Updated on 15th January 2021

This update includes information on the following topics:

  • The UK Accommodation Forum
  • Students Returning to Higher Education for Spring Term
  • What Are Students Actually Doing in respect of their Accommodation?
  • Testing
  • Messaging
  • Updated Government Advice (MHCLG) to Landlords and Tenants
  • Rent Refunds
  • Pre-Christmas Rent Refunds
  • 2021 Rent Refunds
  • Refunds Announced (as of 13th January 2021)
  • PBSA Providers
  • University Providers
  • Not Refunding Rents at This Time
  • Code Complaints
  • Communications between Universities and Accommodation Providers – The ANUK/Unipol National Code - Universities/PBSA Communications Survey
  • House Hunting for 2021-2022
  • National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Fire Safety Guidance Regarding COVID-19
  • Late Construction

THE UK STUDENT ACCOMMODATION FORUM

Unipol has established an online set of Zoom meetings entitled The UK Student Accommodation Forum. These events are free and attended by 40 participants from across the accommodation sector and Government. These are short 1 hour meetings held between 11.00am and midday and consist of two expert contributions (about 10 minutes each) followed by general discussion. Any “issues of the moment” also gets a 10-minute slot. Details can be found on Unipol's Training and Events Page.

The Spring programme will be available soon and will start on Thursday 21st January 2021.

STUDENTS RETURNING TO HIGHER EDUCATION FOR SPRING TERM

The Government guidance for higher education providers was further updated on 7th January 2021 “Students returning to, and starting higher education, in spring term 2021 - Guidance for higher education providers” and can be consulted at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/950583/Students_returning_to_and_starting_higher_education_in_Spring_Term_2021_FINAL_v3.pdf

The guidance response to the fast-rising number of Coronavirus cases throughout the UK and aims to reduce the number of students returning to University. A key part of the Guidance reads: “We are now prioritising the return to face-to-face teaching for courses which are most important to be delivered in-person in order to support the pipeline of future key workers. All other courses should be delivered online until at least mid-February. Our aim is to minimise the number of students who return to university to access university facilities.”

It was originally envisaged that HE providers would arrange two phases of student return:

4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021

  • practical and placement students returning first
  • work, clinical or practical placements
  • courses requiring practical teaching or learning
  • courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment.

25 January to week commencing and 1 February 2021

  • remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home. HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.

But this most recent guidance reduces those involved in the 4th January return:

  • Medicine & dentistry
  • Subjects allied to medicine/Health
  • Veterinary science
  • Education (initial teacher training)
  • Social studies (social work).

Wherever possible, is stressed, teaching and learning should be provided online.

The second tranche of the return has also been slowed “Given the rising infection rates, the return/arrival of all other students should be paused until at least mid-February. Providers should not offer in-person teaching before then, or later if further guidance to this effect is issued, and should encourage students to remain at their vacation accommodation until the resumption of their in-person teaching, wherever possible.”

It is therefore reasonable to conclude that face to face teaching within universities will not be commencing until, at least “mid-February”.

Comment

There are two difficulties with this guidance:

a) It is written for educational institutions and relates to return to campus and has little to say about student accommodation provided outside of the educational institution under normal landlord and tenant arrangements.

It is clear the Government wants to reduce movement around the country for public health reasons but, within other guidance “Government Guidance (MHCLG) to Landlords and Tenants (see links below) it is also clear that tenants are entitled to continue to take up their tenancies (which represent an estate in land) even though they are being discouraged from returning to campus. It is not “illegal” to return to take up a tenancy.

The difficulties can also be seen in the Guidance more generally which seeks to address issues that are self-evident to private accommodation providers:

  1. some students want to return to their accommodation. The Guidance says “HE providers should consider supporting the return of students in exceptional circumstances, for example, where students do not have access to appropriate alternative accommodation, facilities or study space, or who need to return for health or safety reasons.”

  2. some students remained in their accommodation over Christmas but a much more significant number travelled back to their accommodation right at the start of the year (and in advance of this Guidance) The Guidance says: “There may also be some students who have remained in their university/term-time accommodation over the winter break, or have already returned, including many international students, but are not expected to return to in-person learning until mid-February. These students should remain at their current university accommodation. They should be asked to only utilise campus resources when they have to, in order to reduce footfall on campus, but they should be offered testing alongside the first expected returners.

    HE providers should consider appropriate provision to support access to university facilities to support online learning (e.g. library services or study spaces) and to prevent isolation and mental health issues of students.”

It should be stressed that students have contractual tenancies and therefore they are entitled to take up residence when they wish within their accommodation and any persistent attempts to dissuade them from this could constitute harassment.

The Office for Students has brought out a number of FAQs which provides advice in this area https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/for-students/student-guide-to-coronavirus/returning-to-university-in-2021 

This advice has been revised to toughen up advice not to return to university outside of the planned phases.

“I don’t have adequate study space at home/ it’s better for my mental health for me to go back to university, can I go back?

Wherever possible, you should remain where you are and not travel to access university facilities until the resumption of face-to-face teaching.

However, you may return to university earlier if you do not have access to appropriate alternative accommodation, facilities or studying space, or you need to return for health or safety reasons.

In these circumstances, speak to your university and they will work with you to find a solution, which may include going back to campus. Your face-to-face teaching will not restart straight away, unless you are on one of the courses mentioned above. Your university has been asked to consider what resources, study spaces, campus catering and appropriate pastoral and study support can be made available to you in COVID-secure environments.

You should also get tested as soon as you return to university, if you choose not to do so then you will need to self-isolate for ten days.”

The wider Covid OfS guidance for students also stresses (https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/for-students/student-guide-to-coronavirus/student-faq/) that “As the local and national situation changes, and if cases rise in your accommodation or at your college or university, it will be important to contact the manager of your student accommodation for updates and advice about what to do.”

“If you are in private accommodation and you wish to travel home, you should check with your university or college, or local government guidance.”

Again, for private sector housing suppliers, this advice has nothing to say and is geared entirely at educational institutions. It is therefore for educational institutions to undertake messaging to their students to meet Government advice and to arrange messaging about testing.

b) Universities have interpreted the Government advice differently because they have their own specialisms, subject strengths and institutional frameworks. Three sample examples of how HEIs are reacting are given below:

University College, London announced to their students, almost immediately after the Government advice:

“We want to be honest and transparent with you about the decisions we are making. Our current and most realistic assessment is that it is unlikely that case rates will have reduced sufficiently to allow students to return to campus before at least mid-February, and quite possibly the end of March.

We will therefore be moving all teaching and other face-to-face, in-person activities on-line from the start of term until the end of reading week. There will be no in-person teaching on campus until Monday 22 February, at the earliest (except for a small number of exempt subjects, see below).”

In performing arts Colleges, who were due to return on 4th January under the earlier guidance, most teaching has ceased. The Principal of Leeds Conservatoire wrote to their students saying “Currently we have yet to receive any further detailed information from either the Department for Education or the Office for Students. We only know that we are not permitted to teach on-campus until mid-February. Until we have further guidance, we ask that you don’t enter our buildings or book to use our facilities. If you have a practice room or studio booking for this week, it will be cancelled.

I know that this news will be hugely frustrating to you, as it is to us. We found out about the national lockdown yesterday evening, along with the rest of the UK, and we are making plans as quickly as we can. I don’t believe that performing arts, production and music students have been well served by government guidance changing with little or no warning. I remain committed to the importance of arts education and as members of Conservatoires UK, we are lobbying the government about the impact of the disruption on music and performing arts students and their access to specialist equipment and facilities.”

Nottingham Trent University says:

“Under national restrictions our campuses remain open for essential activities to support those students who need us.

The Government has stated that universities will be moving teaching and learning online until mid-February except for a small number of future critical worker courses which will remain as blended learning with some in-person. All students on these courses should take two COVID-19 Lateral Flow Tests three days apart when they first return to campus for their in-person teaching.

The Government advises that students should only return to their term-time accommodation and only be on campus when their in-person teaching has resumed (please note there are exemptions for students with special circumstances)."

What Are Students Actually Doing in respect of their Accommodation?

It is important to remember that students do not just live in University accommodation (even though Government advice often gives this impression) and students live in three kinds of student accommodation

28% of students (326,040) live in University provided accommodation
26% of students (300,960) live in private sector purpose build student accommodation (PBSA)
47% of students (551,000) live in houses in multiple occupation.

The type of students being housed in the various categories of student accommodation also varies:

  • those living in University provided accommodation tend to be almost entirely first year undergraduate students with a few international students
  • those living in private PBSA accommodation also tend to have a higher number of first year students but also a higher number if international students (although that number is reduced this year)
  • those living in off-street HMOs are mainly returning undergraduate students.

Unipol has looked at a number of occupancy estimates within the accommodation sector an estimates that:

30% of students are present in University provided accommodation. This number is rising week-on-week but this may well stop if refunds are made for nom-occupancy

40% of students are present in private sector PBSA. Again, this number is rising week-on-week.

50% of students are present in off-street HMOs.

This means that there are students present in virtually every house and flat and those running PBSA and off-street houses are running a full landlord/tenant service. This also took place after the March 2020 “lockdown”. Many students regard themselves as having “left home” at the beginning of term and are keen to re-establish their independence after visiting home for Christmas.

Testing

Almost all universities have a testing system in place and students returning are being offered testing on their return to university. Most testing systems remained in place from December. Initial indications from those that have returned is that infection rates are low.

Messaging

The Guardian newspaper reported on 24th December 2020 that the Government had delayed its planned “advertising blitz” giving messaging to students about when to return and how to do so. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/dec/24/covid-ads-to-prepare-students-for-university-return-delayed-amid-rapid-test-concerns

Messaging has been between the Department for Education and educational institutions. There has been no direct messaging to accommodation providers since September 2020.

Good messaging is clearly important and the recent HEPI report Students’ views on the impact of Coronavirus on their higher education experience in 2020/21 https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2020/12/03/students-views-on-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-their-higher-education-experience-in-2020-21/ reported that only 60% of students said they understood the latest Government guidance about the end of term and Christmas travel, which compared with return arrangements was relatively simple. At that time 54% were very or quite concerned about the return to university in January 2021.

Scotland and Wales

On Friday 8th January, the Scottish Government announced that university students will be taught online throughout January and February. Further information can be obtained at https://www.studentinformation.gov.scot/coronavirus/student-accommodation

Advice from the Welsh Government on returning for the Spring term is patchy but Cardiff University, for example, says “We have made the decision to defer the start of in-person teaching for most programmes and to move teaching online (with the exception of health-related and practical-based programmes where on-campus activity is required to meet programme learning outcomes) until 22 February 2021 in the first instance. Please note this does not affect the return of postgraduate research students.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly has also not yet issued any specific guidance on students returning for the next term.

UPDATED GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE (MHCLG) TO LANDLORDS AND TENANTS

Updated guidance was issue on 20th December 2020 and can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-and-renting-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-landlords-and-tenants

It primarily deals with:

  • measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020
  • health and safety obligations, repairs and inspections in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19).

There are a few key points in this guidance worth highlighting:

Rent Payments
The guidance continues to stress that “Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability…Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.

In many if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If your ability to pay will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are in difficulty.”

Repairs
It also stressed that “Landlords can take steps to carry out repairs and safety inspections across all tiers provided these are undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation.” In Scotland the ability to make improvements during the lockdown (such as decorating) and ben reduced but essential repairs are still allowed.

Moving in
In response to the FAQ “Can I move into new shared accommodation with other people?” the answer is “Yes. There is no restriction on people moving permanently into new shared accommodation e.g. a shared flat or house in multiple occupation.”

Viewings for Lettings
House viewings can proceed across all tiers provided these are undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation. Any relevant local advice should also be followed.

Tenants’ safety should be the priority of letting agents and landlords. Where possible, virtual viewings should be used before visiting properties in person in order to minimise public health risks. If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed until the viewing is able to take place.”

RENT REFUNDS

Pre-Christmas Rent Refunds

Some universities have reduced rent to students where a so-called “lockdown” was implemented, often in the face of media and student criticism of their actions. These rent refunds are effectively “sweeteners” and leave the key question of academic fee refunds in the case of lower than expected face-to-face teaching unanswered. For private accommodation providers, where their main business is sustained by rent (rather than academic fees paid to HEIs) it is unlikely that the rent refunds that took place in the previous academic year will be repeated.

2021 Rent Refunds

Lack of Support

Many universities are announcing that they are refunding rents to their tenants where student have not returned to their accommodation. They are often urging private accommodation providers to follow their lead. There is a significant difference between how the educational sector, which continues to collect full academic fees, may consider rent refunds as compared with mainstream private providers.

As in the previous academic year it appears to be reasonable when students are being told by the Government not return to their term-time accommodation until almost March that they are having to pay significant sums in rent for properties the government is effectively telling them not to use on public health grounds. If it is for public health reasons then it might be expected that the state should step in and provide proper support.

Throughout this lockdown, it remains legal (even somewhat encouraged) for the public to be able to move house and reconstitute households to keep the ‘housing market’ open. So, restrictions on what property you can live in are basically nonsensical, unenforceable and targeted at students with no additional support available to them. Indeed, the Government are getting close to treating higher education students as if they are school students.

The Government response to the Coronavirus means that many students are stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle where rent refunds are being offered patchily to them on the basis of financial viability and public pressure. It is likely that these refunds are not actually reaching the students who actually need money the most at the moment. The state needs to provide support to student renters – not see them rely on individual landlords.

Unlike March-August 2020, universities are not closing and are required to keep facilities open for their students and unlike 2019-2020 students knew of the blended learning package and most of the social distancing restrictions before they confirmed their University place. The recent Government advice is no one’s fault and simply reflects the risk that all parties have to share during the pandemic. Many providers have allowed students to leave contracts to commute from home and are urged to take a constructive line on special cases where tenants can demonstrate exceptional circumstances have affected them.

The Minister’s recent letter of 31st December also stressed “We recognise that in these exceptional circumstances some students may face financial hardship. We have worked with the Office for Students to clarify that providers are able to use existing funds, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards hardship support. The Government is making available up to a further £20m on a one-off basis to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students. You will be able to apply for this through the usual routes for your university hardship funding.”

It will be worth providing details to tenants of the sources of help within their institutions that they can apply for.

Refunds Announced
(as of 13th January 2021)

Many private providers have announced that they will help with rent refunds, almost entirely targeted at PBSA and first year students. Most of the refunds will go to students who are not present in their accommodation with no assistance for those that are there. 

PBSA Providers

iQ – is offering up to a 6 week rent free period from 5 January 2021 until 15 February 2021
Student Roost - Full rent equivalent to 6 weeks (is students have not been in the property before 5th January 2020)
Unite Students - are giving a 50% discount for 4 weeks if Covid has stopped students returning to their accommodation

University Providers

Cumbria University - 20% for the full academic year
King’s College London - rent waived until date they return
London School of Economics - rent waived until date they return
Loughborough University - rents refunded until mid Feb
Manchester Metropolitan University - rent refunded for the period between 4 January 2021 and eventual return date
University of Bath - Full rent equivalent to 7 weeks (university-managed and nominated accommodation)
University of Bristol - 30% rent reduction for 7 weeks. Separate 10 day rent rebate for December
University of Cambridge - rent waived until date they return
University of East Anglia - eight week rebate
University of Exeter - rent waived until date they return
University of Leeds - those not living in their University-allocated accommodation will get a refund from 11th January until 19th February
University of Manchester - 30% rent reduction for semester 1
University of Newcastle - rent waived until date they return
University of Nottingham - rent waived until date they return.
University of Sheffield - Waive rents till at least mid Feb (from 9th Jan, on campus only)
University of Warwick - waive rents till at least mid-February (from 9th Jan, on campus only) 

Not Refunding Rents at This Time

University of Birmingham
University of Cardiff
University of Manchester – after the Semester 1 reduction no further reductions but students can decide to break their accommodation contract without financial penalty.

There is an interesting article on Money Saving Expert which can be consulted at https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2021/01/students-face-rent-rebate-lottery-as-post-xmas-university-return/

This says “Ultimately, students have no more right to a rent reduction or payment freeze than any other renter – and this applies to those renting both university-provided accommodation and private housing. But some universities have confirmed they will provide rent refunds or discounts, and as they have a pastoral duty of care you may find they're more likely to offer help than private landlords.” 

Unipol will decide on its own policy at a Board meeting to be held on 21st January 2020 so no information will be available until after that date.

CODE COMPLAINTS

A number of complaints are being received by the National Code Administrator about rent refunds in the 2020-2021 academic year and guidance has been given to students about how these complaints will be approached. This guidance and information can be consulted at https://www.nationalcode.org/make-a-complaint

From 1st September to 7th December 2020 the National Code Complaints and Enquiries received 88 complaints which fell into the following categories:

Tenancy Release 29
Condition upon arrival 10
Repairs 10
Customer Service 8
Deposits 6
Contracts 4
Covid-19 Restrictions 4
Covid-19 Rent 4
Possessions disposed of 3
Covid release 19-20 2
Covid-19 ASB 2
Noise/ASB 2
Damp/mould 1
Late building 1
Pests/Rodents 1
Construction Work 1
Grand Total 88

From 8th December 2020 to 7th January 2021 the National Code Complaints and Enquiries received 13 complaints which fell into the following categories: 

Tenancy Release 8
Repairs  2
Construction 2
Refund promised but not received 1

COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN UNIVERSITIES AND ACCOMMODATION PROVIDERS

The ANUK/Unipol National Code conducted a survey to find out how Universities had been communicating with private providers of purpose student accommodation (PBSA), and whether this had improved during the pandemic. The survey comprised of six core questions, with an option to add additional responses for individual University relationships. The survey opened on the 2nd December and closed on 9th December with 291 clean responses from building managers.

ANUK/Unipol National Code - Universities/PBSA Communications Survey

The ANUK/Unipol National Code conducted this survey to find out how Universities have been communicating with private providers of purpose student accommodation (PBSA), and whether this had improved during the pandemic. Ad-hoc feedback from some providers recently has shown that at the outset of the pandemic and the first National lockdown in March communications were clear and consistent, however there are some indications that this has not been maintained.

The survey comprised of six core questions, with an option to add additional responses for individual University relationships. The survey was live between 2nd-9th December 2021 for 1 week, and was distributed to the National Code for Non-Educational Establishments contact lists. There were 150 individual respondents from 37 different student accommodation providers. 131 were building managers, 14 were regional/area managers, 3 were Heads of Service, and 2 were at CEO level. 291 clean responses regarding their relationships with different Universities were submitted.

The full survey can be consulted here

The data was split for analysis into responses from providers WITH nominations (26%) and other agreements, and those providers WITHOUT nominations and other agreements (74%)

On a scale of 1 – 8, with 1 being poor and 8 being excellent, how would you rate:
Providers WITH Nominations and Other Agreements   Providers WITHOUT Nominations and other agreements
     No of Providers that gave the score 1-4 No of Providers that gave the score 5-8   No of Providers that gave the score 1-4 No of Providers that gave the score 5-8
Your overall communication and relations with the University   4 (5%) 72 (95%) Your overall communication and relations with the University   132 (61%) 83 (39%)
Communication from the University before the pandemic   11 (15%) 65 (85%) Communication from the University before the pandemic   155 (72%) 60 (28%)
Communication from the University during the first phase of the pandemic (March to August 2020)   17 (22%) 59 (78%) Communication from the University during the first phase of the pandemic (March to August 2020)   150 (70%) 65 (30%)
Communication from the University during this academic year (September 2020 to present)   10 (13%) 66 (87%) Communication from the University during this academic year (September 2020 to present)   146 (68%) 69 (32%)

There is a clear contrast within the data of the differing experiences of providers concerning the level and quality of communication with their respective Universities. Although the numbers relating to good or excellent communication across providers is similar, it is evident that there are consistently higher levels of dissatisfaction among providers without nominations or other agreements when compared to those who do. There were a number of open text comments that supported these figures. 

The data presented concerns about the large number of providers across both categories who were not informed by their local Universities about the plans for testing and the end of term.

There is a clear correlation between those with existing nominations and other agreements being more likely to have some form of regular liaison with their respective University, with a large majority of these respondents selecting having a specific named contact as their main type of liaison. This is perhaps strange to then consider that over half of the providers with nominations and other agreements then not receiving information about end of term/Christmas plans.

In summary, which statement below best describes your relationship with this university:
  Providers WITH Nominations and Other Agreements Providers WITHOUT Nominations and other agreements
There is no relationship 0 74
There is some one way communication from them but they have been resistant/unresponsive to contact from us 1 28
There is some mutual communication and in extreme circumstances we can contact the University 4 61
We have an operational relationship and work together as needed 27 38
We have a good relationship with regular communication and liaison 27 2
We see each other as important partners and work together to provide effective support to students 18   6

Across the comments from providers without a nomination or other agreement, there are some comments that indicate that despite private providers housing their students, some Universities do not engage with PBSA for reasons relating to ‘competition’, and this sentiment of Universities being averse to relationship building is shared across the sector. It is indicated that the resistance from Universities to communicate with PBSA providers isn’t a new phenomenon brought about by the pandemic, but a long-term issue:

Despite many respondents commenting as to how these relationships are either non-existent or one-sided, there was also a strong theme throughout the comments of private providers being keen to develop and work towards better communication and relationships with their local Universities, for mutual benefit.

Overall, a positive that can be drawn from the data are the clear benefits of nominations and other types of agreements between Universities and private providers and the positive impact they have on maintaining mutual and productive communication. However, it is concerning that, a large majority of providers feel they have no relationship with their local institutions, despite the PBSA playing a major role in the life and experience of students whilst they are studying.

It is estimated that those private PBSA providers experiencing the poorest level of University communications are housing just over 150,000 students.

HOUSE-HUNTING for 2021-2022

House hunting for the following year began for many students in November. Although there has been a slightly slower start to this process this year, between November and February house hunting for returning students is still continuing

Many suppliers are offering “cooling off” periods or flexible contract options for next year’s contracts because of the current situation. As an example, at Unipol all students renting a room in PBSA for next year will be able to give notice on any agreement they sign with Unipol up to 1st March 2021 and this would end their 2021-2022 obligations. This Peace of Mind Promise will be given to tenants when they sign up and they will be able to withdraw on-line from their contract any time before 12.00 midnight on the 1st March 2021.

This way, students can secure a room or house of their choice, but allow themselves more time to take stock of the situation in early spring.

A few observations can be made:

  • for students looking to move into shared houses in the community (referenced as off-street properties) house hunting patterns are relatively normal, although the market is moving slightly slower caused by students returning home earlier in the year than normal

  • lettings or next year in PBSA are significantly slower than normal with an initial reduction in retained tenants, perhaps reflecting a reaction against the tighter social controls operated, particularly on first year students, by PBSA providers

  • few physical viewings have taken place with most students looking at images or video tours on line

  • student preferences seem to be favouring both larger shared houses and those with good outdoor space (no doubt as a reaction to previous lockdowns and periods of self-isolation).

The market is expected to continue slower as students return to University later in January than they might have normally done. Many PBSA providers are reporting house hunting bookings are down between 8%-12% by mid-January 2021. House hunting for returning students 2021-2022 will be more active in March than normal.

LATE CONSTRUCTION

These figures exclude buildings under the UUK Code where no central record is kept

Fewer students were inconvenienced that previously because of late construction over the summer of 2020 and it was much easier in the current depressed market for providers to source well-located alterative accommodation.

In summer 2020 there were 87 new developments providing an additional 25,088 bed spaces. 49 buildings were on time housing 14,669 students (58% of the total). 15 buildings were sufficiently late and will not be occupied until completed in 2021 (4,382 bed spaces), these had no tenants. Those that caused dislocation to students were:

  • 10 buildings opening late with 2,301 bed spaces inconveniencing 596 students
  • 13 buildings will be partially completed which house 4,329 students with 1,466 students affected.
  • The total number of students who were inconvenienced by a late building was 2,062 (8% of the total).

There are now a number of delayed buildings coming on line

Scape Student Living - Scape Brighton (555). There were two floors of studios and one floor of communal space still to receive completion certification. Most common room spaces are now available and a visit to the outstanding rooms will take place on 19th January 2021.

Unilife - Sparkford House, Winchester (90). 40 studios were completed along with common areas for students to move into on 21st November with the remaining unlet 50 studios expected to be completed by 31st March 2021. A revisit is planned for 15th April 2021.

CRM - Medici, Nottingham (131). This development has suffered a number of delays over the past 2 years, and is not expected to complete until February 2021. Student occupation is likely to be from September 2021.

CRM - Carrick View, Falmouth (118). Student occupation will now be September 2021

CRM - Westcombe House, London (61). Practical completion and occupation dates are now likely to be on 23rd January 2021.

CRM - Carters Yard, Stirling (159). Students are likely to occupy the site from 6th March 2021 moving from alternative nearby accommodation provided by CRM.

NATIONAL FIRE CHIEFS COUNCIL (NFCC) FIRE SAFETY GUIDANCE REGARDING COVID-19

The NFCC is the professional voice of the UK Fire & Rescue Service (FRS), promoting consistency and sector change to achieve safer premises in event of fire. NFCC have produced specific fire safety guidance regarding C-19 Protection (Fire Safety) advice can be located at https://www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk/COVID-19

The documents of particular interest to student accommodation providers are the “Advice for Students” and “Advice to Premises” sections

The “Advice for Students” addresses some of the common queries being received by UK Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) whilst the “Advice to Premises” contains guidance on some of the generic issues that will also apply to student accommodation. It also contains a FAQs section that may also prove useful.

SELF ISOLATION

Students travelling from countries not on the exemption list need to self-isolate in their accommodation for 10 days (reduced from 14 days from the 14th December 2020). During this time there needs to be systematic arrangements for the provision of food and drink to avoid the necessity of them leaving their room or accommodation.

Most suppliers have self isolation care packages, which enables international students to move into their room early (often rent free) so they can self-isolate before their courses begin. This package can also include airport pickup, food delivery service, rubbish removal, and regular online welfare calls with staff.

Students living in halls of residence, or HMOs, who develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) must self-isolate in their current accommodation. It is made clear that students should discuss this with their HE provider and with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned, or the landlord of their HMO. This guidance may be of particular use to accommodation providers where students (either those isolating or those living in a flat with another who is self-isolating) request that they should move during the period of self-isolation.

If a resident has coronavirus symptoms all residents in that household must isolate for 10 days.

Current guidance (Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settings) covers these matters for University and college halls of residence and houses in multiple occupation for students aged 18 and over.

This guidance places responsibility for student welfare in these circumstances with universities and colleges: “Students living in halls of residence or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) who develop symptoms of coronavirus should self-isolate in their current accommodation.”

The new guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses stresses “Students living in halls of residence, or HMOs, who develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should self-isolate in their current accommodation. Students should discuss this with their HE provider, and with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned, or the landlord of their HMO.” and “If a resident has coronavirus symptoms, all residents in that household must isolate for 10 days.

SCOTLAND - STUDENTS CAN GIVE NOTICE TO LEAVE A CONTRACT

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 provides for:

  • a 7-day notice to leave period for those currently tied into a student accommodation contract; and
  • a 28-day notice to leave period for new agreements entered into.
  • Accommodation made vacant for reasons relating to Coronavirus will be exempt from council tax in Scotland (page 38 of the Act).