The terrible attack of the pandemic has left the whole education sector in a brink of uncertainty. The uncertain situation has led to a lot of interconnected aspects suffering a lot. Though the Universities started teaching the students remotely, the actual trouble for the students started from the 2nd most expensive factor of higher education; the accommodation expenses. The landlords are left with no choice other than claiming the rent for the entire period for which the contract was signed. The students and their parents are left perplexed not knowing what to do.
The standard of education has gone to its peak in the UK in recent years. This made many students from different parts of the UK seek admissions in top universities. Accordingly, the hospitality industry started seeing progressive development. The students from abroad, as well as other parts of the UK, sought to stay in private rented places. This gave them a lot of liberty when compared to university-owned accommodation. The situation now is, the Universities are unsure of when it will reopen. This has led the private landlords to go haywire. That is the only source of income and they are in a huge loss. This situation has given rise to many landlords to claim rent for the entire period even if they are not going to stay.
The demand has raised many parents to look for sources to pay the rent. The parents are ready to credit agencies to pay the term accommodation fee. While this seems unfair, private landlords have a different story altogether. They have taken all measures to cut down on cost. In fact, the people who were working are in furlough too. But the expenses are always hidden in businesses like these. Firstly, the remaining salary, if any, to be paid to the employees must be paid. The place though shut down needs funds to keep it in the right order. On top of it, the taxations on the property will hurt them too.
When the lockdown eventually happened on March 23 2020, a few landlords allowed the students to leave the place without paying any rent. A few students were charged half the rent. But the ones who are highly relying on the rent are the ones who are demanding the full payment. Legal experts have a different view. They say, it solely depends on the tenancy agreement. So, if the agreement says to pay the rent even if the students are not available, and if it is agreed and signed by the student, under the law, they have to pay the rent for the aforesaid period. Most of the students have signed the periodic agreements that end in August. Now that they have left early, the situation is precarious.
There are a few angry outbursts from the student’s side. Some protests in some parts of the UK on this accord took to the media as well. But this situation is more of half-eaten bacon and it requires to be paid in full by the customer. At the same time, there were tricky situations too. The students earlier got accommodated in not fully furnished places and were promised by the landlord to furnish it over time. The students were asked to ‘adjust’ meanwhile. But the rent that was paid is equivalent to what is to be paid for the furnished rooms. Now that the lockdown is announced and no University is set to open for quite a period, the landlords are demanding the same rent for the entire period.
The students’ question is – while we adjusted to accommodate ourselves, why can’t they be flexible in rental norms?
Strangely, these also fall under a periodic contract that the students have agreed and signed.
Another plea kept by the landlords is worth a ponder at this juncture. The students, while joining the university, should have availed the maintenance loans. They can still receive it. The landlords claim to pay the rent using it. Last academic year, the slabs for the maintenance loans were revised and the students were to be paid a hefty amount compared to a few years earlier. The landlords are looking forward to receiving that as the rent that is agreed upon earlier through the contract.
Further, the government has issued the brand new guidance on rent procurement. Landlords must not demand the rent as they will be paid as per the contract. Also, it says, it is better to have transparent communication among the parties involved. Strangely, it did not talk about the cancellation of rent from the students’ side. Further, if the contract is agreed on staying for a longer period, it is to be abided by the students to pay the rent for the entire period even if they stay or not.
The best possible solution at this point will be a mutual understanding between the landlord and the students. Both the parties must accept for a particular norm to clear off the rent. It can be a part waiver from the landlords’ side, at the same time, it can also be a time duration that they bargain on.
This is the time where the law must connect humanity. The agreement must be considered human. The numbers must match the emotional factors of the people. One side is time and the other side it is the money. The government must take some action on regularizing this act before it gets worse.
Universities must support in this aspect. They can regroup the students and also connect with the landlords to have a mutual agreement over this issue. This can help the landlords as well as the students to come to an amicable solution.
It is a collective effort now, Yes, the students of UK are rent-trapped by the landlords. If one party is not able to make the right decision, there must be the right stakeholders to bring back harmony. The investors must also chip in to make certain decisions in this regard. If we can see this situation from a broader perspective, the accommodation industry shall suffer if there are harsh decisions taken against the students. The brand image may get spoilt, as the end customer is the student and the things can go viral. With the powerful technology tools in students’ hands, they may create a bad image of the private landlords. This is adding fuel to fire. If all students opt for University-owned accommodation, then what will these private accommodation guys do?
The main stakeholders must look at this situation a bit carefully. Analysing the situation can give a lot of solutions. Of course, there cannot be ‘one solution’ for all tenants. But there can be a mutual mode where the landlords and finance experts sit together and work out a plan. It requires experts to take a call and make some decisions. It is ideally not a make or break decision. If things are made the right way, the results are assured in the longer run. At the same time, ruining the future of student housing also happens through bad decisions. It is all in the hands of the decision-makers. Such decisions must not hurt the feelings of anyone. As said earlier, it is not numbered, it is emotions that matter.
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