Update on the Code Review

The National Codes’ Review Group met for the first time on January 30th, and at the time agreed a timetable for completing the review and having a first draft circulated to members by the start of May. However, due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19 the review group was unable to meet on April 30th, and some aspects of the review have been delayed as a result of the impacts of the current pandemic. The Review Group met at the end of July to discuss their initial responses, and to consider whether further changes should be proposed that reflect the impact of COVID-19. Now this has taken place, a first draft can be then circulated to all code members as part of the consultation process.

Work around new buildings - Summer 2020

At the end of 2019, Unipol conducted an investigation into late buildings within the ANUK/Unipol Codes and the compliance of code members with the requirements of the code, full details of which can be found here.

It has been acknowledged that there have been a number of difficulties regarding the undertaking and progression of PBSA developments over the last few months due to the impacts of COVID-19. This has resulted in many projects being stalled or slowed down, and therefore making completion/handover dates more difficult to determine. As a result of this, a revised version of the late and refurbished buildings protocol was sent out to all Code members, to ensure they notify the National Codes Administrator of any developments that will be delayed.

In follow up to this, the National Codes Officer (Jess Carrier) and Delivery and Development Officer (Kelly-anne Watson) will be undertaking some work to reach out to Code Members in regards to any new buildings/developments that may be late. The key area in all of this is to ensure that transparent and clear communications have been sent out to prospective tenants to minimise negative impact and disruption should a building be late, and that Code Members have followed the guidance set within the protocol agreement. Further information and guidance for providers on new buildings coming online in summer 2020 can be found within the information and advice on Coronavirus in student accommodation.

Complaints under the National Code- COVID-19

The National Code has seen as rise in the number of complaints in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, particularly around rent refunds. The ANUK/Unipol National Code for Non-Educational Establishments has released further details on its approach to these matters in light of the pandemic, and what areas the complaints system can and will be used in. The Code Complaints Investigator Victoria Peckitt will be in touch if she believes individual cases merit further consideration from providers.

National Codes Audit Panel – Introducing the new Co-Chairs

Current Audit Panel Chair Paddy Jackman will be stepping down when his current agreement expires at the end of August. A long-term supporter of the ANUK/Unipol Codes, Paddy has been the Chair since 2013 and the Code has grown threefold in membership, having also overseen a number of significant changes to the Audit Panels operations and the verification process. Everyone at Unipol thanks Paddy for his dedication and hard work, and wish him well in his new opportunity at Campus Living Villages UK.

From September, Claire Baxter and Richard Kington will take up the positions of co-chairs. Claire is a specialist in strategy development, business planning and public policy, with first- hand experience of charity governance and leadership. Prior to setting up her own consultancy, Claire worked in the local government, education and voluntary sectors for 20 years.

Claire says: “Having worked with Unipol at a local level for several years, I have seen first-hand how the charity works in partnership with accommodation providers to improve standards. I’m delighted to be joining the national panel to carry on the good work.

Richard held the position of Director of Accommodation at the University of Edinburgh for 16 years, spearheading the University’s strategy for providing accommodation for 10,000 students. He was also responsible for developing the Residence Life team, with key experience in understanding the critical role played by student accommodation, and its importance in providing a supportive environment in which students can thrive.

Richard says: “It is a genuine honour to be able to continue to bring the considerable experience I have developed over the years to the role of Chair of the Audit panel and so continue to help and support students and accommodation providers. The sector continues to grow and will always be evolving and so together with my Co Chair and supported by the very experienced existing team of Assessors, we will continue to help providers, through Accreditation, maintain and improve the accommodation on offer and providing students with all the information needed in choosing where to live.

Latest information on Coronavirus

Throughout the pandemic, Unipol has been providing up-to-date and comprehensive guidance on Coronavirus in student accommodation for housing suppliers. Recent additions include information on 2020/21 intake using data from UCAS and HEPI, up-to-date references on recent government guidance, information on flexible contracts, and more. Unipol will continue to keep this page updated, with the latest guidance being released last week. The full resource can be found here.

Decision taken on verification visits 2020/21

Following a meeting of the Audit Panel in April, it was agreed that a system for carrying out remote visits would be implemented, with some in-person site visits taking place if it was safe to do so. Following the development of safety guidelines for verifiers, in-person visits were restarted in the middle of May, and will continue into the summer.

Going forward, the National Codes Administrator has devised a programme of visits to take place for the 2020/21 period. These will vary between remote and traditional ‘in-person’ visits, and verifiers will be making contact with members due a visit to agree a suitable date.