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Students To Receive Significant Compensation for Late Delivery of New Accommodation Under Changes to The National Code

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Student renters whose educational experience is disrupted by delays in construction of their accommodation will now receive automatic compensation if it is provided by a private developer, as part of a raft of new changes made to a government-approved code.

Student housing charity Unipol Student Homes, alongside the National Union of Students (NUS) and Accreditation Network UK (ANUK), has re-launched the government-approved National Code for private purpose-built student accommodation, which currently covers 350,000 beds. This represents about 50% of the market in student halls in the UK but does not include accommodation provided directly by universities.

One of the headline changes will see automatic compensation paid to students who suffer disruption because of late construction of their accommodation. Every year, several thousand students cannot access their living space at the start of a new term because of construction issues.

Every year, several thousand students cannot access their living space at the start of a new term because of construction issues.

Under changes to the code, which was first approved under the Government’s 2004 Housing Act, developers who are found to have disrupted students will be face punitive costs. The levels of compensation are high, for example, a developer whose 300-bed building was a week late would pay out £150,000 to the affected tenants on top of having to find them alternative accommodation.

Martin Blakey, Chief Executive at Unipol commented: “Private providers increasingly dominate the student halls market as many universities have chosen to leave future housing provision to the private sector. This means it is critical that facilities meet expectations and are delivered on time. For any student, particularly those in their first year, not being able to access your promised accommodation is more than just inconvenient, it can affect their transition to university, mental health and well-being.

“The first few weeks of a new year are when lasting friendships are forged and for many people it might be their first experience of living away from home and adapting to university study. Any disruption is potentially long-lasting, and this change reflects the seriousness of the situation and should be a powerful deterrent.”

The National Code’s overall remit is about setting standards for health and safety, management, and tenant wellbeing provision. Other new changes being brought in include changes to the way students with disabilities are charged for their rooms.

Those students with disabilities who require serious alterations to their rooms will see rents falling to the lowest rate available locally, making a difference to their disposable income to help them with living costs that are typically much higher than their peers. It is estimated that this measure will save impacted students on average £2,300 per year.

Finally, there will be better help and support to assist those with mental health problems such as ensuring closer working between private accommodation providers and universities, providing more information to tenants, and making it a requirement that staff receive mental health training.

Martin Blakey added:These changes address the major residential concerns of the moment in student housing: access and disruption to education as well as mental health and wellbeing issues. They stress and codify the private sector’s obligations in these areas which has never been achieved before. This has been led by the sector and is demonstrable evidence of providers taking the pastoral responsibilities seriously which is ultimately great news for students.”

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