On 10th February, students received an email from our SABBs, letting us know that they’re fighting for refunds and flexibility for students paying for off-campus accommodation.
I am extremely grateful that the SABBs are doing this for us. It seems that most of society has turned their backs on us students – we are so often ignored in this pandemic, and blamed for spikes in Covid-19 cases. What the SABBs are carrying out is amazing, and displays how much they care for the University of York’s student’s welfare.
The Vice Chancellor and YUSU have also been asking landlords and letting agents to have some mercy on students.
Whilst admirable, I don’t particularly feel positive about actually getting anywhere, because of the inherent stubbornness of the majority of private landlords and letting agents.
The email sent has a positive tone to it:
“…around 1/3 of landlords respond constructively to offer support and have even offered discounts”
This is decently reassuring, and does debunk my initial negative mindset – to a limited extent. 1/3 is better than none, but that still means 2/3 of landlords have blatantly refused to “offer support” or “discounts”. York’s students pay rent to a number of private landlords and letting agents. We can probably guess the ones who fall under the pleasant 1/3, and the 2/3 who are unforgiving to these circumstances students have been dragged through.
Students, like myself, have decided to stay at home during this pandemic. I am currently paying for a student house I can’t even access.
Yes, I could have gone up at the start of term, making my rent payment worthwhile, however, we all have different circumstances which stop students like myself from being able to move back to York. Why should I have to pay for a service I’m not using?
Gyms give their members refunds, so why can’t private landlords at least give us a reduction? I would, as many students would, be grateful for a rent reduction, yet I don’t particularly see this happening. Ever.
Of course, this all depends on who you are renting from. If you are renting from the 1/3 of the landlords who are kind to students, you are very, very lucky.
More so, the lack of rent reductions students are receiving is pushing many into a financial crisis. Money that is wasted on a house you aren’t even living at could be spent on student’s groceries. According to an NUS survey, one in ten UK students needed to rely on food banks during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some students would struggle to survive without services like food banks, and yet rent reductions and refunds are being refused for many students.
You would think students would receive some sort of financial sympathy, but we haven’t. This is sadly what the majority of us off-campus students should expect.
Even for students who are living in their student houses, I still support you having rent reductions ESPECIALLY if you are struggling. York’s youth unemployment has increased threefold, so it is plain to see that many of the student population is strapped for cash. The money saved from being spent on rent would be vital for recently unemployed students.
As ever, I am grateful the University is trying to help students. However, I am still pessimistic about the outcome of this fight, but all we can do now is wait and see…