Tenancy agreements should have break clauses in the event of a second wave of Covid-19, plead students in rental digs
- 89% of students and 91% of parents would like such a break clause included
- It would mean being able to return home if their university were to close
- And not being liable for any remaining rent under the contract
Break clauses should be inserted into rental contracts to protect students financially if they are required to return home in the coming academic year in the event of a second wave of Covid-19.
According to a survey conducted by websites Money Magpie and Save The Student, 89 per cent of students and 91 per cent of parents would like such a break clause automatically included in all student tenancy agreements.
It would mean being able to return home if their university were to close, without being liable for any remaining rent under the contract.
Backing: Jono Cherry says it is reasonable to be able to opt out
The tenancy agreement – typically a year in length – would lapse, enabling the landlord to re-let the property while the student would have to find new accommodation if they eventually return to the university.
The call for break clauses follows what happened in the last academic year when the outbreak of the coronavirus caused universities to shut with students advised to return home to their parents.
But tens of thousands, especially those in private accommodation, were still charged for their summer term rent. The Mail on Sunday was at the forefront of reporting on this issue, resulting in some big student accommodation providers agreeing to waive all or a slice of the term’s rent.
Jasmine Birtles is founder of Money Magpie. On Friday, she told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Parents and students mustn’t feel pressured into signing a 12-month rental contract when they’re not sure the student will be there for the full year because of Covid-19 and a potential second spike.
‘Every student who will be at university from the autumn must insist on a break clause in their accommodation rental contract with their landlord – whether a large company or private.’
Mark Roberts, a nuclear engineer from Ipswich in Suffolk, says such a break clause makes great sense. He has just paid a bill of £920 relating to his daughter’s summer term accommodation costs.
But only after 19-year-old Isobel was threatened with a writ for non-payment by Brayford Estates that runs the Brayford Quay accommodation she vacated in March ahead of lockdown.
Isobel is studying criminology at Lincoln University and did not return to the city for her third term.
Mark, a private landlord himself, is upset that Brayford Estates was not prepared to negotiate on the outstanding rent. On break clauses, he says they are a ‘good idea’ provided they can only be exercised in the event of a second wave of Covid-19.
Tens of thousands of students were still charged for their summer term rent despite having left
Jono Cherry, from Bexley in Kent, is due to start a masters degree in public policy at Bristol University in September.
He likes the idea of a break clause, describing it as ‘reasonable’ given the ongoing public health crisis. ‘If you can’t take up a service,’ he says, ‘it seems only reasonable that there is an opt-out.’
Teddy Phillips, due back in Leeds in September to complete her degree in theology, has already been told by her landlord for the final year that she will be able to break her contract if there is another lockdown.
This contrasts with her previous landlord who refused to give her a summer term refund even though she did not use the property and her rent covered utility bills.
Phil Keddie, president of lettings agents professional association ARLA Propertymark, said: ‘Unless the Government passes a specific law impacting on student loans and grants in light of a potential second wave, there is no need for accommodation contracts to be altered.
‘As long as students can access the same levels of financial aid, they are equipped to pay their rent and any changes to the current system could see a great loss of income for student landlords, having a detrimental knock-on affect on the wider market.’