Information and Advice on Coronavirus in Student Accommodation for Housing Suppliers This was last updated on 12th September 2021 This update includes information on the following topics: Messaging for Students Guidance on Covid Self Isolation New Buildings Coming On-Line in Summer 2021 The forthcoming Academic Year - Student Numbers Research on the Benefits International Students Bring to the UK Students, Government Advice and the Summer Government Advice: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Recent Trends in Student Accommodation 2021-2022 Occupancy Information on Teaching Arrangements Vaccinations for Newly Arriving International Students New and Returning Students Travelling from Overseas Student Satisfaction 2020-2021 Government Guidance (MHCLG) to Landlords and Tenants Code Complaints MESSAGING FOR STUDENTS The Government has asked housing suppliers to give the following information to their tenants, either just before they arrive or after they have arrived. Please send this information to your tenants. “Testing & vaccine: Travelling back to Uni? Take a rapid Covid-19 test at home first. It’s free quick and easy. Then take two tests on site or at home when you get there and keep testing regularly. Report all your results online. And if you’re not fully vaccinated, grab a jab. You don’t have to get your 2nd vaccine in the same place you got your first. Let’s keep life moving.” “Covid-19 app: The NHS COVID-19 App is the fastest way to know if you’ve been exposed to Covid-19. The quicker you know, the quicker you can take action to protect the ones you love. Thanks to the millions of us using the app, it prevents up to 2000 new infections, every day. So let your NHS COVID 19 App keep on protecting you. The NHS COVID-19 App is your personal alarm system that helps you manage your Covid-19 risk. Use the app to find out if you’ve been near someone who’s tested positive, check symptoms, book a test, enter positive test results and get up to date information on any new local restrictions, self-isolating and support payments. Make sure you have the latest version downloaded and keep Bluetooth and contact tracing switched on to protect yourself and others.” Below is a link to pre-prepared social assets that should be shared that flag up both testing and vaccines for students. There are three formats. https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/university-students/resources/social-media-animations/ Some screen grabs are given below for information Please circulate this information as soon as possible. GUIDANCE ON COVID SELF ISOLATION A number of complaints have recently been received from students arriving from abroad who have been told by their housing provider that they cannot self-isolate in their shared flat because other students occupying the flat have objected. This is a difficult position for suppliers but the legal position is very clear and that is that the incoming tenant is entitled to occupy their room and there is Government Guidance on self-isolating within shared flats which is allowed. It is important that this is not seen as the incoming tenant’s problem and, in the spirit of the Code, it would be expected that an amicable solution could be found to satisfy all tenants. In much accommodation there will be vacant units or studios because of late arriving internationals and it should be possible to suggest that students self-isolate in an alternative unit without undue inconvenience. In some cases, a nearby studio might be booked and provided to the incoming student. NEW BUILDINGS COMING ON-LINE IN SUMMER 2021 Figures given are correct as at 10th September 2021 on a UK basis excluding universities signed up to the UUK Code As took place last year, the Codes have concentrating on ensuring that they know how many students are inconvenienced by late construction and what arrangements have been made to minimise the effects on their studies. Comparisons with 2020 are given in brackets (2020). There are 60 (87) new developments providing an additional 20,415 bed spaces (25,088). 33 buildings are on time (49) or have already opened housing 11,714 students or 57% of the total (14,669 which was 58%). 20 buildings (10) are opening late with 8,701 bed spaces (6,630) which is inconveniencing 1,596 students or 8% (2,062 or 8%) The total number of students who will be inconvenienced by a late building will be 1,596 (8% of the total). All partially occupied buildings are being visited to ensure they fully comply with Code standards in October. This is a slower development year for new buildings with fewer bed spaces than last year (25,088). Four buildings have been closed because of safety works or refurbishment with a loss of 1,300 bed spaces. There is still some uncertainty over a couple of buildings awaiting safety checks prior to being occupied in the next two weeks. Late buildings are particularly difficult when they occur in areas with a tight housing supply, where it is often difficult to secure either alternative accommodation or short-term accommodation. There are particular issues this year in Nottingham and Bristol. Notifying the Code Administrator Although the majority of suppliers have continued to make improvements on notifying students when there have been problems, this year is seeing some students being notified of lateness very close to moving in. In some cases delays are occurring because of late delivery of materials and furniture, but it should still have been possible for students to have had difficulties flagged earlier than has occurred. The National Code will be conducting a review of late-notified buildings where students have been inconvenienced in early October to ascertain whether breaches of the Code have occurred and highlight where lessons can be learnt. THE FORTHCOMING ACADEMIC YEAR - STUDENT NUMBERS Figures have now been released by UCAS showing that 37.9% of the entire UK 18 year old population is due to start a full-time undergraduate course: a new high and surpassing last year’s equivalent figure of 36.4%. There will be 272,500 of this age cohort starting at UK universities - up by 7% on last year. Record numbers of 18-year-olds in the UK have accepted university places this year, according to updated figures from the UCAS admissions service. 46,610 (up 5%) students from outside the EU have been accepted, while 12,920 (down 56%) students from the EU have a confirmed place. The sharp fall in EU students coming to the UK is why overall university numbers are slightly down this year. More young people (228,470 up 15%) were confirmed onto their first choice of course, which is why clearing numbers are 33% down (at 47,020). In total, 507,610 students (of all ages and all domiciles) have been accepted, down less than 2% from last year. Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, says the continuing rise in UK student numbers showed "young people are voting with their feet and behaving entirely rationally". "They are not snowflakes who melt under heat. They are rational, ambitious and full of aspiration." Mr Hillman said university was still an ambition for families and that "when the labour market is in flux and the world is in crisis, getting more education is a very sensible response". RESEARCH ON THE BENEFITS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS BRING TO THE UK The Higher Education Policy Institute has just issued a useful report The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy updating their previous 2018 analysis, this can be found at https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2021/09/09/international-students-are-worth-28-8-billion-to-the-uk/ The net economic benefit of international students in 2018-2019 was £25.9 billion and the report provides the results for every one of the 650 Westminster constituencies. The top three benefitting constituencies are Sheffield Central £290 million, Nottingham South £261 million and Holborn and St Pancras £243 million. Code Members are also reminded that Unipol issued a briefing earlier this month on International Student and Factors Affecting Accommodation in the UK which can be consulted at https://www.nationalcode.org/news/report-international-students-and-factors-affecting-accommodation-in-the-uk STUDENTS, GOVERNMENT ADVICE AND THE SUMMER On 5th July 2021 the Prime Minister announced how Covid restrictions were set to end in England with the implementation of step 4 of the Roadmap with legal restrictions ending on Monday 19th July. His key message was “We must find a new way of living with the virus”: social distancing has now ended, facemasks are no longer be mandatory with no limits on gatherings and all venues currently closed can safely reopen with no capacity limits. The announcement can be consulted at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-sets-out-plan-to-ease-restrictions-at-step-4 A raft of Government Guidance followed on 19th July 2021 entitled Covid-19 Response: Summer 2021 which can be consulted at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-summer-2021-roadmap/covid-19-response-summer-2021 The detailed Guidance was less bullish than the “freedom day” announced by the PM and stressed that “Vigilance must be maintained and people will be asked to make informed decisions and act carefully and proportionately, to manage the risks to themselves and others.” and the approach is that “the ‘Working Safely’ guidance will continue to provide advice on sensible precautions employers can take to manage risk and support their staff and customers. Businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of Covid-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify.” The Government have also signalled that “Covid passports” are likely to be needed to enter nightclubs at some stage in October but there are no details on this at present. It is unlikely that any regulations will apply only to nightclubs and so these restrictions may impact on some later and larger freshers’ events. The Government sets out 6 key behaviours designed to protect each other and help stop the virus spreading: meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors in indoors with windows open wearing a face covering when you come in to contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day. covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze staying at home if you feel unwell, to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses onto friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community considering individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status. The Guidance has a special section on education that reads: “The Government will change the controls that apply in early years, schools, colleges and higher education institutions to maintain a baseline of protective measures while maximising attendance and minimising disruption to children and young people’s education.” There is some specific advice entitled Higher education COVID-19 operational guidance to be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-covid-19-operational-guidance that has been updated on 17th August 2021 which states: “There are no longer restrictions on the approach to teaching and learning in higher education (HE) providers as a result of COVID-19. There is no requirement for social distancing or other measures within in person teaching. Providers are therefore able to shape their courses without restrictions to face-to-face provision. In line with all other settings, HE providers should continue to conduct risk assessments for their particular circumstances. They should implement sensible and proportionate control measures which follow the health and safety hierarchy of controls to reduce the risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level. HE providers should have contingency plans to deal with any identified positive cases of COVID-19 or outbreaks.” There is an accommodation section in the guidance and although this is geared to HE providers, the advice on cleaning and procedures for self isolation are still relevant to others. Most Members will already still be following these routines. There is further advice for employers which encourages to use of face masks and “reviewing entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors. Do this to minimise contact with other people.” Some supplier restrictions and one way systems are therefore likely to remain in student accommodation settings (although without compulsion) and many Members are currently updating their own risk assessments and working out what practical arrangements they wish to retain or enhance within their buildings. Since the 16th August, double jabbed individuals and under 18s no longer need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19. It is made clear that “Students can form new households and move into their shared student accommodation as normal.” and “Students living in halls of residence, or houses of multiple occupation (HMO), who develop symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate in their current accommodation. Students should discuss this with their provider, and with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned, or the landlord of their HMO.” GOVERNMENT ADVICE: SCOTLAND, WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND Scotland On 7th September the Scottish Government updated its information on Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and community learning and development providers - Guidance for operations in the academic year 2021 to 2022. https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-universities-colleges-and-community-learning-and-development-providers/ On 9th August 2021 Scotland moved beyond level 0 where the legal requirement for physical distancing and limits on gatherings were be removed. The Scottish Guidance on higher education is considerably more detailed than that in England and has a special section on accommodation sections of which also applies to PBSA suppliers. Some aspects of The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Act have been extended from 30th September 2021 to 31st March 2022. Included in this extension is the provision for students to terminate their tenancies. This means that student who entered into a student residential tenancy after 27th May 2020 can give 28 days’ notice to their accommodation provider until 31st March 2021. Students can only exercise this notice to leave periods for reasons relating to Covid-19. Wales Advice from the Welsh Government was updated on 20th August https://gov.wales/higher-education-coronavirus-guide Northern Ireland Advice from the Northern Ireland Assembly was updated on 5th July and a summary can be seen at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2021-07/coronavirus-covid19-your-guide-to-what-you-can-do-5-july.pdf RECENT TRENDS IN STUDENT ACCOMMODATION 2021-2022 Occupancy of Student Accommodation A larger number of students in PBSA stayed to the end of their contracts in June and July that is normally the case. As an example, in Unipol’s own PBSA developments in Leeds at the end of June saw 65% occupancy. In Nottingham PBSA occupancy was 44% at the end of June but those contracts lasted until the end of July and occupancy was at 35%. Off-street HMO occupancy is more difficult to ascertain Unipol estimates that occupancy is currently 55%. This heightened occupancy is down to a mix of an increase in opportunities for socialisation, good weather, and the re-opening of hospitality providing work opportunities. This heightened occupancy is also seeing more neighbourhood complaints about student anti-social behaviour: mainly about noise. There is a risk of a “double” fresher’s year at the beginning of term 2021 as second year students try and re-live what they missed in 2020 and agencies and educational institutions need to work hard to ensure that students are aware that they need to take account of neighbourhood sensitivities. INFORMATION ON TEACHING ARRANGEMENTS The Knight Frank Student Property Team provides an update on the proposals for the 50 largest universities in the UK, which provides information on the teaching arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year. VACCINATIONS FOR NEWLY ARRIVED INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS The vaccination programme includes newly arriving international students International students who will not be charged for vaccination against COVID-19. Students should make sure they are registered with a General Practitioner (GP), who will contact them directly to book their vaccine via an online or telephone system when it is appropriate to do so. New and returning students travelling from overseas There are different restrictions applied to students arriving from overseas (known as the ‘traffic light system’) depending on level of risk. Risk is based on factors such as the level of community transmission, variants of concern, levels of testing, genomic sequencing and reporting. Countries have been sorted into three categories: Red list countries: High-risk countries Amber list countries: Moderate-risk countries Green list countries: Low-risk countries At present both China and India are amber list countries. Some universities are arranging and agreeing to pay for quarantining for students from red list countries and are arranging airport [pick-ups with students being transferred to local hotels authorised for that purpose. The Guidance is frequently updated and is detailed and complex and needs to be consulted directly at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-amber-and-green-list-rules-for-entering-england#red-list and is not summarised here. STUDENT SATISFACTION 2020-2021 The Higher Education Policy Institute’s (HEPI) annual Student Academic Experience Survey 2021 was issued on 24th June 2021 https://www.hepi.ac.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2021/06/SAES_2021_FINAL.pdf This survey revealed that students’ perception of the value they have received throughout their academic experience has fallen significantly to the lowest levels seen. Just over one-in-four students (27%) felt that they had received good or very good value (a figure that is close to half of what it was in 2012), against 44% perceiving poor or very poor value. There were a further 29% who felt they had received “neither good nor poor” value. Whilst this reflects a very difficult and disrupted academic year with almost no face-to-face teaching for many students, this outcome is still not good news for the sector. This year’s report, rather disappointingly, had only one reference to accommodation and that was “When saying you received poor value/very poor value, what were you thinking about?” and accommodation quality was rated at 19%. There is no comparative figure for the previous year but 1 in 5 students reporting negatively on their accommodation after a year of disruption, self-isolation and calls for rent refunds, could be regarded as a relatively favourable result. GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE (MHCLG) TO LANDLORDS AND TENANTS Updated guidance was issued on 20th July 2021 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 There are a few key points in this guidance worth highlighting. The most recent update sees significant changes in the areas of eviction and repossession. The section on student accommodation is out of date. Phasing Out of Emergency Restrictions Relating to Evictions The Government has announced measures to phase out emergency restrictions around evictions which includes: from 1st June, notice periods that are currently 6 months will reduce to at least 4 months. Notice periods for the most serious cases that present the most strain on landlords will remain lower: anti-social behaviour (immediate to 4 weeks’ notice) false statement (2 to 4 weeks’ notice) over 4 months’ accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice) breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (2 weeks’ notice). Notice periods for cases where there is four or more months of unpaid rent, will reduce to 2 months’ notice from 1st August. Further details can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/support-for-renters-continues-with-longer-notice-periods 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.” Previous Guidance on Moving in and Viewings for Lettings has now been removed. How to Rent Guide MHCLG has recently updated its how to rent guide. It can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent CODE COMPLAINTS Information on the number of complaints received can be consulted on the National Codes website at https://www.nationalcode.org/complaints-data From 1st September 2020 to 31st August 2021 the National Code Complaints and Enquiries received 320 complaints (compared with 276 at the same time in 2020) and the top 5 causes of complaint were: Seeks release/refund 174 Repairs 26 Contract/rent 15 Condition upon arrival 14 Customer service 14 By the end of July 2021 303 complaints have been resolved (212 by the supplier, 90 by the investigator, 1 case has been resolved by a Tribunal and 3 cases remained open).