Kate McIntosh, president of the SU, and Mary Foy, MP for the City of Durham, have written a letter to private halls, asking that “they allow students to end their tenancy agreements early, and stop paying rent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The letter was addressed to Dun Holm House, Prestige Student Living Duresme Court, Student Roost – Chapel Heights, Unite Students, Student Castle and New Kepier Court, among others.
“Releasing students from their contracts and the requirement to pay rent for the rest of this academic year is the right thing to do.”Mary Foy MP and Kate McIntosh
In the letter, they argue that student loans are not enough to cover rent for most Durham students and thus many work on zero hour contracts. Since Covid-19 has seen many students lose out on flexible work, and are unable to access government support, rent obligations have the potential to put students at considerable financial risk. Cancelling rents was thus the “responsible thing to do.”
They also pointed out that allowing tenants to end contracts on unused rooms would be in line with Durham University’s policy, who recently announced that students who have vacated their University accommodation will not be charged rent for next term.
In addition, Unite Students, a national company which provides accommodation nationally for over 50,000 students, recently agreed to free tenants from their accommodation contracts on the same principles.
The letter also reflected on the fact that students who choose this type of accommodation (Purpose-built student accommodation, or PBSA) do so for access to additional services, such as “gyms, study spaces and cinema facilities.” However, in line with government advice on public spaces, the majority of these facilities are now inaccessible to residents.
They concluded by saying that “releasing students from their contracts and the requirement to pay rent for the rest of this academic year is the right thing to do.”
This letter follows mounting national pressure on PBSA companies to cancel rents. In response, some have pointed out that students will receive their student loans.
Durham University’s decision to waive rent in university-owned accommodation next term is in line with an estimated 60 other universities. However, the majority of Durham students live in privately rented accommodation.
Image: Durham Students’ Union