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Letter to Thangam Debbonaire MP on Student Accommodation

Monday 06-04-2020 - 14:05
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This is a public letter from Bristol SU to Thangam Debbonaire MP, to ask them to continue highlighting the issues faced by private renters in this time of crisis and urge the government to consider some of what we have outlined.

If you are a student concerned about having to pay rent on your private tenancy, because the coronavirus outbreak has put you in a difficult financial position, you can use this template letter to write to your landlord and request a change to your agreement.

Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP, 

I am writing to you as Student Living Officer of Bristol SU, representing the 27,000+ students at the University of Bristol, about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on student renters.

Thanks for signing Paul Blomfield MP’s and the APPG for Students’ cross-party letter to government.  We know you’re a supporter of students and have been a key ally in the past, and we thank you for that. 

The majority of student jobs are in the now-closed service industry and our members are now struggling financially. Many receive the minimum student loan of £4,168 per year, with taught postgraduates receiving even less, and so rely on part-time work to pay their bills. Even with the government’s job retention scheme, many students have already lost their jobs and are now struggling to pay their rent. In addition, we know that students with disabilities, those with pre-existing health conditions, international students and those that don't have family support networks are facing particularly challenging circumstances. 

In response to the crisis, many of our students are volunteering their time to support those most vulnerable, from dropping off food and medicine in their local communities to volunteering in the NHS volunteer scheme.

We recently wrote to private landlords, purpose built student accommodation providers (PBSAs) and letting agents in Bristol explaining the impact COVID-19 is having on students and asking them to take action. While we know our asks may expose some landlords to financial risk, we believe individual students – particularly those who are vulnerable or recently laid off from work - shouldn’t be the ones to absorb the financial impact of a global crisis. We have a positive working relationship with many landlords through our SU lettings agency, and some private landlords such as Unite Students have already reduced rents to help students. As previously stated, we know that some landlords won’t be able to support their tenants fully and that is why government support is essential. 

We are asking you to continue highlighting the issues faced by private renters in this time of crisis and urge the government to ensure the following is offered:
1.    For tenants who are at risk of being made homeless, an extension of tenancy. 
2.    For tenants who have been financially impacted due to COVID-19, a significant rent reduction or a rent holiday, where no rent is required, for the duration of the crisis.
3.    For students who have returned home or will return home, a no-penalty contract release. If students have already paid for the next period, providers should refund this along with their deposit.
4.    For landlords and accommodation providers, financial support in order to implement these asks across the board. 

Additionally, if you aren’t already, it would be great for you to work with local large private letting agencies to change their approach to rent collection and highlight the points raised in Bristol SU’s letter to landlords and providers. It would also be very helpful if you could promote this letter on your social media platforms. 

If there is any more information that would be helpful to clarify anything in this letter, please do let us know. We understand that this will be a particularly difficult time for many of your constituents and we greatly appreciate any support you are able to offer.

Yours Sincerely,
George Bemrose
Student Living Officer, Bristol SU

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio    Undergraduate Education Officer at Bristol SU and Vice-President Elect Higher Education at National Union of Students (NUS)
Jason Palmer    Equality, Liberation and Access Officer at Bristol SU
Amy Brook    Sport and Student Development Officer at Bristol SU
Julio Mkok    Union Affairs Officer at Bristol SU
Christopher   Brasnett    Postgraduate Education Officer at Bristol SU


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