Leaving Purpose Built Student Accommodation during COVID-19

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2) Act 2020 gives you the right to end your tenancy, or cancel your tenancy if you have not yet moved in. Read on for more information about this.

New! The Right to End Your Contract Early

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2) Act came into force on 27th May 2020.  Any student who signed a contract with University Halls of Residence or Purpose Built Student Accommodation after that date (whether you have moved in or not), or who signed the contract before that date but has not yet moved in, has the right to cancel the contract with 28 days’ notice, as long as it’s for a coronavirus-related reason.

(Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) means commercial blocks of student accommodation of 30 or more rooms, sometimes also known as private halls. This new law does not apply to other private sector contracts such as Private Residential Tenancies).

This means that if you want to cancel your contract, you need to write to (or email) your accommodation provider and let them know.  This does not need to be complicated. We have created a sample email that you can use, if you are unsure what to say.

We are aware that some PBSA providers are making it difficult for students to cancel contracts under this law, and insisting on seeing University documentation to prove that students are not attending.  Please note that the law does not provide a list of acceptable coronavirus-related reasons, nor does the law say that you must show University documentation.  If your provider is refusing to release you from the contract even after you have given the correct notice (as in our sample email) then 1) please don’t feel pressured into paying any money, and 2) please contact the SRC Advice Centre for further help.

Delaying the start of your contract

If you don’t want to cancel your contract altogether but need to delay the start date – perhaps because the teaching on your course will be starting later than expected due to COVID-related restrictions – then please check over your accommodation provider’s policies on their website or in any documents you have been sent by them.  We are aware that some providers are offering the chance to defer a tenancy start date rather than cancel altogether.

Students who were in PBSA prior to 27th May 2020

If you were living in Purpose Built Student Accommodation or University-owned accommodation prior to the date above, and are still in that contract, you can end that contract with 7 days‘ written notice.

Again, we have created a sample email that you can use, if you are unsure what to say.

Once the 7 days are over, your contract with that provider will be at an end.

Belongings left behind

We know that many students departed in a hurry and left some belongings in their accommodation.  Please note, the new law does not say anything about what should happen to any belongings you have left behind.  You need to make an arrangement with your accommodation provider about this if you are not able to collect your belongings before the end of the 7 day notice period.  For example, your provider might agree to store your belongings either free or for a small charge; or you could hire a packing and storage company to collect and store your belongings for you until you can collect them.  The University recommends a company called Flexistore – of course there are other storage companies out there and you might want to shop around until you find what you’re looking for.

If you leave belongings behind and do nothing, your accommodation provider is allowed to dispose of them, so please don’t forget about this if you do want your things back.

What if i have prepaid my accommodation for the entire academic year, should i get a refund?

Yes, if you have already pre-paid your entire stay, you should expect to be refunded any money you have paid beyond the notice period.

(For example, if your original contract end date was 30th August, but you give 7 days notice ending on 8th June, you should receive a refund of any pre-paid rent for the period between 8th June and 30th August).

If you have not yet moved into the accommodation, but have made a pre-payment (either in full or in part), you should receive a refund provided you give your 28 days’ notice correctly as outlined above.

Is this a permanent change to the law?

No. This is a short-term law, brought in because of the Coronavirus situation.  The law was scheduled to expire on 30th September 2020, was then extended 31st March 2021, but the Scottish Government has now made regulations to extend the law to 30th September 2021.  We do not yet know if any of the provisions of this law might be made permanent in future.

If you need any further advice on this situation please contact the SRC Advice Centre