On 3rd October 2019 Unipol announced that, following a significant number of late student residential buildings affecting students moving in this academic year, it was conducting an investigation to ensure that where members have a late building they have complied with the requirements of the Code.

The investigation is being undertaken by Ms Elizabeth Goddard and is expected to report fairly quickly, but in any event not later than 28th October 2019. She will also make a number of recommendations about whether the Codes need further revision to ensure students get a fair deal and disruption is minimised.

From media reports there is an impression given that this is mainly a private student operator problem, but there have been a number of late University residences as well. Another impression is that this is a growing problem, but last summer was also problematic with a similar number of late buildings being experienced.

The relevant sections of the Code are:

The National Codes have a number of rules that providers must follow. These include notifying the National Codes Administrator in a timely manner about the lateness, notifying tenants of problems at the earliest opportunity and setting up a dedicated helpline or contact to deal with enquiries. The Codes also stipulate, in the case of a late building, what can be charged for and what additional costs that might be incurred should be refunded to tenants or me by the signatory to the Code.

“3.7 Where a building is new, or undergoing refurbishment and the building programme is running late and where this may result in pre-let rooms not being ready for occupancy, the manager informs the future tenant at the earliest possibility of this likelihood, its possible consequences for them and from whom at the provider they can access help with this matter. The provider will also notify the NCA of this within one working day of the tenants having been notified, and what action they will be taking in respect of this;

3.8 In the event that a room is not ready for occupation on the date that the tenancy begins then a suitable alternative room is provided in an adjacent building or, in any event, in a building as close as possible to the original development;

3.9 Where rooms are not ready for occupation as described in 3.8 above the following provisions are made as a minimum to ensure that tenants are not disadvantaged:

  • No rent is payable for the rooms which are unavailable until the date of actual occupation;
  • Where a substitute room is occupied an appropriate rent may be charged but the level of rent for the substitute room will not be higher than the original rent;
  • If the substitute room does not have access to appropriate self-catering facilities, or if the original rooms were to be associated with a ‘catering package’, then an appropriate meal service, or meal allowance, will be provided at a cost which does not exceed the original costs;
  • If time spent in the substitute accommodation exceeds more than 14 days, and no laundry facilities are provided, the provider will pay for any laundry costs that are incurred;
  • When tenants transfer from the substitute rooms to the completed development, an appropriate removal service will be provided to move all the tenant’s belongings or appropriate removal costs will be reimbursed against submitted receipts;
  • Any additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the tenant as a direct result of taking up the substitute accommodation (e.g. travel costs in excess of that which they would in any case have had to pay) will be reimbursed in full against submitted invoices;
  • Where the tenant’s original offer included access to WiFi, a similar service should be supplied to them within the alternative accommodation free of charge;”

 and there is a Late Buildings Protocol which can be accessed here 

Further details can be obtained from the National Codes Administrator.