Over a fifth of students questioned in a new survey say they have been unable to pay rent in full over the past four months.
The National Union of Students claims the costs for housing - primarily private renting - are overwhelming for many students, and pushing them over the brink. Over a quarter also say they have been unable to pay their bills in full over the same period.
Furthermore 70 per cent of student renters are concerned about being able to pay their rent in the coming year.
The union says the financial problems come on top of those created by the pandemic.
“Students who are unsure if they are finishing their studies this year, international students, students of colour and students with a disability, were more likely to feel this way, highlighting how the cost of housing exacerbates their worries” the NUS states.
Of the almost two in five students who have a different address in term time, 32 per cent returned to their term time address following the Christmas break, while 15 per cent did not actually leave their term time accommodation for Christmas.
Some 57 per cent of those who chose to return did so because they had paid for their accommodation and therefore wanted to stay there. “This highlights the huge benefit that rent rebates, a key demand of the student movement, could have had to public health at the peak of the second wave” insists the union.
Looking ahead to next year around a fifth of students plan to live with friends in a flat or in halls of residence. For those who plan to be in rented accommodation in September 35 per cent have already signed a contract.
Larissa Kennedy, NUS national president, says: “Students have been hit hard by the pandemic, and the exorbitant costs of accommodation are pushing them to the brink financially.
“Students are often left to fall prey to landlords and accommodation providers’ predatory practices, such as locking them into tenancy contracts up to a year in advance.”
She continues: “These results show the impact that rent”rebates could have had in ensuring students did not return to campuses unless they needed to.
“Instead of legislating to support students to leave their tenancies early, as they did in Scotland, the government has left students to rely on charitable handouts from universities, hardship funds, and be at the whim of huge, exploitative accommodation companies and private landlords unwilling to offer rent reductions.
“Students deserve better than to be left to fall through the cracks in support and we urgently need a true student support package to put money back in students’ pockets now.
“Moving forward, we need to see an overhaul of the student funding system, through the reintroduction of maintenance grants that can properly support us, and radical reform of the private rented sector through the Government’s promised Renters’ Reform Bill to ensure this never happens again.”
The NUS survey took place in March and involved over 5,800 students.
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