Ben HaywardApril 8th
2020

Students are voicing concerns after some have been told they will have to keep paying rent despite not being able to use their accommodation. 

Some students in privately run accommodation in Portsmouth, are being told they must keep paying rent, with property firm Prime Student Living pointing to the fact they are still receiving their loans.

According to the BBC, Helena Schofield, president of the National Union of Students at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Where the situation is so unprecedented there should be some more understanding."

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Manisha Singh, a resident of Stanhope House - one of the blocks managed by Prime Student Living, says she feels like students are being ‘walked all over’.

Because of initial delays in completing the building she spent most of her first term in temporary accommodation - and is now facing a term with the campus closed because of coronavirus, but still having to pay rent that will have cost almost £10,000 for the year.

Another resident, Yusuf Ahmed, said the company asked him to be more flexible when building work was delayed, so the property firm should now reciprocate and release students from contracts rather than forcing them to pay. 

Eva Crossan Jory, NUS vice-president, said she believes there is a ‘moral duty’ on housing firms to provide a ‘no-penalty early release from their contracts’.

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The university, students' union and local MP Stephen Morgan have written to private student accommodation firms calling on them to ‘do the right thing’ however Prime Student Living rejected the plea, replying: "Tenancy agreements are to remain in force and students are obligated to continue to pay remaining rent.”

Professor Graham Galbraith, vice chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, called on housing providers to let students end contracts and have the "certainty that they want and need" at a time of distress and hardship.

However, some privately run accommodation companies are allowing students to stop paying.

Unite, one of the biggest private providers, says: "We will not be collecting any further payments from students who decide they don't want to return for the summer term.”

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But students must notify Unite by 17:00 on Monday April 13th.

Private housing providers iQ and Scape are also allowing students to end contracts, with a deadline of 17:00 on Thursday April 9th.

Martin Blakey, of student housing charity Unipol, said he believed  landlords and tenants should reach a compromise to ‘share the pain’.

Universities UK said emergency legislation meant that students were ‘protected from eviction’ whether renting privately or from a university.

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