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News: Landlord Dilemma: should I give discounts and refunds?

Tue, 12 Jan 21

A landlord has opened up to a news website about the difficulties trying to accommodate student tenants during the lockdown. 

Elizabeth Hunter is a student landlord in Plymouth and says she appreciates the apparent unfairness of students who remain with their parents during lockdown being expected to pay for private rental accommodation they cannot use.

"I am happy to and fully intend to do an assessment of all the utility bills and make appropriate refunds, but there are students that have decided to stay in their accommodation” she tells PlymouthLive.

"This is a situation where a lot of the world is outside of its comfort zone, and that's not just students. It's landlords, it's people in the NHS, the bakers down the road."

She adds: "We've got a lovely bunch of students, and we've been very fortunate in having some really nice people in the ten years we've been doing this. There are a lot of people out there at the moment that are in a lot worse situations than students right now, and we do need to keep a perspective on what's going on in the whole world."

Hunter goes on to say: "One of our students in the spring lockdown preferred to stay at the student house as they were unable to study at the family home with noisy younger siblings and family life. No doubt other students will be struggling with this issue whilst trying to keep up with their studies.

"Individual circumstances are very different and the best place for studying, whilst maintaining good mental and physical well-being, will be different for everyone."

Hunter makes it clear she believes landlords have a responsibility to weigh up individual circumstances rather than have a blanket response.

“In addressing the situation, the government have a major administrative job on their hands to write numerous detailed new laws at short notice and do what's fair for all as every student and landlord will have their own individual circumstances within which they have to navigate.

"Even in the midst of an uncertain future for us all, I do think landlords should always be fair and where possible, flexible in their approach, taking into account individual circumstances, and this is what we have always endeavoured to do.”

The comments come as one of the leading purpose-built student accommodation providers - Unite - has announced a limited discount for its student tenants.

 

Students living in Unite units will be able to apply for a discount of 50 per cent of their rent for a total of four weeks and, in addition, will be given a four-week complimentary extension of their tenancy agreement at the end of the academic year to extend their stay into the summer. 

The rental discount and tenancy extension will be available to all students checked-in but not living in their accommodation between January 18 and February 14.

The government’s latest guidance recommends that most students start their second term online until at least mid-February. 

There are however exceptions for certain practical courses, such as medicine, veterinary science, teacher training and social work. Therefore campuses are expected to remain open and Covid-19 testing will be offered to all students on their return to or arrival at college or university.

Unite - which is listed. On the London Stock Exchange- says the loss of rental income will cost it up to £8m.

Chief executive Richard Smith says: “We recognise that this is again a particularly challenging time for all students, which is why their health, safety and security has been our priority since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The new rent discount recognises the challenges and disruption that students face following the government's latest lockdown announcement, and we feel that taking this action is the right thing to do.

"Universities remain open, unlike the first lockdown, and we continue to have thousands of students living with us as of today.”


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