Last week your Elected Officer team was pleased to present to you the results of our advocacy with the Uni's Senior Management Team regarding university-owned accommodation. While this was fantastic news for anyone living in University halls of residence, we realise that the vast majority of Union members live off-campus in privately rented housing. This could be in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA, or private halls of residence) or a house rented through an agency or from a private landlord.
We have had lots of emails and messages in the past few weeks. Many of these expressed concern that some private providers are failing to work fairly with Union members affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The bad news: we're not able to dictate to these private companies how they should do business. The good news: we have been working on your behalf to advocate for similar concessions to those announced by the University.
To that end, we've done the following:
- Written to every local MP, councillor and local government official in Chester (pdf), Warrington (pdf) and Shrewsbury (pdf) to urge them to apply legal pressure to ensure private-renting students are treated fairly
- Entered into ongoing conversations with all of these groups and expressed, in the strongest possible terms, the need for additional support for students
- Maintained an open dialogue with all local accommodation providers to attempt to persuade them to do the right thing.
This is what has happened so far:
- City of Chester MP Chris Matheson and Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols have both signed this open letter. It asks that the Government introduce advice that students should be refunded for accommodation they have vacated. We note with regret that Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski seemingly declined to sign.
- Student Roost, who run the Towpath and Tramways PBSAs will not be charging rent for the third term to any student who vacates their property before 1st May. You must inform them of your intention to leave by 13th April, so please contact them as soon as possible.
- We've lent our public support to this petition and advise all affected students to do the same.
We will continue to apply pressure to private accommodation providers until they agree to make fair concessions to our members. We have always enjoyed productive links with the local housing community and hope that these will continue.
In the meantime, if you're struggling to pay rent, we advise you contact your provider directly in the first instance and ask them for assistance. If you're struggling with money, the University's Financial Assistance Fund may be able to help. Please contact email@example.com for more information.