Portsmouth students ask housing providers to scrap rent charges during lockdown

FRUSTRATED university students are calling on companies and landlords to scrap rent payments for their final term.

By Fiona Callingham
Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 4:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 5:19 pm
University of Portsmouth student Adam Linter
University of Portsmouth student Adam Linter

Almost 100 University of Portsmouth students contacted The News to say they are being 'unfairly' charged for accommodation since moving out due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Some providers including the University of Portsmouth and Unite Students have agreed to drop charges.

But the majority of other providers, including Prime Student Living which runs Stanhope House, and landlords of privately-owned homes, have not done so.

Catherine House in Portsmouth

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Catherine House, in the city centre, is maintaining its contracted rents but will review pleas on a case-by-case basis, residents have been told.

Business and management student, George Watson, from Weymouth criticised The Student Housing Company, which runs Catherine House.

The 18-year-old said: 'It’s incredibly frustrating that we have not been offered to cut our contracts at this point in time. All my friends going to different universities have been given this option.

University of Portsmouth student Emily Salt

'For a company that is proud of their dedication to resident wellbeing, they’re adding even more financial and emotional stress on their residents.'

Emily Salt, 19, who studies law with criminology agreed. She said: 'I think it’s appalling the approach that they have taken.

'They’ve also said they will review this on a case-by-case basis yet I have spoken to nobody that has actually had a response.

‘Some people had no choice about returning home because of their health, a family members health or due to travel.'

University of Portsmouth student George Watson

First year film production student, Adam Linter, was relieved when housing firm CRM waived fees for his rent at Crown Place in the city centre.

But he said: ‘They will not refund me rent that is already paid.

‘I'm owed £1,050 roughly as I'm paying for all of April and half of May for a flat I can't even use.’

Students renting rooms in shared homes also approached The News with concerns about rent payments.

Students who were living in Stanhope House, in Stanhope Road, are still expected to pay rent despite moving home during the lockdown. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (230220-11)

But vice chairman of the Portsmouth and District Private Landlords Association, Alwin Oliver, explained that landlords need to focus on tenants who have lost their entire income.

He said: ‘Of course where a tenant has suffered a real loss of income and wanted to make arrangements we will do that straight away. But I will ask people for proof because we need to show that to our mortgage lenders in order to get a mortgage break.

‘Maintenance loans still being paid but for full time professionals some of them genuinely don’t have an income.'

Unilife, which has two halls in Portsmouth, and Prime Student Living, also explained that as maintenance loans will still be paid to students, rent was still expected.

Hello Student, which runs Europa House, confirmed it would be scrapping rent from April 25 if tenants had moved out.

The Student Housing Company and CRM were also approached for comment.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has written to major accommodation providers Prime Student Living, Unilife, Hello Student, CRM, Murphy’s and The Student Housing Company to ask that payments are dropped.

He said: ‘With lectures cancelled and new measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, students are best placed with their families and at home wherever possible.

'The close proximity of students to each other while in accommodation also presents a health risk to those enrolled at the university and the general public in Portsmouth.

'If we are all in this together then student accommodation providers have a responsibility to put public health, student safety and financial stability first.

'I will continue to lobby all major student accommodation providers, that have failed to offer this release so far, to take steps to support students and act in the interest of our community.

'With large numbers leaving the city, the university has shown leadership in removing additional financial strain from the students. Now it is time for other providers to follow suit.'

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