“Can I get a refund?” Qs about student accommodation, private renting and tuition fees answered
Questions answered on how to end your tenancy or seek a refund from your landlord.
By: Mireia Jimenez
Universities and the Scottish Government have asked students to avoid travelling back to their term-time accommodation or flats due to Covid-19, putting them in difficult financial situations with regard to paying for booked accommodation.
Many have also wonder whether tuition fees are affected by the new circumstances, or if they can be refunded in case they no longer want to pursue their studies. This article gathers the different options students have regarding these issues.
Students living in Hillhead Halls of Residence are entitled to a rent rebate for the period between January 25th and the day they return to halls.
Regarding private accommodation, the University of Aberdeen has confirmed to The Gaudie that their refunds only apply to Hillhead and that students should speak with their accommodation providers about their options.
Unlike with University halls, it is less likely that students can get refunds or discounts when negotiating with privately-run accommodation providers or individual landlords, and private student accommodation brands lack a common policy with regard to refunding rent.
Unite Students, one of the major accommodation providers in Aberdeen, offers a 50% refund for four weeks to those who apply for it. To be eligible for the refund students need to:
- Pay their rent directly to Unite Students
- To have a current, valid and continuing tenancy agreement for the academic year 2020/2021 with a start date before February 15th 2021
- Will not be in residence between January 18th and February 14th 2021
- Be up to date with rent payments
It is worth mentioning that if students pay rent monthly, the discount value will be paid by March 2021, however, if rent was paid upfront, the money will not be in students bank accounts until the end of the contract. Also, Unite offers a free four-week extension of the tenancy if the contract ends before August 1st 2021. Students need to actively apply and ask for the discount as well as the free four-week extension of the tenancy to obtain them. You can find further information on the Unite Students website.
Unlike Unite Students, Student Roost private accommodations offer a 100% refund of six weeks as long as they have been out of the property since January 5th 2021 and are up to date with their payments. They also recognise the impact of travel regulations to the UK as a valid reason to receive the refund. You can find further information on the Student Roost website.
However, students living in privately owned flats have fewer options available when asking for refunds or discounts.
UoA insisted that students can reach for support by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org if they are experiencing financial difficulties, however, the financial help provided “will not fully cover the cost of rent in privately-run accommodation”.
The general advice is to speak with your landlord, read your tenancy agreement carefully and try to negotiate an equitable solution. When speaking to The Gaudie, the University of Aberdeen insisted that students can reach for support by writing to email@example.com if they are experiencing financial difficulties, however, the financial help provided “will not fully cover the cost of rent in privately-run accommodation”.
There is also financial support available for renters by the Scottish Government and more information here.
Students from all parts of the UK have been facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic and many rent strikes are currently taking place at several universities. Rent Strike offers resources on how to organise them, and Scotland’s Tenants Union “Living Rent” also offers a wide range of information about the rights of tenants in Scotland.
At a local level, Aberdeen Students Tenants Union (ASTU) is currently looking to represent student tenants, as well as pushing for the University and Private Student Accommodation Providers to increase their rent rebates. They encourage students to join them in their effort to achieve fairer refund policies and even a rent strike if there are enough participants to make it effective.
Finally, if University is no longer a path you want to follow due to the circumstances, the University offers a tuition fee refund policy which is available on this website. There is no mention of discounts on tuition fees due to face-to-face teaching being replaced to online classes only.