- Luke shares guidance after pushing government for more support for students
Luke has shared new guidance relating to rented accommodation in Plymouth. Lots of people have been in touch expressing a range of concerns from affording bills, supporting vulnerable housemates, paying rent, possible evictions and managing access to properties.
Luke has been pressing the Government to provide support for private tenants – including students who have contracts with private landlords or lettings agencies.
In addition to previous advice, Luke has shared the following guidance:
- If you are having difficulties paying rent please contact your landlord or agent in the first instance. Luke has written to a number of landlords asking them to carefully consider how they can support tenants who are in financial distress.
- If you are in a property where bills are not included and are having difficulties paying bills please contact utility providers. South West Water, gas and electricity providers have schemes in place to support those who have difficulties paying bills or need extra time to make payments.
- Rent has been cancelled on most university-owned accommodation in Plymouth and Luke has thanked universities for stepping up and supporting their students.
- Check your contract. If you have signed a contract you are legally bound by its contents. Check what your contract says and if there are early exit clauses or procedures to deal with exceptional circumstances.
- Ask Shelter or the student union for housing advice. As an MP Luke is not allowed to give legal advice, however Shelter and the student union or university can provide advice on housing matters.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic impacting upon us all, the Government’s measures of support have so far been imbalanced. This crisis is placing unprecedented demands on household finances with social distancing closing entire sectors of the economy. At this stage, with no clear end to the lockdown, Labour has been urging the Government to take immediate action to strengthen the safety net for renters to protect them from sliding into severe hardship. Luke has been making the case to Ministers for additional support.
Everybody needs a home to stay safe throughout this crisis and they need to know that their tenancy is secure for as long as this pandemic lasts. The priority must be to protect those struggling the most from the risk of eviction.
Whilst the Government’s provision outlawing housing possessions for 90 days from March 27th is welcome, it does not go far enough to safeguard renters beyond the immediate COVID-19 outbreak. The Government must extend this period to at least 6 months and Ministers should legislate to prevent any evictions based on rent arrears accrued through financial hardship during the public health crisis.
Tenants should not face a cliff edge where they have to repay all rent arrears immediately after this crisis ends, and should be afforded the chance to make repayments over a more manageable two-year time frame if their landlord insists on them paying. I know some landlords have alternative arrangements in place in Plymouth and it is important that individuals check with their landlord and agent if unable to pay their rent. Many students face housing costs at both their term time and home addresses and this is putting some under severe pressure.
For students who have signed private contracts, Luke is aware that some accommodation providers have declined to negotiate with tenants or make contract amendments, citing the lack of government guidance on this issue. Unfortunately, the Government has not been listening to any calls for clarification and greater support for students locked into contracts for housing they cannot access. Luke is speaking with Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Housing Secretary, and her team to raise this directly with Ministers.
Luke has helped a number of students apply for hardship funding and each of Plymouth’s three universities has a process in place for supporting their students. If you need assistance in making an application, please contact Luke or your student union.
Some students are very concerned about being evicted despite the ban on evictions that are in place. If you or any of your friends are concerned about being at risk of eviction, please get in touch with Luke or Shelter.
“I am very concerned that as the Government eases the lockdown restrictions there will be an increased risk to those in rented accommodation in Plymouth and increased economic uncertainty as many of the jobs students rely on to support their financial position while studying may not be available. I am following developments on this closely and I will continue to press the case for extra support for students and will endeavour to keep you updated.”