We know that many students have experienced issues with their accommodation during the pandemic. Feeling secure and happy with your housing situation is even more important when so much of your time is spent at home this year.
We are aware that many students may be struggling to pay the rent or be tied into contracts for accommodation which you may not require. We have provided some FAQ’s below which hopefully address many of the issues you may be facing.
In January 2021, the University announced that students who are not able to return to University-owned accommodation during the current national lockdown will be able to claim a rent refund. Students will need to complete the form by 25th January 2021 and should have been sent details of how to do this. If you have questions about this please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and see further details.
Unfortunately, if you live in private sector accommodation there is currently no guidance requiring landlords to offer rent refunds or release students from contracts. Some private student accommodation providers are offering rent reductions during the latest lockdown e.g Unite and Student Roost. They will have deadlines for applying, so please check directly with your housing provider and check their websites regularly for details.
The SU is feeding into national campaigns and lobbying to try and get some financial support and compensation for all students.
Contact the Student Advice Centre vial email@example.com if you need help with a housing issue.
Should I be house hunting and viewing properties at the moment?
How can I do it safely?
If you need to find accommodation now then Government guidance permits you to move home and this includes viewing
properties including in Tier 3 areas. Here is a link to the
Government Guidance on moving home.
Usually students will start House hunting around November to find a house for the next academic year. Due to the current
restrictions and public health concerns our message would be to delay house-hunting until next semester, when hopefully
conditions will be safer. Viewing houses where other people are living risks spreading the virus and there really is no
need to be doing this right now. Follow the
moving home guidance from the Government to do this safely and be aware that this could change if more stringent
Covid restrictions are introduced.
Public Health Sheffield and Sheffield City Council have expressed concern about the potential risk of spreading the virus.
They are issuing the following advice to landlords and we would urge students to follow the advice and ideally delay house
hunting/ viewings until the conditions are safer and social distancing restrictions eased.
"To keep Sheffield safe and healthy we are asking landlords to strike a reasonable balance between safeguarding health
and managing their stock effectively. We are therefore asking that landlords only carry out viewings where a property or
part of a property is vacant, or where it is to fall vacant in the next 3 months."
Where a viewing of an occupied property is to take place, in line with government guidance, this should be done by
way of virtual viewing where possible.
Confirm with any current occupiers whether they are isolating or shielding before arranging visits, postponing visits
where any current resident is shielding or isolating until suitable arrangements can be made for the viewing to be
Do not carry out viewings unless you are sure that the current occupiers have agreed to adhere to appropriate social
distancing (note that you can not require tenants to follow social distancing in their own homes);
Don’t carry out open house viewings;
Make sure that the hot water supply is fully functioning and that windows can be opened and securely closed;
Make sure that the unit of accommodation, the shared areas and the furniture and furnishings provided are in a good,
Take your own towels/paper towels/ hand gel and wash your hands thoroughly when attending the property; dispose of
used tissue and masks using double bags; and ensure that those visiting to view do the same;
Wear a face covering; and ensure prospective tenants who view use them too;
Sanitise keys before and after handing to contractors or tenants.
It is likely that landlords will be offering limited or virtual viewings of properties. Again we would advise caution
about agreeing to sign a contract for a property which you may not have visited in person, as there is no way of knowing
that the pictures/videos reflect the actual condition of the property. Choosing where to live for up to a year is a big
decision and contracts are legally binding.
Signing a contract so far in advance is always risky and the Covid 19 crisis has taught us that we do not know what is
around the corner and how our circumstances can change. Many students found themselves tied into contracts they did not
want or need and during the lockdown and very few landlords agreed to release student tenants.
If you are a first year then spend some more time getting to know potential housemates and exploring Sheffield before
you worry about finding a house for next year, there is good accommodation available throughout the year. Check out our
looking for housing guide.
Do I have to let my landlord carry out viewings?
Check your contract to see what it says about viewings, there is no automatic right for a landlord to enter your
property to conduct viewings. It is likely there is a clause allowing them to do this at certain times during the
tenancy e.g last 3 months. They need to request at least 24 access at conduct viewings at reasonable times. Landlords
should never force their way in.
If you or a housemate have any symptoms and are self-isolating, you may wish to refer your landlord to the
NHS guidance on self-isolation.
See House Hunting question above safety advice for viewings.
It might be possible to negotiate a compromise such as allowing the landlord to come to the property once and take
photographs or make a video. That would be less risky than allowing lots of people to visit the house. Guidance to
landlords suggests they limit viewings and replace in person viewings with video where possible.
If you live in a shared house (renting a room individually) the situation is different – the landlord is entitled to
access the common parts. You could still negotiate with the landlord and make sure that any viewings are at agreed time
so that you can avoid people viewing the property and wash door handles/bannisters after the viewing. You could also
refuse to allow viewings in your room – although again, there is a risk that you might be breaching your contract.
Here is a
template letter that you can send to the landlord if you are concerned about viewings which includes
advice on the safety measures which should be in place. If you have a resident (live in) landlord, you do not have a
right to exclude people from the property. Your landlord can bring visitors into the property for any reason and can
usually enter your room without notice. You may wish to link your landlord to the
guidance on self isolation if you are concerned.
I have signed a housing contract with a private landlord but I have
left/not moved to Sheffield due to the COVID-19 situation. Can I get out of the contract?
Up to now there has been no changes to the law requiring private landlords to release tenants from housing contracts
due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It will be at the discretion of the landlord. Unfortunately, the fact that since September
teaching has been mainly online and there may be no requirement for you to be in Sheffield, would not really impact on a
private housing contract.
Most students in the private sector will have a fixed term tenancy e.g 12 months. It is also common for students to have
a joint tenancy. In this case it would be difficult for a landlord to release one of the tenants and all parties would need
You should also check your contract and see if there is a break clause, which would allow you to give notice before the
end of the tenancy. These are quite rare. If you have a joint tenancy you could only use the break clause, if all tenants
also wish to move out. If your contract does not have a ‘break clause’ which you can use, you will not have any automatic
right to end your contract.
You should discuss this directly with your landlord, you can use our template letter below to explain the situation.
Some landlords may not be willing or able to release you from the contract but may be open to discussing alternative or
reduced rent payments, especially if you or your family are suffering financially as a result of the current crisis. If
this is the case, explain how you are affected e.g you have lost your job. Students in financial difficulty may be able
to get some financial help from the University
If the landlord is happy to let you go without further rent payments or you can reach a settlement about reducing the
rent, make sure that you get any agreement confirmed in writing.
We would normally advise you to try and find a replacement tenant to take over the tenancy however, although
current government guidance does allow you to view properties and move home, it is likely to be more
difficult to find a replacement tenant at the moment. If someone did move into the property and pay rent to the landlord,
then the landlord should release you from the tenancy.
If you have signed a contract and/or paid a deposit then you could still have a legally binding contract even if you
never move in. A landlord could take action against you if you failed to pay the rent and they were unable to re-let
If you break your contract and do not pay the rent, a landlord can take you to court and claim the rent due to the end
of the fixed term plus costs and interest. They would need an address for you (or your Guarantor) in the UK. If you have
a joint tenancy the action could be against all of the joint tenants. A landlord would have up to 6 years in which to
issue a claim. This is a civil matter and not a criminal issue.
If the landlord's claim is successful and judgement is made against you, you must pay or you can get a county court
judgement (CCJ) against you which can affect your future credit ratings. If you are an international student, you may
have to declare a CCJ on any future visa applications to the UK. It is best to avoid such action where possible and
reach a settlement with the landlord.
If you are suffering financially as a result of Covid 19 and struggling to make rental payments you may be able to
apply for some financial help from the University. You could also try negotiating alternative payment plans with the
landlord, e.g delaying payments until your student finance comes through.
I/We hope you and your family are keeping well in these really strange and difficult times.Due to the COVID-19
pandemic I/we have had a significant and unexpected change of circumstances. I have left/intend to leave Sheffield
to move home to be with my family during this time of crisis and I do not intend to return to Sheffield before the
end of my tenancy period.
(If you have caring responsibilities or other exceptional circumstances include them here, be as detailed and
personal as you feel comfortable to.)
(If you or your family are suffering financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, explain this here
in as much details as you feel comfortable doing and how it may impacts on your ability to pay the rent)
I am therefore writing to kindly request that you release me from the tenancy and any further rental obligations.
The government and the National Residential Landlords Association are asking landlords to show compassion and whilst
I understand you may not be obligated to release me, I am asking for you to give this your serious consideration.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need further information, Looking forward to hearing your
I live in University accommodation but I have moved home due to online
learning and want to be released from the contract?
Although the University did release student residents from contracts in the first national lockdown they are not
currently releasing students from contracts for Covid related reasons unless you meet their standard termination policy.
See Residence Contract at https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/accommodation/policies.
You will only normally be released from a University contract if withdrawing from University or taking a leave of
absence. If so, you will be released from the end of the current billing period.
You will need to write to the firstname.lastname@example.org
with your request if you wish to be released for any other reason, with evidence but they will usually only release if
you or they can find a suitable replacement tenant, more details on
leaving a contract.
The SU has been seeking more flexibility from ACS around this issue in light of the online teaching situation but this
has not been agreed to date.
You may also seek a transfer if you are very unhappy in your accommodation, although this cannot be guaranteed and will
depend on your circumstances and availability of accommodation.
I cannot afford to pay my rent due to the COVID-19 situation, what should I do?
Speak to your landlord if you're struggling to pay rent. They should be sympathetic especially if you (or your parents)
have lost a job or seen your income reduce suddenly. Current guidance advises landlords to be flexible and arrange
alternative payment plans. They may agree to a rent reduction or to accept rent late. Get any agreement in writing.
Buy to let landlords may get mortgage payment holidays if their tenants have financial problems due to coronavirus.
Email email@example.com if you need further help with this. We can
help you liaise with the landlord and our money advisers may be able to identify any other sources of financial help
or in some cases benefit entitlement. Use our template letter below to contact your landlord.
If you are in genuine financial difficulty you may be able to apply for
some help from the University.
The University has made an extra £3miliion pounds available to assist students in financial hardship due to Covid
related issues. Any payment is unlikely to cover full rent or living costs and will be a one off payment to help
out when you may be facing unexpected or unforeseen costs.
RE Name and address
I/We hope you and your family are keeping well in these really strange and difficult times. I am writing to you
to ask if I can make alternative arrangements to pay my rent over the next few months.
Unfortunately, as a result of COVID-19 crisis my/our income has been significantly impacted and I am/we are unable
to pay the next instalment of rent at this time.
(If you or your family are suffering financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, explain this here
in as much detail as you feel able to . Explain how it impacts on your ability to pay the rent. Have you or your
parents lost a job, are they self-employed with no income for several months, do you get Student finance or not,
are you caring for children and unable to work)
The government and the National Residential Landlords Association are asking landlords to show compassion and
where possible to allow additional time to pay the rent and agree alternative payment plans. I understand
landlords with buy to let mortgages can also seek a mortgage payment holiday at this time.
If possible I would like to arrange to pay ….(tell them when and what you can afford to pay and propose an
alternative payment plan)
I trust you can give this your serious consideration and we can reach a mutually acceptable payment plan. Please
do not hesitate to contact me, should you need further information,
Looking forward to hearing your response.
Can I be evicted during the COVID-19 lockdown?
In reality, evictions in the student housing sector are very rare even during normal times. Landlords are more likely
to pursue small claims action to recover any unpaid rent after the end of the tenancy.
Most students will have an assured shorthold tenancy, in which case a landlord cannot evict you without first serving
appropriate notices and obtaining a court order granting possession of the property.
The Government has published guidance protecting renters during the COVID-19 outbreak. From 29 August 2020, except in
the most serious cases, landlords must give tenants at least 6 months notice prior to applying for a possession order.
There is also an expectation that landlords will work with the tenant to find alternative payment plans and strengthening
of the pre action protocols which landlords must follow prior to taking possession proceedings.
If you live with a resident landlord, you do not have the same protection from eviction; there are different rules for
your landlord. In this situation, the landlord can evict you without a court order but you are still legally entitled to
reasonable notice. This may depend on what is in the contract you signed but is usually one month. The landlord can change
the locks themselves.
If a landlord is threatening to evict you please contact
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need urgent advice and support you should contact
Shelter England who have an emergency helpline
available 365 days a year. You can also contact 0114 2734680 and speak with a tenancy
relations officer at Sheffield City Council if you think you are being illegally evicted.
My housemate has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 Coronavirus. What
should I do?
I live in a shared house, can guests come and visit me during
If you have a joint tenancy or share accommodation with others, you should consider very carefully whether you are
exposing your housemates to unnecessary risks by inviting guests into the property and you should be following the
latest Government guidance. You and your housemates will
form one household.
The rules around mixing and socialising will depend on what Tier level Sheffield is in. It is currently
Tier 3 very High Alert.
Remember that your housemates might be vulnerable due a medical condition you do not know about.
If your housemate is bringing people to the house, remind them of the NHS and Government guidance and report it to
Sheffield City Council COVID-19 Guidance for Landlords and Tenants
of HMO's (shared housing) May 2020
Here are links to the latest advice provided by Sheffield City Council housing standards team for landlords and tenants
based on latest Government COVID-19 guidance: