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NUS Calls for Rent Refunds

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The National Union of Students (NUS) is demanded that all those renting accommodation should now be offered refunds and the option to leave their tenancy agreement early.
NUS said it was unacceptable there had been no financial support for students and landlords.

Some universities, such as Bristol, Bath and Bath Spa are planning to provide rebates to students who cannot use their accommodation. Meanwhile, the Department for Education said there is funding for those most in need.

NUS has argued that if universities and landlords need financial support to ensure refunds can be provided then the government must step in.

Commenting on the issue, the chief executive of the National Residents Landlords Association said that many landlords rely on rental income for their livelihood and pension and can't afford not to be paid.

A Department for Education spokesperson acknowledged it had been a very difficult time for students and is encouraging universities and accommodation providers to be fair, transparent and have the best interests of students at heart.


Student Portfolio Up for Sale

Posted by Richard Ward

A significant student accommodation portfolio has been put up for sale by Rengen Developments.

Dubbed the Inception Portfolio, the investment opportunity contains sites in Bristol, Bath and Worcester, totalling 634 beds. Student accommodation equates to 509 beds, whilst 125 units are PRS and build to rent.

The developer has appointed James Andrew International to sell the portfolio. Commenting on the sale, Andrew Soning, director at James Andrew International, said: "This is a unique opportunity to invest in quality locations in top university cities in an asset class that has proved to be extremely resilient during these difficult times."

The portfolio has a guide price of £124 million, reflecting an initial yield of 5.34%. It is expected that once fully operational, the portfolio will generate an annual income of £6.6 million.

Of the 17 properties up for sale, eight are already operational and income-producing. Five schemes are due to be completed by September this year, whilst four more assets are due to hit the market in 2022.

The assets are being managed by Rengen's operating platform, which could be utilised by the new owner if required.

The schemes are reportedly being made available individually or as a portfolio.


Student Digs Earmarked for Durham

Posted by Richard Ward

Plans have been put forward to deliver 70 student bedrooms above a store in the centre of Durham's conservation area.

A planning application has been submitted by Metropolis Land and Property Developments to create the student accommodation above the former M&S store in Silver Street.

The proposals also include a two-storey extension on top of the existing roof.

The company acquired the building when Marks & Spencer closed and move out of town and is currently occupied by the Yorkshire Trading Company.

Under the plans, an existing exit onto Silver Street will be remodelled to provide dedicated access to the accommodation.

Whilst the proposals will be viewed in the context of the Durham Castle and Cathedral World Heritage Site, expectations are it would not affect its significance because it will be a small change to the existing townscape of Durham. Furthermore, the proposal will positively impact the site by providing a more attractive proposition.


Student Roost Offers 6 Week Discount

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Student Roost, one of the UK's largest providers of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), has informed its students that it will be offering rent discounts of up to 6 weeks.

Those living away from their accommodation prior to 5 January and are unable to return will be able to apply for the discount.

The operator insists that all of its properties remain open and are Covid-safe.

A spokesperson for the company said: "As one of the biggest student accommodation companies in the UK, we've seen first-hand how difficult the last 12 months have been for our residents."

"We recognise that many of our residents are currently away from their university cities. They are following the advice from the four UK governments not to travel back to their university campuses yet, unless it's essential."

"To help them follow this important guidance, we're writing out to our residents to offer a discount of up to 6 weeks' worth of rent."

Student Roost added that many of its residents have opted to stay in their accommodation and have been able to continue their studies either online or in-person.

The move to offer rent discounts comes after Unite Students told its residents they could apply for a 50% discount on up to 4 weeks of rent.


Student Roost Offers 6 Week Discount

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Student Roost, one of the UK's largest providers of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), has informed its students that it will be offering rent discounts of up to 6 weeks.

Those living away from their accommodation prior to 5 January and are unable to return will be able to apply for the discount.

The operator insists that all of its properties remain open and are Covid-safe.

A spokesperson for the company said: "As one of the biggest student accommodation companies in the UK, we've seen first-hand how difficult the last 12 months have been for our residents."

"We recognise that many of our residents are currently away from their university cities. They are following the advice from the four UK governments not to travel back to their university campuses yet, unless it's essential."

"To help them follow this important guidance, we're writing out to our residents to offer a discount of up to 6 weeks' worth of rent."

Student Roost added that many of its residents have opted to stay in their accommodation and have been able to continue their studies either online or in-person.

The move to offer rent discounts comes after Unite Students told its residents they could apply for a 50% discount on up to 4 weeks of rent.


Tuition Fee Petition Surpasses 200k Signatures

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

A petition calling for UK university fees to be cut by two-thirds has received more than 200,000 signatures.

The petition is calling for the Government to reduce annual tuition fees from £9,250 to £3,000.

Those behind the appeal argued that the current fee is too high given the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the move to online teaching.

The petition has received a spike in interest since the Government announced that universities would need to move almost all teaching online as part of England's third national lockdown.

Currently, guidance for students returning to campuses is split into two groups. Those on more practical courses such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, education or social work will return for the spring term and will be tested twice or self-isolate for 10 days.

All other students are being told to remain where they are and will start term online, with distance learning in place until at least mid-February.

The Government has recognised the issues with regards to the cost of accommodation with students are unable to use their halls and has suggested it will investigate what arrangements universities are making to deal with concerns.


Welsh Students Call for Accommodation Refunds

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The National Union of Students Wales (NUS Wales) has demanded a partial refund for students that are unable to use their university accommodation.

The union argued that students should not be penalised financially for following Welsh Government guidelines.

The Welsh Government said universities should have staggered returns and students should only return to campus when asked to. Therefore, some students will need to stay home longer than expected, with online learning used at the start of term.

Reports suggest only Cardiff Metropolitan University and Bangor University are offering money back. Cardiff Metropolitan will offer students living in university-managed accommodation rebates for the weeks where all their lectures and seminars are held online. Meanwhile, Bangor University is offering a 10% discount.

Whilst there have been calls for rent refunds, the Welsh government argues that rental agreements are a matter for individual institutions or landlords.


Unite Offers Students Rental Discount

Posted by Richard Ward in

Unite Students has announced a rent discount for students following the Government's latest lockdown measures.

Students will be able to apply for a 50% discount for a total of 4 weeks and will also be given a 4-week complimentary extension to their tenancy at the end of the academic year. The offer will be available to all students checked-in but not living in their accommodation between 18th January and 14th February.

The Government has recommended that most students start their second term online until at least mid-February, albeit there are exceptions for some practical courses.

The rental discount and tenancy extension are expected to result in a reduction in ERPA EPS of up to £8 million of 2 pence for the 2021 financial year.

The company maintains that it will retain significant headroom against all Group debt covenants based on 80% occupancy for 2020-21 and expected rent collection from students.

Commenting on the announcement, Richard Smith, Unite Students Chief Executive Officer, said: "We recognise that this is again a particularly challenging time for all students, which is why their health, safety and security has been our priority since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new rent discount recognises the challenges and disruption that students face following the Government's latest lockdown announcement, and we feel that taking this action is the right thing to do."

Separately, as at 31st December 2020, the Unite UK Student Accommodation Fund (USAF) was valued at £2,798 million, down 0.3% in the quarter on a like-for-like basis and down 1.8% year-on-year. Meanwhile, the London Student Accommodation Joint Venture (LSAV) saw a decline of 0.1% in the quarter to £1,324 million and fall of 0.9% for the year.

The valuations reflect the removal of the temporary reduction in stamp duty. Excluding this impact, valuations were up for both funds.

For the 2021-22 academic year, 57% of rooms are now sold, down from 64% last year. The company is expected demand to remain robust but that the sales cycle will be later than usual due to continued uncertainty related to Covid-19.


Pressure Grows for Rent Refunds

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

An increasing number of students in England are looking to withhold their rent from universities because they are unable to use their accommodation.

Students are demanding a rent rebate but the decision on whether to provide refunds does not in many cases lie with the universities but the underlying owners instead.

Late last year, University of Manchester did decide to offer a 30% rent rebate for the first half of the academic year, following protests over a lack of support.

Organisers behind the Rent Strike Now campaign argue that the new lockdown means students are still paying for halls they are unable to return to, prompting further frustration.

Campaigners have suggested students are withholding rent from more than 40 universities, whilst those attending institutions not yet part of the campaign have said they will organise similar challenges.

Nottingham Trent University has urged the government to find a solution that is fair to all students, adding that only a minority of its students are in accommodation operated by or on behalf of the university.

The university said: "We do not want a repeat of the situation in the summer term of 2020 where most of our students were reliant on the goodwill of private accommodation providers who did not always do the right thing."


Bath Scheme Granted Approval

Posted by Richard Ward in

Plans to build student accommodation in Bath have been given the go-ahead.

Summix Capital has been granted planning permission to convert the former Plumb Centre in Bath into a mixed-use site with accommodation for 80 students.

The scheme sits opposite Bath Spa University's new art and design campus and was granted permission by the Planning Inspectorate.

Under the plans, the site will include employment space for local businesses, whilst the student accommodation will consist of 52 studios and 28 ensuite rooms.

The project will also lead to a new and upgraded facility on the ground floor for the Genesis Lifestyle Centre.

Commenting on the approval, Stuart Black, development director for Summix Capital, said: "We're delighted our proposals to redevelop the Plumb Center site have been approved by the Planning Inspectorate."

"Our plans will regenerate this industrial site in the city by increasing employment provision and delivering much-needed student accommodation in a highly sustainable location."