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We’re here to support you with your housing situation. We’ve answered the most commonly asked questions below, but our advisors are on hand to help with your housing matters. You can get in contact with our Advice Service here

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I leave my tenancy or licence agreement early because of Coronavirus?

There’s been no change in the law which allows tenants to end tenancies early due to Covid-19. This means if you have already entered into a tenancy agreement, either with a landlord or a provider of private halls, you are bound to this contract.

Unless your tenancy agreement allows for early termination through a break clause or you negotiate with your landlord/accommodation provider, you will continue to be obliged to pay rent until the end of your tenancy/licence. 

If you live in UCL Accommodation…

If you have a contract in a UCL hall but are staying at home, UCL will reimburse you for the time that you have not resided in UCL Accommodation over the winter closure period and up to Sunday 21 February 2021. This will be credited to your Portico account. Find out more on our Coronavirus FAQs for residents page.

To do this, you should:

  • Notify UCL Accommodation of your departure and return date through the UCL Accommodation Portal. Once you have logged in, please select the ‘Winter Closure Travel tab’. 
  • You will be able to backdate if you have already departed and you will be able to update your details following this update or should your travel plans change in the future.  To qualify for the reimbursement of rent, you must have departed your hall between 3-27 December 2020, with a return date of between 28 December 2020- 21 February 2021.
  • You will not be eligible for a reimbursement if you leave and return for a second time within this period. 

UCL Accommodation have said that if you wish to terminate your licence agreement with them, they may be able to refund any remaining accommodation fees paid for the time you will not be in halls. To do this you must.

Formally notify UCL by submitting a Notice to Quit request online at Accommodation Online Services. This will mean you do not have access to your UCL accommodation after your check out date as your licence agreement will be terminated permanently.

If you live in private halls (such as University of London or UNITE)

University of London Halls have changed their accommodation arrangements in response to the current national lockdown. This means that residents are now able to:

  • Terminate their contract with no penalty once the government’s Covid-19 guidance allows them to move from their halls.
  • Terminate their contract with no penalty if they have already moved out of their halls.
  • Pay a fee of £25 a week if they are not currently staying in their halls but would like to return after the national lockdown is lifted.

You can find further information about these options in these FAQs from University of London.

UNITE Students have also announced a change in their current accommodation arrangements. This means that residents can now apply for a 50% rental discount between 18 January and 14 February 2021 if they are not living in their halls during this time. You can find further details about this announcement here.

Most other private halls providers will only release you from your contract if you can find a replacement tenant. However, make sure to check your provider’s cancellation policy and the terms of your contract to confirm this. If you’re not happy with the cancellation policy, you may be able to submit a complaint. Ask your provider about their complaints process if you cannot find information about this on their website. In this complaint, you could mention any changes in your circumstances. You could also ask your department to provide a letter to confirm any changes to your course. 

If you have questions about your tenancy or licence agreement or would like one of our advisors to read through an accommodation complaint before you submit it, please get in touch with our Advice Service.

What is a break clause?

A break clause allows the tenant(s) to end the tenancy early by giving notice. Your tenancy agreement will tell you when the break clause can apply. For example, your break clause might say you can end your tenancy six months after it starts if you give one month’s notice.

It’s unusual for a student tenancy agreement to include a break clause but it’s still worth checking. There’s no standard format for a break clause in a tenancy agreement, so look for anything about giving notice or terminating the tenancy early.

If you have a joint tenancy, then all tenants must give notice jointly under the break clause in order to bring the tenancy to an end.

How can I negotiate with my landlord?

If you do not have a break clause, you may be able to reach a mutual agreement with your landlord to end your tenancy instead. This is known as a surrender.

If you have a joint tenancy agreement, all tenants will need to agree to the surrender.

It may be easier to reach an agreement with your landlord if you can suggest a replacement tenant. Whilst it could be difficult to find a replacement during the lockdown period, you may be able to find a new tenant by putting up adverts online or if you know a friend of family member who is looking to move out.

You can find tips on negotiating a surrender on the Shelter website here.

Can I pay less rent because of Coronavirus?

There is no payment break or holiday for renters due to coronavirus. You can only pause your rent payments if your landlord agrees.

If you are struggling to pay rent, speak to your landlord as they may agree to a rent reduction or to accept a late payment of rent. They could be sympathetic especially if you or your family’s income has been reduced.

You can find a guide to negotiating a rent reduction with your landlord on the Shelter website here.

Ideally, any agreement should be confirmed in writing in case of problems later on. 

You can find more information on how to deal with rent arrears on the Shelter website here.

What happens if I don’t pay my rent?

If you can’t reach an agreement with your landlord and don’t pay your rent when it is due, your tenancy will still continue with the same rent payable. A number of things could then happen. This ranges from your landlord keeping any deposit you’ve paid to cover some of the unpaid rent at the end of the tenancy, to them taking legal action to end your tenancy and/or recover money from you. Your landlord may also pursue your guarantor to pay the rent you have failed to pay.

If you share accommodation with other people, then unless you each have a separate agreement, you’re likely to be jointly and severally liable for rent. This means that the landlord can pursue any of the tenants (or their guarantor) for any rent due under the joint agreement, regardless of which tenant failed to pay their share. So, if you just leave without ending the tenancy the landlord could try to get the unpaid rent from your joint tenants (or their guarantor). 

You can find more information about what happens if you stop paying rent on the Shelter website here.

Can I be evicted?

From 29 August 2020, landlords are now required to give a minimum of six months’ notice for any evictions of tenants (this was extended by the Coronavirus Act 2020).

Your rent is still due during this time. It is advised that tenants and landlords are expected to work out a realistic repayment plan for any rent missed in this three-month period, taking into account the circumstances. But there is no law which requires landlords to do this.

What is Force Majeure?

Some tenancy agreements have a ‘Force Majeure’ clause. ‘Force Majeure’ means an event or sequence of events which are beyond a party’s reasonable control, and that prevent or delay it from performing its obligations under the tenancy agreement.

While Covid-19 may seem like a ‘Force Majeure event’, it is unlikely to prevent you from occupying the property or stop the tenancy from continuing. It’s therefore unlikely that you would be able to argue that your contract is impossible to perform if the accommodation continues to be available, but you are choosing not to occupy it.

Is UCL offering any financial support for students struggling to pay rent?

There may be some additional help available to pay your rent if your financial circumstances have changed. The Students’ Union has put together a list of financial support options available to our students which you can find here.