We know that coronavirus has caused a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for those looking for private accommodation, and those already living in the private sector. 

Do not panic into signing contracts before you arrive and without looking properly at the accommodation in person. Protect yourself by adding a coronavirus clause or addendum to your agreement. 

Private housing tips

#RoadToPrivateHousing

Our #RoadToPrivateHousing campaign is here! For the next few months we shall be helping you navigate your way to your new home with viewing tips, questions to ask agents, contract information and how COVID-19 may have affected your search. 

Make sure you follow us on twitter @icstudenthub  to get the latest updates

We will be answering your questions every fortnight in our new Q&A video segment on Twitter. Tweet your question using the hashtag #RoadToPrivateHousing.

We might be working remotely but we are here for you!

Take your time

Don't rush into signing legally binding contracts. Read the contract thoroughly and get it checked by the Student Hub team.

Make sure you get any verbal promises in writing; your contract needs to have explicit terms (written in it) to manage the risks presented by the virus. 

Protect yourself by adding a coronavirus clause or addendum to your agreement and use our flowchart to help you decide which clauses you might need.

Flexible options

There are plenty of websites that advertise spare rooms or available flats, but it’s worth looking at our dedicated pages for Agents and Private Halls providers that specifically cater to students.

In the last month we have written to these providers to ask them what policies they are putting in place to protect students during Covid-19.

We have had a positive response, with many providers offering cancellation polices and flexibility for students due to the current pandemic. We have highlighted this information underneath each of their adverts so you are aware.  

Short term accommodation

We strongly recommend that you don't sign up to anything you've not seen in person. If you have done an online viewing and wish to proceed then see if it is possible to add a clause to your contract before signing that would allow you to leave if it doesn't meet your expectations.

If you need short-term accommodation so you can have a base when searching for a property, these private companies may be of assistance. 

Please note: by listing these companies, we do not endorse them.

Private accommodation FAQs

Should I continue to book my accommodation for September 2020/21?

We understand you may have concerns about missing out on accommodation if you don't book now; however, it is vital that you think before signing a contract. Until you know that studies will return to normal on campus and all tenants are able to view the property in person, then it is sensible to wait. 

  1. Upon signing, you could be committing yourself to pay for the entire period of the tenancy, even though you may not be able to travel/need to be in London. 

  1. If you have signed a Tenancy Agreement without viewing the accommodation in person, you may find upon arrival the accommodation/area is not what you expect but (by signing the agreement) will still be bound by your contractual obligations. 

We advise that you check the College’s coronavirus pages for the most up-to-date information regarding your course. 

I have seen the property virtually and am confident that I like it, is this enough to sign an agreement?

Some landlords or agents are using different methods to viewings to showcase their properties. These include 360-degree tours, live video tours via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype. Whilst this goes some way to showing you a property, this is not a substitute for the real thingWe would strongly advise caution against paying a holding deposit or signing a contract for a property you have not actually seen in person. 

Can I now go and view a property in person?

From Wednesday 13 May the Government advice on moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak has changed. People should use virtual viewings (360-degree tours, live video tours via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype) before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.

If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed. All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household. 

The Agent/Landlord has said that they offer a cancellation policy, how can I be sure that I'm protected if I am unable to move in due to the pandemic

We are aware of some accommodation providers who are offering ‘free-cancellation’ promises but these are often restricted to very specific circumstances and not always related to the current situation. At the moment we are advising students not to rush into signing legally binding contracts. 

Read the contract thoroughly and get it checked by the Student Hub team. Make sure you get any verbal promises in writing; your contract needs to have explicit terms (written in it) to manage the risks presented by the virusProtect yourself by adding a coronavirus clause or addendum to your agreement.  

Please make sure to read the terms and conditions of these clauses; just because your contract has one coronavirus clause that doesn’t mean it covers you for every situation.  Speak to your landlord and make sure you think about the possible eventualities and that you thoroughly understand what’s covered and what’s not. 

I have committed to a tenancy for the next Academic Year and signed the contract, what happens if I am not able to move in or the virus gets worse?

Please make sure you follow the government guidelines and keep track of the most up-to-date advice on the government website.   

At the present time all tenants are still bound by their contractual obligations in the private sector and therefore still obliged to pay their rent and adhere to the terms and conditions of their private sector contract until it expires or the tenant is able to terminate it. 

Even though the emerging situation is very concerning, there have not yet been any changes to the law regarding ending tenancies in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and until a tenant negotiates with their landlord, their obligation to pay rent will not change.  

Landlords therefore might still hold you liable as you have signed a legally binding document, but you are advised to discuss this with them; they may be willing to negotiate.   

I have viewed a house and paid a holding deposit but not signed a Tenancy Agreement, can I cancel now?

You have 15 days from when you pay a holding deposit to enter into a tenancy agreement. You can agree a different deadline with the landlord or agent in writing. You will probably lose your holding deposit if you decide not to go ahead, but please read the terms and conditions of the holding deposit. 

We would advise you not to sign the contract unless you are absolutely sure, losing your holding deposit is better than signing and committing to paying the rent for the full length of the tenancy or until you are able to terminate it. 

Is there any specific advice for International Students?

Yes UKCISA have provided a lot of information and support which can be found  here.

I am due to move into a new property over the summer.   What should I do?

Please follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus. This is particularly relevant for Houses in Multiple Occupation/Shared Housing.

In line with government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if  possible. In the event the previous tenants have not been able to move out before your tenancy starts you should speak to the landlord/agent to see if alternative dates can be agreed to move

Additionally, if you are moving into a house of multiple occupation you need to discuss amongst yourselves before you arrive, anyone who may present a risk to others.  You all need to take sensible precautions to ensure the move can happen safely. 

Discuss this with the landlord or agent on the appropriate cleaning and preparation of the property either before you arrive or once you have arrived.  There is also government guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings. 

 

Can my security deposit just be released to pay the rest of my rent?

Your landlord is required by law to put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an  assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.  If your deposit is protected the deposit cannot be released until the tenancy ends, so unless your landlord is agreeing to a mutual surrender of the tenancy then the deposit must remain protected by the scheme and cannot be used as part payment or rent or to offset against rent arrears.   

If you live with a live-in landlord, it is likely you will have a Licence Agreement and your deposit does not have to be protected in a scheme.  

We have in the last month written to all of our Agents and Private Accommodation providers (including Landlords) asking them if they would be prepared to assist our students, the majority have advised that they would be happy to discuss individual situations and if they are able to assist they would, this may be in the form of a rent reduction, payment plans, or to release tenants from their contracts.  We  would advise you to get in contact with the Agent/Landlord in order to discuss the situation and come up with a suitable solution. 

The Government guidelines suggest the landlord and tenant mutually agree a payment plan for any outstanding amounts. Another option is to come to an agreement with the landlord to end the tenancy early then the deposit can be used against any outstanding rent.   

Remember to return all keys for the property, and leave the property in the same condition as it was when you moved in ie clean and all items of furniture in the same rooms as they were at the start of the tenancy.  Also remember, that you will also still be liable for all utilities for the accommodation ie Gas/Electricity etc. so make sure you leave enough money for this. 

If you have agreed something with your landlord – make sure you get this in writing! 

My landlord or agent wants to conduct viewings.  Should I let them in?

From Wednesday 13 May the  Government advice  on moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak has changed. People should use virtual viewings (360-degree tours, live video tours via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype) before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.

If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed. All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household. 

Please also check out our Private Housing FAQ’s  for further advice. 

I have left my belongings in the property; can my landlord still charge me rent?

Yes, your landlord can still charge you rent if they want. Your landlord cannot re-let the property if your belongings are still there. 

We would advise searching online for companies that can help with packing up your belongings and keeping them safe or returning them to you. You may also have friends in the UK that could assist with this. This may work out cheaper than paying extra rent. Please make sure you read the terms and conditions and check to make sure you are happy with the website credentials.