This is a public letter from Bristol SU to landlords and accommodation providers, to ask them to reduce financial pressure on their student tenants during the coronavirus outbreak. The University of Bristol have also sent a supporting letter.
If you are a student concerned about having to pay rent on your private tenancy, because the coronavirus outbreak and current lockdown 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. You may also wish to consider applying for the University's financial assistance fund.
We are writing to you following the announcement of the third lockdown, and the Government releasing guidance that students should stay put at least until mid-February, meaning that many students, including your tenants, are unable to return to Bristol.
We recognise that times continue to be challenging, and we hope that you are keeping well and safe. It is really important that we all come together as a community and support each other in any way that we can. The continued effects of this pandemic have left many of us in difficult situations, and it is incredibly hard to continue to navigate the constant uncertainty which we are facing. In response to the crisis, many of our students are working to support those most vulnerable, from working in the NHS to delivering food and medicine to other members of the community.
As we are sure you are aware, the impact on students over these last 9 months has been huge. With the hospitality sector continually shutting down and reopening, student jobs have been incredibly precarious, leaving many without the money they need to pay their rent. 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 stay afloat. Some students have been unable to move into their properties at all due to a combination of their flatmates getting Covid and the two lockdowns since their tenancy began. Following the Government announcement about a third lockdown, many students are unable to return to their University residences for at least a month and a half, leaving many out of pocket for a house they cannot live in.
Given how transmissible the new strain of the virus is, we want as many measures as possible to be put in place to support students to remain where they currently are. It is difficult for students to be paying full rent for a property they are advised not to return to. If landlords and accommodation providers can play their part in removing financial pressure as a reason to travel, this could really help keep our community safe.
With all of this in mind, we are asking private landlords and PBSA providers to offer the following:
We recognise that this is a large financial ask, but as with the previous lockdowns, students have been bearing the brunt of the crisis. Any measures which you can take as providers of accommodation would go a long way to alleviate the financial pressures which many students are facing.
We are making these asks in line with actions taken by Universities and PBSA providers across the country. In Bristol specifically, the University of Bristol have offered all students in halls who do not return to campus a 100% rebate from 1st February to 26th March. This is on top of an already existing 30% rebate from 19th December to 5th February. Unite Students have announced a 50% rent reduction from 18th January to 14th February. We urge you to follow suit and consider what measures you can put in place for your own tenants.
Landlords, please consider the schemes the Government has put in place to help businesses and property owners, including mortgage holidays, which might give you the financial flexibility to make these changes. If these exact requests are not possible due to personal circumstances, we ask that you discuss possible options with your tenants and come to a shared agreement about what you can offer.
Lettings agents, we understand you do not make decisions surrounding rent, so we ask that you share this letter with your landlords and assist them to accommodate their tenants' needs and their own.
To both, we ask that in addition to considering financial support for your tenants you continue to only have virtual house viewings for the duration of lockdown in order to prevent spread of the virus. We understand that the legislation does allow for in-person viewings to continue, but due to the increased transmissibility of the virus, we ask that you postpone these if the current tenants are living in the property until the situation gets less acute. We also do not want students to feel as if they must return to Bristol for in-person house hunting during this time. Bristol SU Lettings has adopted this policy, and we ask that you follow this best practice.
We appreciate you considering all this to support students and hope that you can put in place some really important measures to alleviate some of the burden this pandemic is having on your tenants. We hope you stay well in these difficult times.
University of Bristol Students’ Union Officer Team
Update 5 February 2021
Student Living Officer Ruth Day and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Student Experience Sarah Purdy have written again to the four letting agencies which we have heard from students are continuing in-person viewings.
If your lettings agency is continuing with in-person viewings please contact firstname.lastname@example.org