Welcome to the October edition of the newsletter. Now the dust is settling on welcome weeks and Fresher, here are a few updates from the National Code:

Information and Advice on Coronavirus in Student Accommodation for Housing Supplier – Further Updates

Extensive updates have been made to the information and advice on coronavirus in student accommodation for housing suppliers page. Newer content includes:

  • Hands, Face, Space Campaign - Government request and Resources
  • Observations and Experiences of the Post-Arrival Period
  • Security, Discipline and Police Action
  • Observations and Experiences of the Initial Weeks of Terms
  • Lockdowns
  • Future Possibilities and Guidance on Covid-related Complaints 2020-2021
  • End of Term 2020

Upcoming UK Student Accommodation Forums

The details for the next events in the UK Student Accommodation Forum series are now live, with further information available on the Unipol website.

Our next event:

Thursday 19th November 11 AM-12 PM - Student Accommodation and the New Normal- Looking at what has changed and what has stayed the same following the pandemic https://www.unipol.org.uk/event/details/student-accommodation-and-the-new-normal-looking-a  

  • Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) will give a single 20 minute session giving his invaluable insight into the higher education sector and how this might impact on accommodation providers, followed by a Q&A and conversation session from attendees.
  • These events are an opportunity for accommodation providers, big or small, both educational institutions and private providers, to hear a briefing and share good practice, ideas and experiences.
  • The forum opens with a 10 minute update of issues in the accommodation sector given by Martin Blakey, Chief Executive of Unipol and then the guest speaker discusses the selected topic for around 20 minutes followed by opening up the floor to attendees to ask questions.

Complaints under the Code

The National Code has seen a large increase in the number of student enquiries and complaints for this time of year:

  • 1st September to 16th October 2019 – 4 complaints/enquiries
  • 1st September to 16th October 2020 – 27 complaint

We expect that many Providers are also receiving a much larger volume of complaints than usual. Please ensure to keep on top of correspondence with students and attempt to resolve issues promptly to prevent complaints from escalating, and be mindful of the timescales set out by the Code. During the initial lockdown period, we saw some Providers complaint handling systems become overwhelmed, therefore, for this new term it may be necessary to allocate more resource than usual to deal with complaints to ensure they are dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

It is important to note that a number of complaints are being by the National Code 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

Introductioto the Codes Complaints Investigator – Victoria Peckitt

Victoria has a wealth of experience in student housing, working previously for a managing agent in the Leeds area and then working for Unipol for a number of years, having previously worked in the Housing Management Team before moving to her role as Code Complaints Investigator in September 2019.

Victoria is the main point of contact when dealing with Code complaints, and is on hand to provide assistance for both students and Providers in ensuring resolution is reached. If you have any questions regarding the complaints process, Vic can be contacted at [email protected]

Information on the Joint Codes Conference 2020

The 11th Joint Codes Conference will this year take place on Zoom in two parts from 10.00am to 12.00noon on Friday 6th November and Friday 13th November 2020.

This free two part event will cover a range of topics, and highlight how the sector has sought to embrace the challenges that operating purpose built student accommodation has raised and how these have been addressed.

Further details on how to book your place are available here.

PBSAs in The News & Relationships with Students’ Unions

There has been an increased prevalence of Student Accommodation in the press, with many articles and news items focusing solely on bad news stories, which risk causing reputational damage. In light of this, we kindly request that where possible Providers could contact the National Code with information about incidents that have occurred that are subject to media attention, and how the Provider is responding.

We have also noticed a number of media outlets contacting Students’ Unions for comment on various incidents. A lot of the time, SU’s hear about these problems through the media first, and receive little to no communications initially from their institutions or from providers about the work being done to fix problems that arise. In light of this, we would encourage all providers to be pro-active in communicating with your local SU’s when situations do arise, and include them in any important updates about the development. This small step will ensure and assist students being able to access different avenues of support.

If you have any issues locating a contact for an SU in your area, please email [email protected].