Leaving Purpose Built Student Accommodation during COVID-19

The new Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2) Act 2020 now gives you the right to end your tenancy. 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.  It means that any student who is still in a contract with a provider of Purpose Built Student Accommodation or University-owned accommodation on that date can now end that contract with 7 days‘ written notice.

(Purpose-Built Student Accommodation 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 end 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.

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

The law is not retrospective (so you cannot backdate your notice).  Therefore if you do want to end your rent liability, it’s in your interest to send your notice as soon as you possibly can.

Belongings left behind

We know that many students left in a hurry and still have 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 will 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.

I previously asked to end my contract – do I need to ask again now?

We know that a lot of students have been asking to end their contracts since March, but some providers have said no, or have ignored requests.  If you are in this situation we recommend that you contact your provider again now that the law has changed, and give the formal notice as outlined above.

You may want to ask your provider to reconsider taking your notice from the date you originally asked to end your contract, although they are not obliged to do so.

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 7 day 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).

How does this affect new contracts?

If you enter into a contract with University Halls of Residence or a Purpose Built Student Accommodation provider after 27th May 2020, but then find you are unable to take up your place for reasons related to Coronavirus, then you will be able cancel your contract with 28 days’ notice.

If you have signed a contract before 27th May 2020, but have not yet started living in the property, then your notice period will also be 28 days.

If you are one of the postgraduate students whose course start date has been moved to January 2021, you might prefer to move your tenancy start date to January instead of cancelling it completely.  Some accommodation providers are offering a later tenancy start date, so check with yours before you decide what to do.

Is this a permanent change to the law?

No. This is a short-term law, brought in because of the Coronavirus situation.  The law is scheduled to expire on 30th September 2020, or it may be extended into 2021 if the Scottish Parliament decides to.  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