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Thank you for your letter dated 19th January 2021
I do appreciate your views on your students having difficulty with their financial circumstances due to the pandemic.
I can’t stress enough to our tenants that we will, along with our landlords, treat each situation on a case by case basis. As you may appreciate, there are several landlords in our Nottingham City portfolios, all with their own individual financial burdens too.
We have helplines and emails that are sent to our residents to contact us so we can offer support and guidance. For ease and reiteration;
Again, we do take all matters regarding their financial concerns seriously and will treat with utmost fragility and assist, with our landlords input, where we can.
We are not aware of government guidance that prevents individuals from travelling to their UK Home (where an Assured Shorthold Tenancy is in force). I appreciate that some students will look at their 'student house' as their home and some will view their other place of residence as home. However, that perception or definition does not impede the rights of a UK Individual to live in their own home, which for someone with an AST, is where their AST is by very definition of the Act. The Home Moving Guidance by the government allows for the movement of people between homes. We understand the confusion and apparent conflict with Guidance on the presence of students at Campus, however, we do not know of the legitimate source that would apply that remit to a Housing Act tenancy. Your advice, as a representative, could explore this difference between "term-time residence" and a private house on an AST being enjoyed with the freedom/ benefits/ protection afforded by the Act. Of note, the vast majority of our student houses are occupied as students have freely travelled to their home in Nottingham.
Our local accreditation body which is the body that Nottingham City Council use to accredit student off-street private housing, offers an explanation of this confusion here: https://www.unipol.org.uk/advice/students/coronavirus-advice-for-students-and-landlords
Comfort Lettings spearheaded, during lockdown 1, a process by which tenants can communicate with their landlords about any negative financial consequences that would impact their ability to pay rent. This process that we developed was shared with ~20,000 other UK agents as Best Practice for discussing rent deferments by Rightmove, who had come across our good work in finding a route through the complex pathways created by the unique challenges of an Agency being unable to create a singular policy towards this national issue. This process remains in existence now, as it did during the first lockdown, and we have responded to this effect to any relevant enquiries.
The lobbying that I believe needs to take place for those that are negatively financially worse off, is for further central support to then allow normal economic flows to take place as is the design with furlough/ UC etc. We recognise the government support has gaps and that is why we have our rent deferment processes in place.
I hope this offers some additional perspective for you and some detailed explanation of the differences as we understand them. We understand entirely why this is a confusing issue and can seem nuanced.
Many thanks for your email and your empathy towards our situation.
We completely understand that over the last couple of weeks both universities and private student accommodation providers have been confirming their individual situations regarding rent collection for the January term and this communication is to share with you the approach that CRM students are taking.
As you may be aware, CRM are acting on behalf of the landlords to collect the rent due, and (at time of writing) there has been no support or guidance provided by the government to assist financially with payments that are owed on the building. This has meant they (landlords) cannot reduce or cancel any payments as this will force them to breach covenants with the bank. Therefore we can only advise that the full outstanding rent amount will remain due.
We realise that this may not be the news your students were hoping to receive from us, however we hope that you can understand that there are legal health and safety requirements required to operate a site, and these remain in place for the residents that continue to have a home with us, which is currently in excess of 30%. There are daily costs to running the accommodation, even within the current working environment, and these will remain so for the rest of the academic year and in many cases, loans still need to be repaid.
The building remains an operational site for the residents, which has a large number of students that continue to have a home with us, some of whom are unable to return home for a variety of reasons. If students are struggling in any way to make payment, we ask that they contact us. We will be able to work with them to come to a suitable agreement in order to help as best we can.
We will continue to work with our landlords helping them understand and adapt to the ever-changing landscape and should the circumstances of our landlords change in near future, we will be sure to inform our students, and yourselves, as soon as we are able.
At this time, we are having to work through the restrictions put in place by the government and will have to adapt to any further changes and guidance we are asked to enforce and whilst this may not be the outcome you were hoping for, please be assured that once we are able to make any changes to the way in which we operate, these will be implemented to all our buildings and our students.
"IQ residents would have recently recieved an email from us outlining a rental discount: https://www.iqstudentaccommodation.com/rental-offer
Thank you for your e-mail. Thank you too for the attached letter. Sadly we are not in a position to offer any rent reduction, we are privately owned and operating as normal, please also see the information taken from your own website, and also from Unipol. Sadly we don’t have the luxury of receiving £9000 in tuition per student. The rental income is our only income and until we receive assistance from the Government then we will review our position.
The guidance continues to stress that “Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability…Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
In many if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If your ability to pay will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are in difficulty.”
Our advice is as follows:
• As you are legally liable for your rent, you should continue to pay it.
• Speak to your landlord or agent and see if you can negotiate an agreement with them. Whilst there is no obligation for them to make any concessions, you may be able to arrange something.
• Check whether your contract has a break-clause. If in doubt, send the Information & Advice Service a copy of your contract and we can check for you.
• Your contract will usually say that you need to give notice if you are going to be away from the accommodation for a period of time – check your contract and let your landlord/agent know if you are going to be away.
• You will remain liable for the utility bills until the end of your tenancy agreement. If your rent includes an amount for bills – you could ask the landlord/agent to reduce your rent amount if you will not be staying in the property (and they do not agree to end your tenancy early).
• If you have signed an accommodation contract for the academic year 2020/21 - this agreement will still be binding.
To the Executive Officer Team
I’m writing in response to your letter date 18th January 2021 requesting rent rebates for students who are unable to return to their accommodation.
Whilst I fully understand and appreciate that many will choose to follow government guidance, for clarity, students are legally entitled to return to their accommodation; government guidance is that they should not return to university accommodation where possible, until at least mid-February.
I agree that students have not had a great experience this academic year and last.
Online learning, having a reduced requirement to use their university accommodation, and not being able to work in the jobs they would have normally to support themselves financially will have meant that their experiences have not been as they should.
That being said, there is unlikely no individual in the world right now who can say that they have had the experiences they should have in the last twelve months.
Millions have lost their jobs and are surviving on Universal Credit, have had reduced income, or are struggling to do their jobs from home and educate their children; and thousands of businesses have collapsed wiping out years of hard work for those who have built their companies from scratch.
I believe your request that private landlords should be the ones to pay for this is misplaced.
Large intuitions like the universities themselves and Unite etc can afford to pay rebates, or offer discounts for all tenants who aren’t using their accommodation at the moment
The financial cost of this will absorbed by their existing assets or divided amongst their many shareholders.
Private landlords are, however, in entirely different financial situations
The narrative that all landlords are rolling in cash so they should be the ones to take on the financial hardship might be an easy one to tell, but it is not based in reality
Many of our clients are retired, they have saved throughout their lives and invested in property to create an income in their retirement
Others are working people who use the rent from their properties to support their income; many of them will have also been furloughed, or made redundant.
Giving up a number of months’ rent from all of their tenants would have a significant financial impact on these individuals who will also have monthly expenses to pay (mortgages, insurance, safety certification) which do not just stop because tenants aren’t there.
In addition, what should I do as a business owner? I still have to make sure the properties we manage are safe and well maintained, whether there are 1 or 6 tenants living in them
We earn fees from rents collected; if we are not collecting any rent; what am I to use to pay my employees? It is not fair that any individual is financially harmed by the measures implemented by the Government to combat Covid-19, but, transferring that financial harm from one group to another is not the correct solution to the problem.
I strongly believe that it is the job of the Government to support those who have suffered as a result of government policy, not private landlords.
Our clients are of course compassionate people; we have been providing the facility for our tenants to apply for rent payment holidays
since the start of the first lockdown and if individual tenants are experiencing significant financial distress we will work with them where possible.
Our landlords may be able to help on those occasions; but asking them to give blanket rebates or end tenancies early is not financially possible for most
Thanks for your email, we're working closely with landlords to take appropriate action where possible, We've launched financial help guides and are insisting landlords provide flexibility in terms of payment demands for rent owed under the tenancy. We will continue to work with landlords and follow government advice as soon as it's announced.
Thanks for your query. Unfortunately as it stands at the moment, the government have not introduced anything in which changes any liabilities in terms of rental payments and so they will still be liable to pay their rent as per their tenancy agreement. The government have confirmed that student loans are still being paid by Student Finance, so most landlords are still expecting rental obligations to be maintained as usual. Private landlords' stances are slightly different to university halls unfortunately.
We have spoken to our landlords however to ask the question, and most of them will refund the students wherever they have the means to do so. They need to be in the financial position to do so, please be reminded that a lot of private landlords’ have mortgages in which still need to be paid, regardless of the pandemic. Some in which do rely on their rental income on these properties. Please do not get me wrong, I’m sure out landlords’ will do everything they can to help our tenants wherever possible and will definitely closely consider this.
We are actively doing our best, looking into what it is we can do for our tenants and we are waiting updates from the government in terms of this. As and when we have a further update for our tenants, rest assured we will let them know.
My advice to the tenants, would be to pay their rent as and when it is due if they are in the position to do so, and if anything changes in the meantime, we can take things from that point.
See website: https://www.studentroost.co.uk/rent-discount-scheme
This is such a difficult time for all and we fully understand the predicament students face but also the situation many face from individual circumstances to businesses.
This current lockdown is a very recent situation and also one which is very fluid and being reviewed daily by the government. The government itself is looking into the situation to see what support can be offered to both private landlords like ourselves and further support to students during this very difficult time.
As it stands there is a fund of £20m set up by Government to support students in hardship and also £256m that universities can use to support those students in need and over the next few days and weeks we hope to receive more clarity and support. At present time there is still no support being offered to private landlords like ourselves .
I am sure many operators and businesses like us in all sectors, are having to spend a lot of time modelling what they can do to ensure their business can continue past this, but also what they can do to ensure their guests, customers, and staff are supported where possible.
We are currently analysing various scenarios and models to assess the current situation and alongside this we are also having detailed discussions with our funders and Banks.
We are sure you will appreciate that decisions like this cannot be made at the speed in which the pandemic is evolving. However, we can assure you that once we have modelled all scenarios and had detailed discussions with our funders and Banks and a response from the government we will be back in touch and update you accordingly.
For many businesses this is such a challenging time. We still have fixed bills which need paying, 24hr management and security, as well as mortgage payments that need to be covered to name a few. There is no one that has been unaffected during these very challenging times.
In the interim we are collecting license fees as normal. We will of course assess each case individually and if we need to support students in hardship, this is something we will as always look at.
We thank you for your understanding whilst we evaluate what support can be offered to our guests.
We appreciate your patience and support whilst this pandemic is ongoing and as soon as we have any update I will be in touch.
Thank you for the letter attached. Unfortunately our private landlords are not willing to offer any rent reductions as the students are still getting their student loans and the majority of our tenants have returned to their term time homes.
I write with reference to your letter dated 18th January 2021 in relation to your request for a rent reduction.
The content of your letter has been noted and in order for any reduction in rent to be considered, a request will need to put in writing by the tenant for approval from their landlord. We manage a number of properties in Nottingham City Centre and each apartment is privately owned and is not student accommodation. Each request will be reviewed individually by the owner of the apartment and we will receive instructions on how they wish to proceed.
Going forward from your letter, should any of your students approach you for a rent reduction on a property we manage, please advise them to contact us with their request in writing and we will liaise with them direct.
I trust this clarifies your query, however if you need anything further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
These really are unusual times for everyone, hopefully we can return to some normality soon, we will forward your letter directly to our Landlords. We are also in discussion with them to see if there is anything that they would do.