We know that many of you have had to move out of your private rented accommodation, leaving rooms across Oxford empty, or are struggling to pay rent because of job-losses. These pages provide you with information about your rights as a tenant, and some tips for negotiating early release of your tenancy or rent reductions.
Daisy, your VP Wellbeing has written to the major letting agents in Oxford asking them to support you during this crisis. You can read this letter here. If you are negotiating with your landlord, you might want to start by sending them a copy of this letter.
Sean, the Independent Chair and Trustee has also put together this very helpful guide on being a tenant.
Brookes University has invested £1.2m in financial aid to support students during the pandemic. You can access this financial aid if you are struggling to make your rent payments, and they are fast-tracking applications related to coronavirus.
Brookes Union Advice Service is still open; make a phone appointment with an Adviser and they will be able to talk you through your housing contract and what options might be available to you.
The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to negotiate and find mutually agreeable solutions. The best place to start is by asking your landlord nicely if you can end your contract early without penalty for you or any other housemates, even if some of you are staying.
Like all lobbying, this works better if you and your housemates are working together to get an outcome which works for you all. Things get a bit complicated if your contract covers everyone in the house, not just you as an individual (joint tenancy). If the contract is for the whole house, and only you have left, you will need to speak to your housemates to either all agree or try and lobby your landlord to let you out of the contract only. Whatever you do, make sure that the landlord doesn’t transfer all of the costs to the other housemates.
If that doesn't work, here are some hints and tips:
Hopefully, you all have a copy of your contract saved. If you don’t, you should email your letting agent or landlord for a copy immediately! Most likely, you are part-way through a 12 or 24 month contract, it is very difficult to get out of a contract which has already started, however there are some instances where tenants are able to end a contract early. Ask an Adviser to help you with your contract, or look for the following terms:
Your landlord is required by law to register your deposit in a Government approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, and must provide you with information about which company it has been registered with. Check whether your deposit has been kept in one of these schemes and if it hasn’t, remind your landlord that you can take legal action, which may result in financial penalties. If your landlord has not notified you in writing that they protected your deposit within 30 days of you paying it, you may be able to take legal action.
If you genuinely can’t pay your rent but you are staying in Oxford, ask your Landlord to negotiate a payment plan with you. This could either be a reduction in rent costs (50% or so) or a longer payment plan over a longer period (i.e. you would still owe after you have moved out). Remind your landlord that the Government has issued guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. The government is offering landlords a 3 month mortgage holiday on buy-to-rent mortgages and therefore unless they are renting purely for profit, they should be able to offer you reduced rent for a period.
We’re collecting and distributing information about how different landlords have responded to this situation. Let us know your experience and we will publish the results.