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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Letting agents asked to relax rents for students during virus crisis

Student bodies want letting agents to acknowledge that many students have lost their incomes and have been forced to return to their parents - and so should not have to pay for accommodation they are no longer using.

The letter comes from the Northampton Student Landlord Network and the town’s student union body, and claims that many students who receive the minimum amount of student finance rely on part-time work which no longer exists - they cannot pay their rent as a result, the bodies say. 

The letter, published on the student union website and in the local press in the town, says: 

Dear private landlords, lettings agents and students,

We are writing to address some of the issues which have arisen due to the Covid-19 outbreak regarding private-sector housing.

The University of Northampton Students’ Union recognises that this is an extremely uncertain time and it is vital to take the appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of everybody. Covid-19 has affected everyone in some way whether that’s through illness, having to self-isolate, loss of job or financial difficulty, it is more important than ever to support one another through this difficult period.

Covid-19 has forced numerous businesses to close and therefore many of our students are struggling financially due to not being able to work. In particular those students who receive the minimum amount of student finance, many of them rely on part-time work to be able to pay for their accommodation and to stay a-float. 

We have also had many concerns from international students, those are classed as vulnerable who are needing to self-isolate for a minimum of 12 weeks and students without any financial support. 

This is an incredibly challenging time for students who fall in to these categories.

With all of this in mind, we are asking landlords and lettings agents to consider the following:

1: Refund students any underspent bills – while we do understand that students in private-sector accommodation have signed their contracts and therefore have a legal obligation to pay their rent, we are asking for you to refund students any money on bills that they have not used. This will take some financial pressure off students as well as showing that we recognise the difficulties students are currently experiencing.

2: Allow students moving in to properties for the 2020/2021 academic year to pay their summer rent rate until the University of Northampton resumes face-to-face teaching – Due to the current uncertainty, we are asking landlords to consider extending the summer retainer period until restrictions are lifted. Whilst this is a while away, it would act to discourage students from relocating if it is still deemed unsafe to do so.

We do realise that it is a big ask and it does have some financial implications on yourselves however students should not have to pay for something they are not using. 

You, the landlords, rely on the University operating to run your business each academic year including when students are on their end of term holiday. We are asking you to support your tenants by relieving the financial strain but also looking to support the national drive to protect the NHS.

These proposed changes aren’t unique to Northampton, Universities across the country are addressing this issue and contacting landlords to make changes which are in the students’ best interests. We have also been in contact with National Union Students who have written to National Residential Landlord Association about their concerns and are now raising it with the Competition and Market Authority to take the concerns further.

We ask that you the landlords and letting agents, please consider the support the Government is offering including the mortgage holiday scheme. If the changes are not possible due to your own circumstance, we ask that you have that conversation with your tenants.

We hope that you are all managing to stay safe in this current climate and we look forward to your response.

Yours Sincerely, Kathryn Baker, Vice-President Welfare, University of Northampton Students’ Union

  • Barry X

    Why should everyone else's problem be paid for by Landlords?

    By the way, one thing I though of a while ago and have mentioned to quite a few people - who ALL thought it an excellent analogy (once they understood it - sorry I'm so long-winded and useless at getting to the point)......

    Point (1) The government has been telling the world and his dog that we landlords and our agents (all assumed to be rich bas***ds even though few of us are either) should all be happy and willing (keen even) to reduce rents or even let our tenants live in our properties for free "during the crisis" because, obviously, tenants all "need somewhere to live".

    The theory being some are now a little more hard up than usual, even though most are normally employed (unlike most of us, certainly me anyhow) so now getting, or due to get, 80% 'furloughed' pay.

    In reality, though few will admit it, many of these people are probably no worse off, some even better off, on on 80% pay while not going to the pub or having many other expenses....

    (Meanwhile we landlords aren't eligible for any such genuine support, only bogus "support" that leaves us a little worse off like a "mortgage holiday" where we STILL have to pay, the money we'll owe is actually secured against our property, and we'll have extra interest (that disgracefully is no longer even tax deductible) to pay in addition.... so NO SUPPORT or hand-outs for us).

    Point (2) everyone (our tenants anyhow, but apparently not us, the people thought to have so much they need nothing else and must give instead) needs to eat and have a few household essentials.

    Therefore, in addition to suggesting tenants should now pay less or no rent (at our expense and loss) why hasn't the dear-old and obviously wise (joking) government also told them to go to shops - any shops large or small - and just openly help themselves to whatever they need then "negotiate" to pay half or nothing "due to covid 19"?

    Obviously the poor man with a single convenience store who works from 6am getting the shop ready, till perhaps 11:30pm will be delighted to be "doing his bit for the covid 19 crisis" by just giving stuff away. After all he owns (or rents) a small shop so must be a rich bas***d who can easily afford it.... plus its obviously his job, as a small shop keeper, to subsidise society and look after working people who are probably much better off than he is!

    So why not treat shop keepers like landlords and suggest their customers plead poverty (whether true or not) and ask for goods "they need during this difficult time" for free or half price? After all, what's the real difference between getting accommodation extra cheap or free on the pretext of "these difficult times" to any other "essential" item or commodity?

    Just a thought.

  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    Well put, the virus has brought many things, BUT Nothing for Free.
    Everything always has, and Always will, have to be paid for.
    If the Govt is stepping in to help people, such help should be EQUALLY distributed and they should not impose or Change legislation ( Eviction proceedings ) that penalise legally compliant members of society.
    In effect, the Govt has made landlords responsible for Housing those that Can't pay, Won't pay, for FREE, by withdrawing the long existing legal means. Means that existed when those Landlords chose to enter the business. Talk about changing the 'rules of the game' to suit the Government. Its nothing less than Sequestration of Private property, But the day of reckoning will come, when Private Landlords are able to evict and less and less are willing to house those on benefit as they're seen as the ' riskier end of the spectrum '

  • Paul Barrett

    Few LL are aware of how they are very effectively co-opted by Govt as free accommodation
    This is essentially facilitated by the dysfunctional eviction process.

    It is this dysfunctional eviction process which essentially enforces such FREE accommodation.
    Few LL have any appreciation that they are entering into an industry which effectively forces them to provide free accommodation when tenants for WHATEVER reason stop paying rent.

    I can't think of any other commercial enterprise in the UK that would have a sustainable business model if it was forced by legal process to effectively give away goods and services for months on end with no real recourse for civil recovery.

    Unfortunately for LL Govt knows that the voting electorate has no concerns about LL losing money or not being paid for services.
    It is this fundamental unfairness that all LL labour under.

    Providing LL are aware of the manifest unfairness of these circumstances then entering the PRS is done willingly.
    It is my contention that very few LL are aware that Govt seeks to use their assets for effectively free social housing until the LL could evict.
    If LL were aware I contend there would be substantially fewer LL with far fewer rental properties.

    But unless the eviction process is substantially enhanced LL must appreciate that their assets will be used as FREE accommodation.
    If LL can't afford to be de-facto free social housing for up to 2 years then they really shouldn't risk being LL.
    Obviously RGI where possible can greatly assist LL to receive rent where a tenant refuses to pay before eventually being evicted.
    Trouble is very few tenants or their guarantors can qualify for RGI

    Being a LL especially a leveraged one is a VERY risky business.
    The CV19 issue has highlighted this situation.
    I believe many LL will be taking stock of their circumstances and reduce their exposure to rental property risk.
    This must result in their eventually being far fewer rental properties especially those that are leveraged.
    Many LL could reduce their exposure to rent default risk and still be as profitable.

    Unfortunately for tenants they will face a much reduced rental stock to choose from.
    But of course this will have been caused in large part by Govt refusal to allow LL to get rid of rent defaulting tenants quickly.
    It is also scheduled by Govt to make things even more difficult to get rid of such rent defaulting tenants by abolishing the AST and S21 with a possibility of also requiring pre-action protocols required in the social sector to be required in the private sector.

    You have to be a very brave person to become a LL and to ensure you have vast cash reserves to lose as a consequence of rent defaulting tenants.
    Without those reserves many LL face bankruptcy.
    So much for rich LL!!!!

  • icon

    The article is wrong in that it says the letter comes jointly from the Northampton Student Landlords Network, it does not. NSLN has given the following statement to Northampton Union:-

    “Private landlords in Northampton appreciate that many of their student tenants will be affected by the upheaval and uncertainty caused by Covid19. As such, many have offered considerable practical support to their tenants, largely to those who have chosen to remain locked down in Northampton. Of course, plenty of landlords themselves have also been affected, perhaps through loss of employment income, and many are understandably concerned for the future, particularly where the rent they receive is their only source of income, and given that most landlords are ineligible for any of the business or personal support measures announced by the Government.
    Given our understanding that the Minister for Universities has confirmed that scheduled tuition and maintenance payments will continue to be paid by the Student Loans Company, landlords would expect student tenants to continue to pay their rents in the normal way, in full and on time.
    For individual tenants who genuinely face financial difficulty as a result of Covid19, it is advised that they contact their landlord asap to discuss their specific circumstances. If student tenants can evidence their financial predicament and provide the necessary reassurance that full payment will be made, then landlords are likely to be receptive to flexible ways in which students’ remaining rental obligations can be managed. This could include partial payment deferrals and/or payment in instalments
    Whilst landlords will do all they can to help in the management of final rent payments, student tenants must understand that their contracts are legally enforceable and unaffected by the current circumstances. They are advised not to default as this may have implications for them, their housemates and their guarantors.”

    Please could this be rectified.
    Richard Dawson, Chairman NSLN

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