Published on 12th February 2021 at 17:09.
Students in University-owned accommodation recently received an email from the University explaining how rent reductions for the lockdown period would be applied. If you have not returned to your University-owned accommodation at all since January 4th and do not return before the 8th March (the current date at which restrictions are set to ease - this may be subject to change) then you must declare this via this form before 5pm on February 19th so that the reduction may be applied to your student account.
The University has confirmed that if you returned, or plan to return, to university accommodation at any point during this period, they will charge you for the full period of the national lockdown. This will be for the nine weeks between January 4th and March 8th. These students are encouraged to inform [email protected] that they are, or plan to be, living in their university accommodation.
We encourage students to fill in this form honestly, and to get in touch with Housing, as advised, if they are staying in their University accommodation. However, we are extremely disappointed with this revision of the rent reduction policy. We were pleased to see the announcement last month, as it is common sense that students shouldn’t have to pay rent for a room which they cannot occupy. Yet, in this new announcement, students are now being told to pay for the entire lockdown period of nine weeks, no matter when they actually returned. This will undoubtedly result in students paying rent for many weeks when they were not in their accommodation. The Students’ Union is concerned about how this revised rent reduction policy is in danger of encouraging students, some of whom are financially precarious, to stay in a potentially unsafe/ unstable home environment for longer (by charging full rent if they return before the 8th of March). While we continue to encourage students not to travel unless they have to, the unfortunate reality is that many (1500) already have.
On 30/12 the university encouraged students that were suffering from poor mental health exacerbated by being away, or those with inadequate learning space, to return to their accommodation. A week later, these students were informed that they would have to pay rent whereas students who didn’t return would not. It is concerning that the most vulnerable students are being disproportionately overcharged, especially when so many are already facing financial difficulty as a result of the ongoing lockdown. Similar concerns apply for international students who keep having to change their return flights or may not be able to leave their accommodation.
We would also stress that the rent reduction policy ignores all of the issues raised by the Students’ Union and the Renters Union about the living conditions of those living in University accommodation. Whilst, collectively, these students are paying more than any other year (as a result of rising costs of rent beyond the rate of inflation and expensive new builds), they are getting none of the benefits that University halls exist to provide. Students move into University accommodation to be close to their classes, to access campus facilities and support, and for the associated social experience and nightlife. This is what makes University accommodation unique compared to private renting and this is how the University justifies the cost. It is clear that none of these are relevant this year due to Covid restrictions, despite prospective students being told that moving into University accommodation would give them the full university experience. This is why we are in full support of the Renters Union’s demand for a 50% rent reduction for all students in university accommodation (this has recently been changed from 40% to include the lockdown period rebate). Students that agree should get in touch with the Renters Union. You can do this by sending a DM to @sussexrentersunion on Instagram, emailing [email protected] - or visit this link for other ways of getting in touch: https://linktr.ee/sussexrentersunion
If you would like to speak to our SU advice team about financial difficulties, how to fill in the forms, who to get in touch with at the university, or housing concerns, then email [email protected] to make an online or phone call appointment. We actively encourage you to make use of this service, especially if you have been struggling financially over the past academic year and are in need of advice.
If you are struggling financially then please also make use of the University Hardship Fund. You can also speak to our advice team to walk you through the application process. If you are registered on any UG, PGT or PGR course offered by the University, you are eligible for the Hardship Fund. However, if you have suspended your studies (on temporary withdrawal or authorised absence) you are not eligible for an award so please bear this in mind.