conduct viewings. They can only do this if there is a clause in your tenancy agreement stating that you must permit access for viewings.

The legal starting point is that you have a fundamental right to exclude anyone from the property – even the landlord.

If you have agreed to allow viewings in the contract, and you refuse access, the landlord could make a claim that you are in breach of contract. Most of these clauses state that access must be permitted at a ‘reasonable’ time. With the current situation you could argue that it is not a reasonable time and that you are following government guidance on social distancing. For students that have been housed by HudLets this clause has been suspended and we have stopped any viewings taking place.

It might be reasonable to let the landlord access the property once to take photos or videos of the house to show to perspective tenants in replacement of viewings.

If you are renting a room in a shared house the situation is different as the landlord will be entitled to access the common spaces. In this instance you could still negotiate the above approach to viewings.

If your landlord is still insisting on conducting viewings, please get in touch with HudLets.

If you live with your landlord, you do not have a right to exclude people from the property. You may wish to provide your landlord with the guidance on self-isolation if you are concerned.

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