Leeds students left paying thousands for empty accommodation they cannot live in during pandemic
A Leeds Beckett student has described how she cried on the phone to a letting agent after being told to continue paying rent on a house she could not live in due to the pandemic.
University students across the country have revealed how they have lost thousands of pounds on accommodation they have been unable to stay in.
Lisa (not her real name) moved to a private student house in Leeds in September 2019 but left when the pandemic hit last in March.
She was unable to get a refund.
The 22-year-old Leeds Beckett student said: "I remember crying on the phone to one of them as I literally had no means to pay the rent at that time, and I didn’t want to put my dad in a financial situation.
"But the letting agent honestly didn’t care, she was very dismissive and quite obnoxious."
The Government recently announced that in-person teaching in England will not return until May 17 at the earliest.
By that point many students will have already spent several months away from the properties they are paying for, with little recourse for compensation or additional support.
Lisa said: “I find it ridiculous how we have online classes until May 17, it doesn’t help whatsoever. I feel like I’m paying all that money for nothing at all.”
Daniel Calder, 19, an aerospace engineering student at Sheffield Hallam, experienced a similar problem.
He said: “Having no rent discount or refund made me feel stressed, worried and anxious about money.
“My mum being recently made redundant due to Covid couldn’t help either. It just caused quite severe anxiety and stress at the time.”
Mr Calder has lived in Central Quay in Sheffield since the start of this academic year. He moved away in December and never returned to his flat.
He asked for a rent discount in January, but said his request was refused by Host, the company managing Central Quay.
Host did not respond to requests for comment.
Emily Braeger, 20, who is studying English literature at Nottingham Trent University, has paid full rent of more than £3,300 since March 2020 on a property that nobody is living in.
“Financially, it has been a huge blow,” she said. “I already find myself at a disadvantage as I am only eligible for the lowest maintenance loan which doesn’t even cover my rent.
“The fact that they have chosen for students to return to university on May 17 is ludicrous to me, as my last taught class before I graduate is May 13.
“Having an empty flat that I can’t return to at this moment in time, and knowing that I am paying so much for it, is disheartening.”
Larissa Kennedy, NUS national president, said: “Students have been hit hard by the pandemic, and the exorbitant costs of accommodation are pushing them to the brink financially.”
She added that 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”.
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.