University Owned/Managed Accommodation
Can I leave my accommodation?
If you live in university owned/managed accommodation, you should have received an email about how to notify the Accommodation Office of the following:
- Your intention to leave and therefore receive a waver regarding your term 3 payment and early release, or
- Your intention to continue to reside in university owned/managed accommodation
The deadline for notifying the Accommodation Office of your intention was Monday 30 March 2020.
Privately Owned (non-university) Halls within York
Can I leave privately owned halls?
Legally, without agreement from all parties, the answer is no. You should receive instruction and guidance from your halls provider.
Student Castle, iQ Student Accomodation and Student Roost have agreed to release students early from their contracts should they wish to return to their home addresses. Contact your provider directly for more information.
The Students’ Union has partnered with York University Students’ Union to lobby providers to consider early contract release for those students who want to return to home addresses.
Privately Rented/External Housing
Before reading the FAQs below, it is important that you understand the obligations of your contract.
The Students’ Union have partnered with York University Students’ Union to lobby York City Council to recommend to private landlords and agents to be considerate to students during these difficult times and release from contracts early. You can read their letter here.
We advise that you also speak with your landlord/letting agent to see if there is any mitigating action that they can put in place, before considering taking any action yourself. Please consider reading the UK Government's advice on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and rented housing.
Can I leave my contract?
Legally, without agreement from all parties, the answer is no. A housing contract is legally-binding and student lets usually last over the period of a fixed term. Unless there is a significant breach of contract by your landlord/agent, you cannot exit your contract. Unfortunately, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is not a legally recognised reason for automatic early release without agreement between all parties. Should you leave/not pay rent then you leave yourself vulnerable to the following:
- Single Housing Contracts: Where all tenants sign individual contracts and are only responsible for one room/area of a residential let. If you fail to leave without agreement from your landlord/agent or fail to pay rent, your landlord has the right to a) begin eviction proceedings; b) begin legal proceedings against you to recover the unpaid rent.
- Joint Tenancy Agreements: Where all tenants agree to abide by and usually sign one contract. These agreements give tenants full rights to occupy the whole property. Joint Tenancy Agreements make all tenants legally responsible for each other. If you fail to leave without agreement from your landlord/agent or fail to pay rent, your landlord has the right to a) ask you to find a replacement tenant, b) begin eviction proceedings; c) begin legal proceedings against you to recover the unpaid rent; d) make a claim against the other tenants for the recovery of your rent.
What about ‘break clauses’?
If you have signed a contract for a fixed term (for example, 12 months, or 24 months), and you are still in that fixed term, check if your contract has something called a ‘break clause’. This is usually located either at the beginning of the contract where the start and end dates of the contract are shown, or at the end of the contract. It can sometimes be elsewhere though, so it’s best to read every part of your contract to look for it. You can only use a break clause if every tenant on the agreement wants to move out.
If your contract has a ‘break clause’, this may mean that you can terminate your contract after a certain date, before the end of the fixed term, providing you give the required notice. You may have to pay rent until the required notice period has ended.
If your contract does not have a ‘break clause’, or the break clause cannot yet be exercised, you will not have any automatic right to end your contract. Even though the emerging situation is very concerning, there have not yet been any changes to the law regarding ending tenancies in relation to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, and unless you negotiate with your landlord, your obligation to pay rent will not change.
My housemate has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Can I leave the property?
You may wish to stay elsewhere if someone you live with has been diagnosed with coronavirus, but please ensure that you are following the recommended self-isolation guidelines which can be found on the NHS website. If you do not stay at the property due to someone you live with having COVID-19 (Coronavirus), you will still have to pay rent regardless of this.
My live-in landlord has asked me to leave so they can self-isolate. What are my rights?
If you are a lodger with a live-in landlord, you are an 'excluded occupier', which means your landlord doesn't have to apply to the court to evict you. This means the newly announced suspension on evictions in the courts is unlikely to prevent you from being evicted.
Your landlord can ask you to leave at the end of your fixed-term agreement. They can ask you to leave earlier than this agreement if the contract says they can. If your agreement doesn't set out a notice period, you should be entitled to 'reasonable' notice. This is usually a week if you pay your rent weekly, or a month if you pay your rent monthly. If your landlord is giving you less than reasonable notice or are asking you to leave before the end of the fixed term when your contract does not permit this, you could dispute this with them.
What is 'Force Majeure', and does it mean I can end my tenancy because of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?
Some tenancy agreements have a 'Force Majeure' clause. This means an event or sequence of events, beyond a party's reasonable control, preventing or delaying it from performing its obligations under the agreement. For example, if something happened to your house that meant you couldn't live in it anymore, such as a natural disaster destroying the property.
While COVID-19 (Coronavirus) may be interpreted as a 'Force Majeure' event, it is unlikely to prevent you from occupying the property or stop the tenancy from continuing. It is therefore unlikely that a 'Force Majeure' clause will automatically allow you to end a tenancy early.
Please note that this is general advice provided in good faith. Everyone’s circumstances will be different, please seek independent advice before taking any action.