University students across the country have paid over £1 billion in rent fees, despite not having access to their accommodations due to coronavirus restrictions set by the government.

Many students returned home over the Christmas holidays back in December. However during this period, Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown, in which students were not permitted to return back to university until the 8th of March.

This date only applied to those studying practical courses, such as nursing, that required them to be on campus.

Other students were not, and are still not, able to return to their term-time addresses under current government restrictions.

Statistics show that a large proportion of university students in the UK reside in rented accommodations, most of which they are still expected to pay for.

Source: Office for Students

These limitations have caused problems for some University of Bedfordshire students, who are stuck in contracts with Campus Living Villages, an accommodation provider.

Students are still being expected to pay their rents for the Fitzroy & Wenlock campuses located in Luton, despite not being able to stay there.

This has caused many issues for students, such as financial hardship, as either them or their parents have been furloughed.

Jade, a student at the university, suffers from Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, and returned home to be cared for. She is one of seven people in her household, all being supported for by her single mother’s income.

Posting a written statement on Twitter addressed to Campus Living Villages, she said: “This would’ve been highly beneficial as I, along with many students, could’ve then used our student finance (rent money) to contribute to our household”.

She added: “@CLV_UK is a company that throughout the year has shown to only care about financial gain instead of their students wellbeing”.

What about students who have had to take a year out of their studies?

Erica Bonsu, a student midwife at the University, had to defer a year and is expected to continue her studies next year.

However, due to the conditions of her agreement with Campus Living Villages, she is still required to pay her rent for the remainder of her contract.

Erica speaking on her rent situation

The University of Bedfordshire advised her that it was a problem that she would have to take up with Campus Living Villages, as the situation regarding rent was not up to them.

However, the accommodation providers say that she is still technically a student, and is still responsible for paying her rent.

She stated: “Because I had signed a contract back in March, and they had apparently communicated with the uni, I am still liable to have to pay the rent.

“I did send emails, I joined a Facebook group. But there is no solution at all”.

Many students feel as if they are being ignored by their landlord and being given generic responses, whilst they offer incentives to new students.

Discounts such as £250 off rent for students who rebook, or free cancellation of their contracts if their courses are moved online, are examples of the lengths they are going to, to attract new residents.

Some accommodations under Campus Living Villages have even had their rents refunded, for example the Bedford campus.

Commenting on a Facebook group for Fitzroy & Wenlock residents, Laurie Kirby said: “We should be given the same treatment and be communicated with rather than ignored”.

Many have taken to social media to express their anger, as well as creating petitions and calling for rent strikes.

This is not the first time Luton residents have expressed their disappointment at Campus Living Villages. Ongoing issues with students not having access to hot water for days has only intensified their anger.

Amina Osei said: “We don’t even have common necessities such as hot water. It’s like they are taking all of our rent money, what are they even using it on?”

Campus Living Villages have since responded to many of their complaints by email. They say:

“We continue to provide accommodation services and your room is available for you to occupy until the end of your accommodation agreement.

Campus Living Villages have not instructed residents to leave their accommodation and we cannot advise on your legal rights to travel and it is your responsibility to follow Government legislation and Guidance in this regard.

If you chose to return to your non-term-time address or permanently vacate the accommodation before the end of your contract term, this will not result in any changes to your existing accommodation agreement.

You will remain wholly responsible for all current and future rental obligations, and for the avoidance of doubt this includes payment of rent”.

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