The government has indicated in a written parliamentary statement that it expects private landlords to shoulder the financial burden of helping students during the current lockdown in England.
Asked by Labour MP Zara Sultana if the government would offer students any financial support, Education minister Michelle Donelan (pictured) retorted that those in higher education can access hardship funds at their college or university but that otherwise students and landlords were on their own.
But these hardship funds are limited – for the 1.9 million students studying in England there is a hardship fund of £135 per student or £256 million in total.
Donelan told Sultana that, if they are unable to access hardship funds, then students should agree a payment plan with their private landlord, and urged PBSA providers and universities to waive rents or release students from their contracts, as ‘many did during the Summer term lockdown’.
“We encourage landlords, letting agencies and tenants to adopt a pragmatic, common-sense approach to issues that may arise in the current circumstances,” said Donelan.
“In the first instance, a student should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment. In this unique context, tenants and landlords are encouraged to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.”
The Minister’s comments echoed those of NUS President Larissa Kennedy, who last week called on landlords to give student a rent holiday during the current lockdown if they are struggling to pay their rent or told to return home.
Back in April the NRLA wrote to the NUS during the first lockdown to point out that if landlords no longer felt student rentals were a secure form of income, the supply of properties would dwindle and rents would rise.