Students in private accommodation at the University of Portsmouth are being told they must continue paying for empty rooms.
The university has moved teaching online and has allowed students in university-owned accommodation to prematurely end their contracts.
The private property firm Prime Student Living has said that Student Finance England (SFE) will continue to provide loans during the Covid-19 outbreak and therefore students should honour the contracts they signed.
Students in Portsmouth are even more frustrated with their situation, particularly as one new build was not complete for the beginning of their contracts in September and they were forced to reside in temporary accommodation for the autumn term.
The delayed student building, Stanhope House, is managed by Prime Student Living.
Manisha Singh, a student at the university, said she found the situation “upsetting and pressurising”, and will have to pay for a room costing £10,000 for the year.
As a result of delays in completing the building, she spent most of the first term in temporary accommodation.
Tenancy agreements are to remain in force and students are obligated to continue to pay remaining rent
– Prime Student Living
A letter has been sent to private landlords from the university’s Students’ Union and the local MP Stephen Morgan calling for landlords to “do the right thing” and end contracts prematurely.
Professor Graham Galbraith, vice-chancellor of the university, called on landlords to end contracts early to allow students to have the “certainty that they want and need”.
Prime Student Living said: “Tenancy agreements are to remain in force and students are obligated to continue to pay remaining rent.”
Across the UK, one of the biggest private student accommodation providers Unite said: “We will not be collecting any further payments from students who decide they don’t want to return for the summer term.”
Eva Crossan Jory, the vice-president of the National Union of Students has spoken out about housing firms having a “moral duty” to offer students a ‘no-penalty early release’ from their contracts.
Universities UK has also said that emergency legislation should protect students “from eviction” both in privately rented and university-owned accommodation.