NUS: Scottish student renters face financial crisis due to pandemic
Over two-thirds of student renters (71%) in Scotland are concerned about their ability to pay rent with a quarter having been unable to pay rent (25%) and a third unable to pay bills (33%) during the pandemic, a new survey from NUS Scotland has found.
These problems are likely to be exacerbated with the most recent lockdown announcement that has left the majority of student renters still liable to pay for accommodation that they are not allowed to access until the middle of February.
The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase III took place in November and involved 653 students from Scotland, building upon the previous research issued by NUS in April and September 2020.
With 40% of students living in rented accommodation of some sort, the survey showed that one in seven students believe they would not be allowed to leave their tenancy agreement early due to the pandemic.
The proportion of students living with parents/guardians has gone up since July, now representing 32% of students compared to 13%, indicating some students have had to reconsider their living arrangements as a result of the pandemic.
Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, said: “It’ll come as no surprise that over two-thirds of students are concerned about their ability to make rental payments, and this will have only increased with the most recent lockdown announcement.
“These survey results highlight the crucial need for intervention from the Scottish Government. As things stand, students are being expected to pay rent for accommodation they can’t use. We continue to call on the Scottish Government to ensure urgent financial support is available so that no student is left out of pocket while following public health guidance.
“It’s also a real concern that many students feel their notice to end their tenancy would not be accepted as students have a legal right to leave their accommodation, which all landlords have a duty to uphold.
“Throughout the pandemic students have lacked the certainty they need to leave their accommodation contracts early. If students don’t need to return this semester they should be told now. Students deserve better than yet another term of uncertainty.”
As a result of the survey, Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer has called for clarity over student rights to terminate leases.
During the passage of the two emergency Coronavirus Scotland Acts in mid-2020, the Greens secured a new right for tenants in student accommodation, the right to terminate their lease with 28 days’ notice. This standard notice period was previously available to all other private tenants but not to those in student accommodation.
Ross Greer commented: “When passing new emergency laws last year, the Greens ensured students would have the right to end their leases early if they were leaving their accommodation due to covid-related disruption. Despite this now being the law, many student accommodation providers are still trying to trap their students into paying for a room they are not returning to.
“The NUS have provided the Scottish Government with guidance which could be used to explain this new law and how students can use it. Ministers now need to explain why, in the face of so many private providers attempting to trap their students like this, they have chosen not to adopt this guidance and actually enforce the law as we wrote it last year.”