A number of landlords are threatening legal action against university students after many withheld rent to save cash during the lockdown.
Landlords and letting agents are demanding that students pay for accommodation they signed up to until the end of the academic year, despite the vast majority returning to their family homes during the lockdown.
Students have been forced to complete their studies remotely, with most encouraged by their universities to go home in late March.
With properties unoccupied during the summer term, many students feel that they should not be liable for the rent, with those who paid rent in advance now demanding a refund.
Some universities are urging private landlords to compromise on final term rental payments, while others, acting as agents for private landlords, have flatly refused to offer students any refund of their agent's fees.
Some letting agents and landlords appear to be ignoring guidance issued by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) on 'consumer contracts' impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The CMA told the press that its guidance also applied to suppliers of student accommodation.
It said: “CMA's statement on consumer contracts, cancellations and refunds, which aims to help consumers understand their rights, would also apply to students.
“In most cases, the CMA would expect businesses to offer refunds where they cancel bookings or don't provide any services – or where consumers are not allowed to use them because of lockdown restrictions.”
Abbey Rentals, which manages properties occupied by students attending Chester University, is among those planning to take legal action against tenants over unpaid rent.
The company has given tenants seven days to pay rent, otherwise costs will be added to the principal debt as per the tenancy agreement signed by the tenant before moving into the property.
In a statement, Abbey Rentals said: “We have followed government guidelines and offered any student who has financial difficulties a payment plan – although this has not been an issue as most students have received their government loans which are intended for living expenses.”