Call for UU students to be released from rent

Tue, 24/03/2020 - 10:59 -- Editor

SDLP Cllr Mary Durkan has called for a fair approach to termination of student leases from Ulster University and private accommodation companies.

The Councillor’s calls follow the closure of universities last week in response to Covid-19 and related public health advice, resulting in vast numbers of students returning home. At an early stage Queen’s University indicated that any student in Queen’s accommodation wishing to terminate their lease early would not be financially penalised. The same approach has not as yet been applied to students in Ulster University and private company accommodation such as Swanston House in Belfast.

Cllr Durkan said:

“I have heard from a number of students who are extremely anxious at the prospect of struggling to pay rent for accommodation not in use. Due to the spread of Covid-19, the academic year has been disrupted for everyone and it has been inevitable that students have returned to their homes in adherence of social distance measures, instead of staying in tightly populated student digs. Indeed, some of the students are self-isolating due to underlying health conditions. Others have returned home to assume caring roles. Many students rely on income from part-time or casual work to pay their rent and bills, and now they find that income stream will no longer be available to them. The whole uncertainty around the situation is stressful enough for students without the added financial burden of rent for an unoccupied flat.

“We all keep hearing that we have found ourselves in “unprecedented” circumstances. During this stressful period, a caring, compassionate, common-sense approach is warranted. Bog-standard cancellation policies simply do not cover scenarios such as this unforeseeable pandemic. Students should not be penalised as a result of Covid-19. We are all in this together. I have made representations directly to senior management at Ulster University and also to a private accommodation provider, calling for the reconsideration of their position, and requesting that students may terminate leases forthwith at no financial cost.”