Open letter to MPs and City Councillors
Dear Caroline Lucas MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Peter Kyle MP, Caroline Ansell MP and City Councillors,
As lead representatives of Brighton Students’ Union, we feel compelled to write to you to address a rising concern impacting the 20,000 members of our student community in relation to the developing COVID-19 pandemic. This deeply unsettling time has had an array of effects and a chief concern pertains to accommodation rent payments. An increasing number of students have been returning home in accordance with guidance issued by the Government to ensure personal safety and to protect the national interest, leaving them to face great uncertainty with rent payments. We sincerely hope the Student Accommodation Sector will come together quickly, moving past the current fragmented approach in adopting best practice. We are reaching out to you to support us in lobbying private third-party providers, including Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and Houses in Multiple Cccupancy (HMOs), to enable students wishing to terminate their contracts to do so by offering the option of a cost-free release to all tenants. The area’s residential ecosystem and the future of our student community depend on this. We all share a collective duty to amplify these concerns.
On March 24, Unite and Liberty Living made a welcomed announcement, yet this best practice is not being adopted across the board. Government intervention is necessary, and your support is critical in ensuring that PBSA providers and landlords act on these issues voluntarily, which is well within their powers. While some have done so, others are refusing to waive these fees, which is deeply unjust. Students should in no way be financially penalised for respecting Government guidance and embracing their civic duty, thus saving lives. Landlords who experience a financial impact have access to a three-month mortgage holiday.
In writing this letter, we are speaking on behalf of tens of thousands of students across the city and they are counting on your support. Anxiety is at an all-time high and the current fragmented approach only exacerbates matters. We urge you to join us in ensuring that accommodation providers allow students to surrender their tenancies with immediate effect. At the moment, it is still possible to avert a crisis for student renters, as long as swift action is taken to guarantee that providers who are well placed to absorb these costs, do so. This will prevent untold damage from being done to the sector and protect our student community for years to come. We look forward to hearing from you. Please find attached a copy of the open letter that has been sent to non-University PBSA providers and HMOs.
Open letter to private third-party providers and landlords
Dear Non-University Purpose-Built Student Accommodation Providers and Houses of Multiple Occupancy,
As lead representatives of Brighton Students’ Union, we believe, as always, it is our duty to protect the over 20,000 students we serve during this unsettling time in relation to the developing COVID-19 situation and its impact on accommodation rent payments. Up and down the country, students have been returning home in increasing numbers due to guidance issued by the Government and their University. In doing so they have rightly prioritised their personal safety and protected the national interest, yet they now find themselves facing great uncertainty with their rent payments. It is wholly unjust for them to be financially penalised for carrying out their civic duty and therefore save lives. The relationship we have with the wider community is one we take very seriously, and we value these ties. You undoubtedly play a critical role in the area’s residential ecosystem and we ask you to join us in supporting our students by showing flexibility in residential contracts for those in privately run Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).
We firmly believe students should not harbour the financial burden as the responsibility to do so rests with yourselves. Unite and Liberty Living’s recent announcement makes it clear it is within your power as providers, owing to your complex mitigation plans, and we sincerely hope you would undertake these measures voluntarily for the sake of our students. For landlords who experience a financial impact as a result of this, you have access to a three-month mortgage holiday. We join the National Union of Students in lobbying Government to further support you in doing the right thing by students. Officers from both Unions have come together to propose 8 measures we strongly urge you to undertake:
- Offer students a no-penalty release from their tenancy contracts, both for the current and upcoming academic year.
- Refund those students who have paid rent and a deposit for the upcoming period.
- Effectively reduce, subsidize or waive rent for tenants who have experienced a detrimental financial impact as a result of the Coronavirus.
- Operate a holistic ban on evictions for all renters during this pandemic.
- Stop all rent increases planned for the current and upcoming academic year.
- Allow students with health conditions that increase their risk to the Coronavirus and thus wish to relocate to a more isolated part of their PBSA to do so at no extra cost.
- In line with Liberty Living’s stance, offer free of charge support beyond their current tenancy to those needing to extend their stay. This is crucial for international students who are unable to leave due to travel restrictions and for students who do not wish to return home to avoid placing a vulnerable member of their household at increased risk.
- Implement and offer student tenants access to best practice public health advice, in addition to providing them with material and pastoral support.
The values you enact going forward in addressing the measures outlined above will shape our student community and society as a whole for years to come. There is no doubt this is the right thing to do. The business model, which is the very foundation of student accommodation, is singlehandedly dependent on the physical occurrence of university and the fact it has now moved to a virtual environment means the risk should be absorbed by providers and not by students. They are counting on your support and we hope you will provide it.
Brighton Students’ Union
Calvin Jude Jansz, President BSUPresident@brighton.ac.uk
Ramy Badrie, Vice President Education
Onyinye Okonkwo, Vice President Welfare