Student renters face a financial crisis due to the pandemic

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Over two thirds of student renters (69 per cent) are worried about their ability to pay rent with around a quarter having been unable to pay rent (22 per cent) or bills (27 per cent) during the pandemic, a new survey from NUS (National Union of Students) has found.

International students and students of colour are most likely to be extremely concerned.

Almost half of students live in rented accommodation of some sort, with around a third believing they would not be allowed to leave their tenancy agreement early due to the pandemic.

These problems are likely to be exacerbated with the most recent lockdown announcement that has left the majority of student renters still liable to pay for accommodation that they are not allowed to access.

The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase III took place in November and involved over 4,000 students, building upon the previous research issued by NUS in April and September 2020. A quarter of students have had to self-isolate during last (Autumn) term, or are currently self-isolating, while a small proportion have had to lockdown.

57 per cent of those who have been self-isolating have not received any support from their accommodation provider. Students have called for more regular check-ins, financial support and food deliveries to support them.

The proportion of students living with parents/guardians has gone up since September, now representing 30 per cent of students compared to 21 per cent. Prior to the pandemic a quarter of students were living with parents indicating some students have had to reconsider their living arrangements as a result of the pandemic.

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice-President for Higher Education, said –

“It is astonishing that the UK government has placed students under lockdown yet are still requiring them to pay rent for accommodation that they cannot legally access. It goes to show the level of disregard that this government has for students.

“We need rent rebates immediately to ensure that students are not out of pocket for rental payments of properties they are not living in. Over two-thirds of students are already concerned about their ability to make rental payments, and this will have only increased with the most recent lockdown announcement.

“Students deserve better than to be financially punished for following public health guidance.”

Ellen Fearon, NUS-USI President, said –

“Governments have been dodging the problems facing student renters throughout the whole of this pandemic. We have consistently raised the fact that students are in a unique situation, being unable to claim Universal Credit and therefore unable to access housing support if they lose their income, but these calls have fallen on deaf ears.

“In September students were brought back onto campuses only for many classes to be moved online in a matter of weeks and for some students to find themselves effectively locked in their halls. It’s not surprising that so many students feel they have been exploited for profit. Students deserve better than to be used to prop up a failing business model.”