I have signed a housing contract for next academic year 2020/21, can I get out of the contract?
We know many students will have already signed housing contracts for next academic year and have received a number of enquiries from students in relation to getting out of contracts or delaying the start date.
The University's latest update on teaching for next academic year is available here.
However, what this means in terms of how often you need to be on campus will not become clear until timetables are released, it may also vary across modules and courses. It will also depend on the COVID-19 situation and any government guidance which is in place at the time. It is likely that any face to face teaching will be fairly limited at least at first. The Students' Union is urging the University to provide more detailed information to students as soon as possible.
The Government has now said it is safe and acceptable to move, so coming back to Leicester would be allowed. Please see here for guidance around COVID-19 and moving back to Leicester safely. We have also prepared a Moving In/Out Guide.
Unfortunately if you have already signed a fixed term assured short hold contract with a private provider/ landlord then the teaching arrangements with the University will not really affect the contract. There is no Government guidance which requires a landlord to release tenants or housing or consumer law in England which would mean that you can cancel the contract for this reason.
Some contracts may have specific cancellation clauses so it is worth checking, occasionally there will be a 'break clause' which allows you to give notice within the fixed term, although these are rare.
If you are wishing to cancel or delay the contract start date due to the uncertainty around the Covid-19 crisis you could try contacting the landlord. They will usually release tenants if suitable replacement tenants can be found before or after the contract starts. For more information around this, see getting out of a contract.
If you have signed a contract and/or paid a deposit then you could still have a legally binding contract even if you never move in. A landlord could take action against you if you failed to pay the rent and they were unable to re-let the property.
If you break your contract and do not pay the rent, a landlord can take you to court and claim the rent due to the end of the fixed term plus costs and interest. They would need an address for you (or your Guarantor) in the UK. If you have a joint tenancy the action could be against all of the joint tenants. A landlord would have up to 6 years in which to issue a claim. This is a civil matter and not a criminal issue.
If the landlord's claim is successful and judgement is made against you, you must pay or you can get a county court judgement (CCJ) against you which can affect your future credit ratings. If you are an international student, you may have to declare a CCJ on any future visa applications to the UK. It is best to avoid such action where possible and reach a settlement with the landlord.
If you are suffering financially as a result of COVID-19 and struggling to make rental payments you may be able to apply for some financial help from the University. You could also try negotiating alternative payment plans with the landlord, e.g delaying payments until your student finance comes through.
I have signed a housing contract for next year, but I’m an international student and I might not be able to come back to the UK in September- what happens now?
If you find yourself in this situation, contact the Advice Service as each case is individual and the advice team can try support/ signpost you depending on your unique circumstances.
Can we now book rooms for 2020/21?
Private rented accommodation and estate agents are now open providing they adhere to government guidance. Further advice can be found here .
My University/ course hasn't announced what is happening in September yet. Will it be too late to find housing if I wait any longer?
The University's latest update on teaching for next academic year is available here.
There will still be housing available even if you chose to only look in September, or a few weeks before you need to move in. For information on the University Accommodation options please click here.
Many students are facing uncertainty at the moment, so it may be the general trend this year is for students to find accommodation much later in the summer, or shortly before their courses start. Our advice is to wait until your University has confirmed the arrangements for September, unless you are certain you intend to live in the property regardless of whether all teaching is online or in person.
I don't have accommodation sorted out for next year, what should I do?
If you have not yet found accommodation for next year or wondering if you should be signing a contract now, we would advise caution unless you are absolutely sure that you want or need to be based in Leicester.
The University is planning to have a blended teaching programme next year, so a mix of online and face to face provision of teaching. However, it is still too early to be sure what this will look like exactly and it may vary across courses/programmes. It will also depend on the national picture in terms of COVID-19 infection rates and government guidance at the time.
You may wish to delay signing contracts until the situation becomes clearer and you are sure that you do need to be based in Leicester. Remember there is a surplus of student housing in Leicester and we are expecting both the University and private sector to have vacancies right up to the start of the new academic year. It should still be possible to find good accommodation in September. It could also save you some summer rent.
Landlords in England do not have to release tenants from contracts and the majority have not done so during this crisis. Once you have signed a contract it can be very difficult to get out of. You can be held liable for the rent even if you never move in. In most cases you would have to find a replacement tenant to take over the tenancy to be released.
If you do need to sign a contract try asking landlords to include a 'break clause' in the contract allowing you to give notice if required during the tenancy, e.g 2 months. This would allow you to terminate the contract before the end of the fixed term should you need to. Student numbers may be lower next year and landlords who still have vacancies by September may be willing to consider offering more flexible tenancies, if they are concerned about letting their properties at all.
If there is a second wave of COVID-19 or further lock down, Public Health England have advised that students should stay in their student accommodation if that is where they are living at the time. Lock downs may also be localised. They have suggested that students should consider where they would want to be locked down, when deciding where to base themselves, of course hopefully this will not happen.
If you live in England it is now possible to travel to Leicester and moving home is allowed. We would always advise you to visit a property if you can before signing a contract or paying money to a landlord.
If you are looking for accommodation, you can check out our Guide and Housemate Finder Facebook page for useful information.
Should I sign a tenancy agreement for the next academic year?
Many students are currently feeling unsure about what happens in September and beyond, and what decisions need to be made about accommodation.
It is important to be aware that once you have signed a tenancy agreement you are bound by it, and your landlord will expect the rent from you even if your University course does not start any in-person teaching and you choose not to move in to the property. Therefore it is very important that if you are considering signing an agreement that you intend to live there regardless of whether your University restarts in person teaching or not.
Some private student accommodation providers may be offering clauses that allow you to get out of your tenancy if there is more COVID-19 related disruption. However, this is likely to be rare, and most private landlords are unlikely to offer such a service.
If you are concerned about taking on a longer-term contract due to the changing situation, you may wish to request a shorter contract, or ask for a break clause that would allow you to get out of the tenancy earlier if you chose not to stay for the full term.
As the property market has slowed due to COVID-19 and there is a lot of uncertainty, you may be in a better position to negotiate terms in your contract, such as contract length or break clauses that landlords or agents may have previously been reluctant to agree to.
I cannot afford to pay my rent due to the COVID-19 situation, what should I do?
Speak to your landlord if you're struggling to pay rent. Hopefully they will be sympathetic especially if you (or your parents) have lost a job or seen your income reduce suddenly.
Current guidance advises landlords to be flexible and arrange alternative payment plans. They may agree to a rent reduction or to accept rent late. Get any agreement in writing.
Buy to let landlords may get mortgage payment holidays if their tenants have financial problems due to coronavirus.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need further help with this. We can help you liaise with the landlord and signpost you to other sources of financial help. Use our template letter below to contact your landlord.
If you are in genuine financial difficulty you may be able to apply for some help from the University.
Can I be evicted during the COVID-19 lockdown?
In reality, evictions in the student housing sector are very rare even during normal times. Landlords are more likely to pursue small claims action to recover any unpaid rent after the end of the tenancy.
Most students will have an assured short hold tenancy, in which case a landlord cannot evict you without first serving appropriate notices and obtaining a court order granting possession of the property.
The Government has published guidance protecting renters during the COVID-19 outbreak, which means that landlords must give at least 3 month notice prior to applying for a possession order.
There is also an expectation that landlords will work with the tenant to find alternative payment plans and strengthening of the pre action protocols which landlords must follow prior to taking possession proceedings.
If you live with a resident landlord, you do not have the same protection from eviction; there are different rules for your landlord. In this situation, the landlord can evict you without a court order but you are still legally entitled to reasonable notice. This may depend on what is in the contract you signed but is usually one month. The landlord can change the locks themselves.
If a landlord is threatening to evict you please contact +44 (0) 116 454 1008 and speak with a tenancy relations officer at Leicester City Council if you think you are being illegally evicted.
Additional information is available through Shelter England.
What can I do about my Student Finance?
If you have any questions, or would like any further support with your Student Finance, please get in touch with the University’s Welfare Service.
My housemate has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 Coronavirus. What should I do?
Latest Government guidance advises students not to move from their current student property, so even in this situation you should stay in the property. As you may have come into contact with the virus, you should also be self-isolating for 14 days.
Please ensure that you are following the recommended NHS self-isolation guidelines.
The Government has also produced guidance for those living in University Halls of residence.
Information on how to clean your property is available here.
I live alone and I am self-isolating, where can I get support?
You should contact your Landlord, they may have procedures in place which could help you.
You can also contact the University Student Welfare Service by emailing email@example.com.
If you are in University accommodation contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
I live in a shared house, can guests come and visit me during the lockdown?
No, the only people in your house should be existing tenants/residents who classed as being your ‘household’.
If you have a joint tenancy or share accommodation with others, you should consider very carefully whether you are exposing your housemates to unnecessary risks by inviting guests into the property and you should be following the latest Public Health and Government advice.
Remember that your housemates might be vulnerable due a medical condition you do not know about. It would be better not to bring visitors into your house where not absolutely necessary until the Government advises otherwise.
If your housemate is bringing people to the house, remind them of the NHS and Government guidance and report it to your landlord.
Do I have to let my landlord in to carry out repairs during the COVID-19 lockdown?
The legal starting point is that tenants have an absolute right to exclude anyone from the property – even the landlord. Landlords should never force their way in and unless it is an emergency, they should give 24 hours notice.
A landlord still has statutory duty to ensure that the property is maintained and meets health and safety requirements. Urgent repairs and essential maintenance should still be carried out, but non-essential repairs or improvement works should be delayed.
Ideally your landlord will have contacted you about what services they are providing at this time and how they intend to manage and maintain the properties during the crisis. They should be minimising any unnecessary contact or visits to the property. If they have not done so then email them to ask.
Gas safety checks are very important so think carefully before denying access. However, it might be the case that maintaining self-isolation or minimising the risk of infection is more important in the short term. If you are at high risk from COVID-19 and your gas installation is well maintained this might be the case. If there are any signs to suggest that your boiler is faulty or you smell gas do not delay the inspection, your boiler may need urgent attention.
COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities. Government support available for landlords and renters reflecting the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Do I have to let my landlord carry out viewings during the COVID-19 lockdown?
Check your contract to see what it says about viewings, there is no automatic right for a landlord to enter your property to conduct viewings. It is likely there is a clause allowing them to do this at certain times during the tenancy e.g last 3 months. They also need to request access, at least 24 hours prior to conducting any viewings. Landlords should never force their way in.
During the current strict lockdown government advice is to delay moving and keep visits to a property to a minimum and only where absolutely necessary. It could be argued that viewings do not fall into this category. If you or a housemate have any symptoms and are self-isolating, you may wish to refer your landlord to the NHS guidance on self-isolation .
It might be possible to negotiate a compromise such as allowing the landlord to come to the property once and take photographs or make a video. That would be less risky than allowing lots of people to visit the house. Guidance to landlords suggests they limit viewings and replace in person viewings with video where possible.
If you live in a shared house (renting a room individually) the situation is different – the landlord is entitled to access the common parts. You could still negotiate with the landlord and make sure that any viewings are at agreed time so that you can avoid people viewing the property and wash door handles/bannisters after the viewing. You could also refuse to allow viewings in your room – although again, there is a risk that you might be breaching your contract.
If you have a resident (live in) landlord, you do not have a right to exclude people from the property. Your landlord can bring visitors into the property for any reason and can usually enter your room without notice. You may wish to link your landlord to the guidance on self-isolation if you are concerned .
What is ‘Force Majeure’ and does it mean i can end my tenancy because of COVID-19?
Some tenancy agreements have a “Force Majeure” clause. 'Force Majeure' means an event or sequence of events - beyond a party's reasonable control - preventing or delaying it from performing its obligations under the Agreement. So for example, if something happened to your house that meant you couldn't live in it anymore, such as a natural disaster destroying the property.
While COVID 19 may be a 'Force Majeure' event, it is unlikely to prevent you from occupying the property or stop the tenancy from continuing. It is therefore unlikely that a Force Majeure clause will allow you to end a tenancy early.
If you have understandably chosen to go and stay with family or friends elsewhere due to the pandemic, this does not give you a right to end the tenancy. Your tenancy will continue and your liability for rent will not end. This applies even if you have returned to what is your normal home outside of term-time.