Private landlords and letting agents have been asked to recognise student hardship in a letter signed by Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery and YUSU President Patrick O’Donnell.
The joint letter from the University of York, York St. John University, and their respective Students’ Unions recognises the uncertainty of lockdown for students and accommodation providers, asking them to support those facing hardship.
It asks that landlords and letting agents refund underspent bills for students who are unable to use accommodation, as well as allowing flexible payments for students who aren’t able to pay rent.
The letter also calls for rent reductions “in some cases”.
Current lockdown restrictions mean that many students are unable to return to their accommodation both on and off campus.
Student opportunities for part-time work have been dramatically reduced in the face of business closures with student loans often not providing enough to cover rising rental costs.
Combined, these factors have resulted in students struggling to pay rent for accommodation they are unable to use.
The letter follows the provision of rent deductions for students living on campus who are unable to return to their accommodation and the waiving of rents at universities across the UK.
YUSU President, Patrick O’Donnell, told York Vision:
“We’re influencing Government and partners across the City of York at all levels, to ensure that the interests of students are put first. We are also lobbying York’s Members of Parliament and the Universities Minister jointly with the Vice-Chancellor, in order to protect students’ incomes through increasing financial support schemes.
“It’s over one month since the start of this third lockdown period in England and serious questions remain why the UK Government can (rightly) support businesses through the furlough scheme, but cannot support students who are overwhelmingly in vulnerable economic positions. We have seen increased support in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but financial support grants are hugely lacking in England.
“Locally, we have seen really constructive developments, with about 1/3 of landlords responding positively to students’ requests to increase flexibility or even reduce rent payments. I strongly believe that things such as refunding underspent bills should be an absolute minimum, and we are continuing to seek both local and national solutions to protect students’ incomes.
“If students require housing advice, they should contact the University Student Hub or YUSU’s Advice & Support Centre.”