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Since the UK went into a third national lockdown in January, many students renting in private sectors cannot get out of their lease. This means they are paying for empty apartments, now that most have been forced to stay in their home cities.

Many University-owned accommodation has shown some flexibility under the influence of the pandemic, which has allowed some students to terminate their contracts accordingly. However, across privately-owned accommodations, many students remain liable for any rent due up until the end of the contract.

Midori Suzuki, a Business student at the Exeter campus in Penryn, is among those trapped in tenancy contracts with private rented property.

“I think it’s absurd and morally corrupt that we have to pay for accommodation we are no longer living in when it’s a situation we cannot control. I can’t even travel there right now under lockdown. It’s a very difficult time for students, it’s really frustrating.”

Suzuki said after writing to her landlord multiple times with a couple of her housemates, they received a response informing them their rent is still due for coming months. Her contract requires her to pay £400 a month up until August. She’s thinking of working additional hours to cover her rent but it’s not easy under the pressure of the pandemic.

Adhar Das, a final year student at Penryn campus, said he has spent £950 during the last two months on a house near campus when he has spent all of that time living at home in India. Das decided to go home for Christmas and was unable to travel back due to the third lockdown.

“Most of my housemates have gone home because of uncertainty, and still, we are paying for all of the bills.  I hope there could be a level of mutual understanding, perhaps a fee reduction, but my landlord has yet to respond.”

In response to student feedback, including petitions on the Make A Change page calling for rebates/reductions for those in both University-owned and private accommodation, a rent rebate campaign, led by Charlotte Agnew, President Welfare and Inclusivity, is currently live.

The campaign has encouraged students to write to Cherilyn Mackrory, the local Falmouth and Truro MP, as well as using templates in order to contact their own landlords.

However, according to Cara Chittenden (SU President Exeter), the campaign for rent reductions/refunds for students in privately rented accommodation has been extra tricky.

The Falmouth & Exeter SU has encouraged students who are struggling with finances as a result of their rent situation, to apply to the Universities’ Hardship Fund, which can offer some financial aid.

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