The Scottish Government has proposed new emergency legislation which will enable students to end contracts early at halls of residences.
Students noted concerns of mixed or no Covid-19 support being offered private student accommodation providers, a number of which refused to change policies on early exit fees which could only be ended by finding a temporary replacement tenant.
Notice periods for student accommodation are to be introduced as part of new emergency coronavirus (Covid-19) legislation to be introduced to Parliament this week.
Students currently tied to a contract in halls of residence or other purpose built student accommodation would be able to give 7 days’ notice before ending their lease.
Subject to Parliament’s approval of the legislation, new agreements entered into by students while the new Bill is in force will also have a ’28-day-notice to leave’ period.
This measure will ensure that if students entering into accommodation contracts for the next academic year are unable to take them up due to COVID-19 restrictions, they will be able to give notice and not be held liable for accommodation they cannot use.
Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:
“The Scottish Government has today introduced emergency legislation to Parliament which will enable students to exit private student accommodation tenancies without charge.
“Disappointingly, some providers have maintained demands that students find replacement tenants or face a charge, despite this being impractical and unsafe under government guidelines.
“This action from the Scottish Government ensures that students will have the right to quit these forms of tenancies so that they are not trapped in costly tenancies which they cannot use during the crisis.”
Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said:
“To reduce the spread of this terrible virus, many students have returned to their family homes for the duration of the lockdown but are still paying for their term-time accommodation.
“During this time of great uncertainty and financial hardship for many, these proposals would relieve a significant extra financial burden on students. Introducing a 28 day notice period for contracts entered into during the lifetime of this Act, recognises the uncertainly around the impact of ongoing lockdown measures, as well as providing the same rights as for those students renting in the mainstream private rented sector.
“We continue to press the UK Government to recognise the impact the pandemic is having on the higher education sector and for appropriate financial support to be made available to Scottish institutions.”
The Scottish Government intends to introduce the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Bill to Parliament on Monday 11 May, with publication the same day.
These provisions apply only to students living in halls of residence or purpose built student accommodation.
Under the Bill’s provisions, students would be able to give 7 days’ notice to leave contracts they are currently still liable for. For those entering into new accommodation contracts during the lifetime of the Bill, a 28 day notice period would apply. Students would only be able to use notice periods for Covid-19 specific reasons and, for example, could not give notice simply because they have changed their mind about attending an education establishment.