From education to employment

International students face possible eviction as tenancies come to an end and Covid rules stop them going home

Virtual lectures, effectively no social life, isolated in university halls ­– this academic year has been a write-off for most students but even worse for international pupils who are stranded in the UK with their accommodation tenancies about to end.

Most university accommodation, be it on-campus halls or private landlords’ properties, is let out on a 10-month agreement.

That means a large number of students, some of whom are self-isolating, will have nowhere to live between now and next term, which starts as late as September.

Response Accommodation, based in Leicestershire, is a national organisation that specialises in finding short-term accommodation for vulnerable people by matching them with flexible landlords.

Co-founder Glen Freeman said:

“The challenges for international students are much greater.

“Some countries such as China have very strict policies on international students returning to their country, including extended quarantine periods, having vaccinations and ensuring that both PCR and antibody tests are completed to meet their local regulations.

“You need to ensure that you are aware of the regulations in your home country before travelling.

“Organisations such as Response Accommodation are in the position to make a difference for students with more complex circumstances, helping them find temporary accommodation to fill gaps between tenancies or until they can return home.”

Several Chinese students contacted Response Accommodation about this issue.

A student at the University of Manchester says her student accommodation’s contract ends in August but the earliest available flight to China is in October. She will need temporary accommodation to bridge this gap. She said it was very challenging to get what they need in Manchester, so now she and her boyfriend are looking in London.

A master’s graduate at the University of London is currently living in student accommodation, the tenancy for which ends in August. Flights back to China are out of her budget and difficult to get. She is seeking temporary accommodation in London whilst she looks for work experience.

Glen said all students should begin by telling the accommodation managers about their circumstances as soon as possible.

He said: “It is vital that students communicate with their landlords, student accommodation providers or university accommodation officers.

“Most are totally understanding, especially during these challenging times. Keeping them informed allows the circumstances to be managed in the most appropriate way and minimises the impact on other parties such as new tenants.”

Glen encourages landlords to remain understanding in what can be a stressful situation.

He said: “Landlords can do their best to support outgoing and incoming tenants from an understanding point of view. Showing some flexibility always gives the opportunity to improve your brand image as well as helping the reputation of landlords overall.

“Advice from the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) can offer you support on the best steps to take. In cases where you are unable to continue accommodating your tenants, this is where organisations like Response Accommodation can help them find alternative housing.”

Response Accommodation was established in April 2020 and found 22,000 nights of housing for over 700 vulnerable people during the first nationwide lockdown. It supports 136 different organisations and has over 15,000 Response rooms available across the UK.

With many students now struggling to find temporary accommodation between term-time tenancies, Glen and Response are aiming to offer their expertise to these students and deliver solutions.

He said: “People often don’t realise their situation. Some international students may not be aware that many student accommodations are fully booked for the new academic year starting in September.

“We’ve seen a lot of students from China, a community with which I have personal connections, being effectively stranded here by the strict quarantines at home and the cost of flights right now, which can be in the thousands.

“The open rental market does not cater very well for those in need of short-term tenancies. Emergency accommodation can be extremely expensive and we don’t want people to be left in a position where they might be taken advantage of.

“We try to match tenants with compassionate landlords based on circumstance and location. To manage rent costs and contract lengths, we negotiate with landlords beforehand, reaching an agreement that works for everyone. I encourage people to get in touch before situations become desperate as it makes this negotiation easier and allows us to secure the best terms.

“At Response Accommodation we are supporting individuals that need temporary housing and in doing this we are open to collaborate with embassies, student organisations and universities to ensure access to safe places to stay.

“We predominantly use agents, landlords, property groups and housing developers whose supply is undersubscribed. They are keen to get tenants and tenants need flexibility. This means outcomes are always mutually beneficial.

“We liaise with organisations that assist vulnerable people and our focus has always been profit with purpose.”

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