COVID-19 Student Advice Centre FAQs [Updated 2/04/20]

Student Advice Centre Entrance Please read the below before booking appointments.
 
The Student Advice Centre is still taking appointments. Please read the below before booking in.
 
The COVID 19 outbreak is generating lots of concerns, questions and issues for many people.  We're receiving a lot of queries related to the virus outbreak and we hope to be able to help you navigate these as best we can. We have created a list of FAQ’s. If your Question has not been answered below and you need further advice, you can book an appointment with an adviser  using the booking form at the bottom of the page. Appointments are primarily through Microsoft Teams (all University students have an account): Chat, Call or Video.  Please bear in mind the situation changes frequently and there is not a response that fits all scenarios.  ou can remain up to date on government guidance announcements by signing up to receive email alerts here 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Keep reading to see our top FAQs on housing, finances, adademia and perosnal issues - tese are specific to Student Advice Centre queries, but you can also read through the University's FAQ's here.

 

Housing 

Generally speaking if you have decided to move out of your accommodation, this does not mean the contract is now null and void.  Unless a surrender/termination of the tenancy has been expressly agreed with your landlord or provider then the contract continues along with all its’ responsibilities and liabilities.  Try not to compare your situation to another student.  Circumstances might seem or be unfair, but we are dealing with a situation that could not have been predicted or planned for and given the complex and diverse nature of the housing market the various responses were never going to be equal or the same.  Whilst the stereotype of a landlord being out to take advantage of a tenant might be very entrenched in our culture, please try to remember that landlords needs to make a living too and have their own commitments.  Unless the landlord or housing provider has denied you something in regards your tenancy, they haven't actually done anything wrong and the situation should not be used to renege on what has been agreed between the parties.  All parties – that includes landlords and tenants or prospective tenants should not be disadvantaged by something outside of their control.  This is the Students Advice Centre view on housing at this current point in time and this is not a legal perspective and anyone is free to seek out legal advice.  A solicitor can be found via the Find a Solicitor search on the Law Society web page.

 

With most housing queries it is important that you contact your letting agency first as they may have steps in place to help you.
 

Q. I have left my University student accommodation, can I stop paying rent?

A. It depends.  Newcastle University advised students to return home if they could.  If you were living in University owned accommodation and you went home, removed your belongings, returned the keys and do not intend to return, you will not be charged from 29.3.20.  If you leave after this date you will only be charged up to the date you leave.  The University asks you to declare whether you are remaining in accommodation or you have left.  This link also provides more specific information on University Accommodation arrangements including information about payments and refunds.

If you live in student accommodation which is not owned by the University (even if they arranged it for you when you first applied) you will need to contact the Halls provider directly to see if they will release you from your contractual liability for the remainder of the contract term.  They do not have to do this and many will not. If they have not advised you to leave this is not an entitlement. 

**UPDATE** (01.04.2020)

We are now aware of the following Private Halls that are effectively allowing students to surrender their contracts for the third term after easter if they have left and moved out and do not intend to return during term 3. Information we current have are on (click to find out more) Unite StudentsLiberty Living, IQ Student and Student Roost. Each have different deadlines to request this, check their websites for instruction on how to cancel.

Any students who are aware of their private hall doing the same, please notify the Student Advice Centre so we can update this page. 

If your hall is not listed here please contact them directly to discuss their policy.

Q. I can't afford to pay my rent as my income has changed? What shall I do?

A. We are aware too that many students may have lost their part time jobs or other sources of income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Firstly speak to your landlord or agent to see what they suggest - maybe reduce the payments and pay over a longer period.  If you are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the current disruption, you may eligible for support from the University’s Student Financial Support website.   They maybe able to support you from the Financial Support Fund, often referred to as the Hardship Fund.  As I’m sure you can appreciate, the team are receiving a high number of applications but they are aiming to respond within 5 working days.

Q. I live in a private house/flat/maisonette/apartment and I have left, can I stop paying rent?

A. Regardless of whether you are actually residing at the property, the virus outbreak does not mean all contracts are no longer valid. The landlords are still dependent on this as their income and this is not a situation under their control.  In theory there is no reason you could not continue to live in your rental and many students have had no option but to do that.  It is understandable that many students chose to return to their families but the landlord does not have to release you from the contract.  You are advised to discuss this however with your landlord.  All parties needs to exercise ‘forbearance’ in this unprecedented situation because it is affecting everyone in different ways.  Landlords may be willing/able to agree a complete mutual surrender of the tenancy, although this is unlikely.  They may be willing to consider some other arrangement such as giving you longer to pay the rent if you are having difficulty.  

 

Q. I've heard landlords can get a mortgage break so why should I pay?

A. If they have their own mortgage commitments they might be able to apply to their own lender for a mortgage break or ‘holiday’ and the government intended for this flexibility to be passed onto tenants.  However  a mortgage break simply delays or extends the period over which the mortgage has to be paid.  It does not mean those months do not have to be paid at some point. All parties – that includes landlords and tenants or prospective tenants should not be disadvantaged by something outside of their control

 

Q. Do I have to leave my accommodation?

A. No.  If you remain in your accommodation you are advised to notify you landlord/agent/housing provider. Follow any guidance or instructions you are given to stay safe in addition to adhere to safety guidance provided by the government and Public Health England (PHE).  Guidance has been released on the management of all residential educational settings

 

Q. Can I withhold my rent?

A. Withholding rent is a breach of contract.  In some circumstances in the current situation, this might be understandable and acceptable but it would depend on why you were withholding it.  If your finances were affected and you were unable to pay we suggest you discuss this with your landlord and seek advice on either how to optimise your income or seek out support.  Withholding rent just because of the situation would not be advisable.    

 

Q. Will I still get my third summer term Student Maintenance Loan Payment?

A. Yes.

 

Q. Home students will still get their Term 3 student loan installment but those who have left University owned accommodation no longer have to pay rent.  How is that fair?

A. It’s not fair but lots of things are not fair.  Unfortunately nothing about this situation is fair or equal.  The University made this decision but they have no control over what other providers decide to do.  Landlords and providers are not required to act identically. If you decide not to pay, you or your guarantors run the risk of being pursued for that at some later point.  

 

Q. Can I be evicted?

A. In theory, for any breach of contract, yes - however probably highly unlikely given the current situation.  The government has been clear that it expects landlords to be flexible with regards to situations that are caused by the virus outbreak and attempts to seek possession would probably not be considered favourably by the courts.  They have now issued guidance for Landlords and Tenants on rents, possession and access. The Coronavirus Act 2020 temporarily requires most landlords to give you 3 months notice requesting possession.  Additionally any possession proceeding will be halted from 27.3.20 for three months.     These scenarios are rare in student accommodation anyway but whether there will be an increase because of what is happening, only time will tell.  If possession is being sought for an issue that is not related to the virus outbreak, this might be a different matter.  In all circumstances where possession is threatened or actioned seek advice immediately. This is explained further on the Shelter website

 

Q. I don’t have to waste my student loan on paying rent to my landlord do I?

A. If you have a contract you are liable for the rent.  If your landlord has not agreed to a surrender of the tenancy or a delayed/reduced rent payment then you could be pursued for the unpaid rent and breach of contract.  The maintenance loan is paid for you to pay for these types of outgoings.  

 

Q. I have lost my job and can’t pay my rent and/or living costs?

A. First of all contact your accommodation provider/landlord/agent and explain the situation and see if an agreement can be made to pay the rent late/at a reduced rate over longer period or a combination of the two.  Have a look at what costs are committed and essential and try to reduce or eliminate costs that are not essential.  You can apply to the Newcastle Univeristy Student Financial support team if you find yourself in hardship.   

 

Q. I have committed to a tenancy for the 2020/21 Academic Year, what happens if the virus is not under control by then?

A. Technically you have signed a contract but given the current restrictions on movement and government guidance not to move this would be difficult.  If the property is not occupied and you will be living alone this might still be possible. Landlords might  still hold you liable but you are advised to discuss this with them.  They may be willing to adjust the tenancy term.      Depending on what the position is at the point to your tenancy starts, then moving into a property, especially a house in multiple occupancy might be ill advised, against government guidance and create additional health risks.   If you don’t take possession it would be up to a landlord to decide if they would pursue you legally.  They may have insurance that covers them for this eventuality and so they may decide to make a claim rather than pursue a legal route but you cannot rely on this.  It would be highly likely you would lose any deposits you had paid as a minimum.  

 

Q. I have viewed a house and paid a holding deposit but not signed a Tenancy Agreement, can I back out now?

A. If you are a prospective tenant and have viewed a house and paid a holding deposit but are yet to sign a tenancy agreement, you have effectively entered into a verbal commitment to the tenancy.  Some may hold you to the tenancy until it is re-let, some will re-let the property and simply retain the holding deposit.  Check your paperwork and speak to the landlord/agent to see what the position is. Either way please get what has been agreed in writing. you can still negotiate with your landlord to see if they will re-let the property but they do not have to.  Also if they are not able to find a replacement tenant they may hold you to the contract. 

 

Q. Can my security deposit just be released to pay my rent?

A. No 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.    

 

Q. Should I book my accommodation for September 2020/21?

A. The position with regards to how/if courses will commence in September 2020 is still very unclear.  Whether you should book accommodation now is a difficult one to answer.  The concerns about not booking and then missing out needed to be weighed against booking and then being committed even though the course might not run or need you to be in Newcastle, if run online.   We advise you to think carefully and check with the T&C’s of any provider.  You may wish to seek reassurances about what happens in the event the course remains online or does not commence or you cannot move.  We are aware some providers are offering applicants ‘free cancellation’ options.  However on closer look these are usually only in specific circumstances so are limited/restricted, so we advise you to be clear on what the commitment is.   

 

Q. Is there any specific support for International Students?

A. Yes UKCISA have provided a lot of information and support which can be found here.  If you have a specific housing question please contact the Student Advice Centre but please note we cannot advise on anything related to Immigration.  

 

Q. I still haven’t arranged accommodation for the 2020/21 Academic Year, should I continue to do this?

A. Firstly try not to panic.  The rental market is going to be very difficult to navigate at the moment and viewings probably impossible and not advisable given the government guidance.  Agents and Landlords may also be having difficulty marketing their properties.  Until you definitely know that studies will return to normal on campus then it might be worthwhile waiting.  Of course it will be a concern about leaving this until later as you will be keen to get something in place but Newcastle has an excess of accommodation so even if you leave it for a number of months yet, you are highly likely to get something sorted.  Some landlords or agents are using different methods to viewings to showcase their properties. These include 360 degree video technology, arranging with current occupiers to provide live video tours to applicants via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype. Alternatively, an occupier could pre-record a property tour so that agents can share it with an applicant. Whilst this goes some way to showing you a property. We would strongly advise caution against paying a holding deposit or signing a contract for a property you have not actually seen.  We are aware of some accommodation provider who are offering ‘free-cancellation’ promises but these are often restricted to very specific circumstances and not always related to the current situation. Agents should advise clients to be patient and not to exchange contracts unless the contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by the virus. If in doubt seek advice. 

 

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

Property inspections, non-urgent maintenance, and accompanied viewings should not be being undertaken.  There should be no unnecessary visitors to your home.   If the landlord or agent wishes to market the property with you they can discuss alternative methods of doing this with you such as virtual viewings via 360 degree video technology, or arranging with current occupiers to provide live video tours to applicants via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype or you pre-recording a property tour.  The advice is for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home.  This would include property agents to carry out a market appraisals/viewings/inspections or to take internal photographs prior to marketing. 

 

My property needs repairs/inspection/compliance checks to be done. Do I have to allow them in?

As with viewings visits to the property should not be undertaken in all but urgent scenarios.  You should continue to log all repairs/disrepair as normal via non face to face methods of reporting regardless of urgency.  If you are not clear on how to do this please consult with your landlord/agent or provider.  It is likely only urgent repairs or essential health and safety maintenance will be attended to anyway.  Examples of urgent repairs include dealing with health and safety and security matters or loss of any key installation such as hot water, electricity, gas supply as opposed to repairing a blind providing or providing replacement furniture. 

Landlords, Agents and accommodation providers and their employees and/or contractors must take precautions where they are having to attend, with the government guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) in mind.  When works needs to be carried out in someone’s home, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, this can continue, provided that the tradesperson and the occupants are well and have no symptoms.  It will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety. No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Precautions might entail asking occupiers to leave or stay in another room whilst work is completed. If you do allow contractors into the home in order to conduct urgent repairs or legal compliance checks and you feel this can be done safely then the landlord/agent/contractors need to conduct this guidance in mind.

Landlords are legally obliged to ensure regular gas and electrical safety inspections are conducted and failure to do so could lead to them being prosecuted.   They are require dot provide relevant certification at the beginning of a tenancy (and carry out all scheduled inspections and tests where required).  Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing or forthcoming safety regulations. If a Landlord cannot di this due to difficulties with access they must be able to demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.  Guidance can be found on the Gas Safe Register and in the government guidance for Landlords and Tenants

 

I have left my property.  Do I need to let my landlord/agent or accommodation provider know?

You should definitely let them know.  They need to know if you have just left during the current outbreak and lockdown but have left your belongings in the property and intend to return or if you have left for good and removed your belongings.  Your tenancy agreement might also have a clause stating a specified period of non-occupation where you are required to notify them so please refer to your agreement.  If you are in shared housing you should indicate if everyone has left or who remains.  This is important for a number of reasons; for health and safety, for contingency plans should this situation not improve by the tenancy changeover date; for maintenance and access and not least for security.  There may be an increased risk of burglary with empty homes so if you have left your belongings make sure you are insured.

 

I am no longer in Newcastle and I am unlikely to return before the end of my tenancy?  How do I retrieve my belongings?

You should speak to your Landlord, Agent or Accommodation provider to see what they suggest. 

 

I am in a property at the moment and my tenancy is due to end by the summer.  Should I move out given the restrictions on movement?

The restrictions may well change before your tenancy ends so continue to refer to guidance.   Please speak to your landlord and agent in the first instance.  All parties are encouraged in the Government guidance to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes in respect of moving home.  Currently, wherever possible the guidance is to stay at home and away from others at all times, and there are the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be everyone’s priority.  For summer moves this will depend entirely on what the position is nearer the time and what Government guidance is at that point.  It might require your tenancy to continue as a periodic tenancy.  You can find more information about this on the Shelter web pages.  We will endeavour to keep these pages updated. 

 

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

We are hopeful the situation with the virus will improve before the majority of tenancy changeovers/checkouts start.  Currently renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19). If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must 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 the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.   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 at all 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, to a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place. Additionally if you are moving into a house of multiple occupation you need to discuss amongst before you arrive, anyone who may present to risk to others. 

In any event you are urged to take all sensible precautions where moves cannot be delayed to ensure the move can happen safely.

You should discuss with Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this as long as it is safe to do so 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 guidance here

We always hear that students aren't completely happy with their private housing experiences, but we need you to tell us about them through our online form if you want us to make a difference. 

Lets not forget about all our students who can’t get home to be near their families and loved ones or are distanced from people because of self isolation.  Support each other remotely where you can.

 

Finance

Q. What if I need help with my finances due to the coronavirus closure?

A. Student Finance Support Fund (Hardship) applications already submitted are being fast-tracked. Larger emergency loans are being issued to those who apply if needed. They are paying out all the remaining bursaries, scholarships and scheduled payments in one go.  Here is the application form is you need to apply: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/student-financial-support/hardship/

Q. What if I am on a zero hours contract and am struggling with money?
A. Employee or zero hrs contract / agency worker who's not working? You're due 80% of salary up to £2,500/mth, but what counts as salary? Two weeks ago, the Govt announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which means employers can choose to put any staff who were on their payroll on 28 Feb on 'furlough' (standby), and the Govt will cover 80% of their salary up to £2,500/mth - firms can top it up to 100% but don't need to.

 

Academic

Academic queries are at present the same as usual, however as this is an unprecedented situation this is subject to change, we will try our best to remain updated.

Any specific queries relating to your assessments should be directed to your school office (not your personal tutor) - please be patient with them and try to email rather than phoning as staff will be working remotely from home. https://www.ncl.ac.uk/wellbeing/coronavirus-updatedinformation/

You should frequently check your university email for any updates from the university/school regarding assessments and study.

 

Q. Can I still submit a PEC form?

A. If you believe that your study or ability to complete an assessment has been affected as a result of unforeseen and unavoidable personal extenuating circumstance, including COVID-19, you should complete the on-line PEC form accessible via your Student Self Service Portal (S3P).  Medical evidence will not be required due to high demand on medical services at present.  Please note that the request for extension or other adjustment to your assessment needs to be before the submission deadline. If you are submitting a PEC, try to include how your circumstances have directly impacted your studies.

 

Q. Will I still be assessed?

A. You should expect to be assessed but no assessments/examinations will take place on campus. At present, you will not be required to return to the campus for any teaching or assessment before the end of this current academic year.

The university is working on alternative assessment formats and you will receive more information on this from your School in due course.

 

Q. I am a PGR student; how will my studies be impacted?

A. Impact on your research degree can usually be dealt with either by instigating an interruption to studies, or by giving an extension to your thesis submission deadline. Your Supervisor and/or Graduate School will be able to guide you on the most appropriate option for your circumstances.

In order for the university to understand how best to support you, you are encouraged to complete the online form for your relevant Faculty.

Further information on the options available to PGR students can be found on the PGR FAQs. These FAQs outline the support available to you during this time as well as answer any questions relating to travel, teaching, APR, viva etc.

 


Employment

Q. What about if I have a zero hours contract?

A. You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. Check with your employer if you’re unsure.

If you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

 

Personal

Q. I’m personally finding all this very difficult to deal with, can anyone help?

A. There is a lot of support out there to help you.  

 

Student Minds 

Mind

Newcastle University Wellbeing and on line CBT with Silvercloud

Student and Staff Wellbeing – Corona Virus Updates

Public Health England guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of Coronavirus

Coronavirus: How to Protect your mental health (BBCNews)

 

Immigration

The Student Advice Centre cannot advise on any Immigration related queries.  In the first instance Newcastle University Visa team web pages have a lot of information which is regularly updated including their contact details.

The UK Government has also provided guidance for anyone applying for a UK Visa

The Home Office’s Coronavirus Immigration Helpline remains open: 0800 678 1767 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm – calls are free of charge if made from within the UK).  The Home Office asks that customers check gov.uk first as that is the central source of information, but if individuals remain concerned about their immigration status they can contact: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

 

 

Still need to discuss your situation with an adviser? Use our booking form at https://www.nusu.co.uk/support/sac/book/

 


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