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Education briefing - Student Accommodation: What happens when the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ ends

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings
  • Education - Coronavirus

30-03-2020

Educational institutions are having to navigate through unchartered territory with regards to their student accommodation, implementing the recent government guidance in relation to Covid-19 to ensure the safety of both staff and students. Although the focus is currently on working through these unprecedented times, institutions will also need to look forward to when government advice changes, students are able to resume their studies and return to their accommodation.

At present there is no certainty as to when students will return to study and University accommodation will re-open. Many students will have left university accommodation in a hurry and have left belongings in rooms. When stay at home guidance is lifted, many students will seek to return to university accommodation to retrieve belongings or, depending on timescales, stay in accommodation and socialise with friends.

Universities will need to plan ahead to deal with when students are able to return to their accommodation and ensuring the safety of large numbers of students seeking to return to their institutions once guidance changes and the current lockdown is lifted. Although the situation is ever changing and timescales are uncertain, we would recommend reviewing your policies in advance of students being able to return. These will then be ready to communicate to students at the relevant time.

Factors that institutions may want to consider could include:

• The period of time allowed for students to return and collect their belongings: many student accommodation contracts will contain a clause that deems any belongings left in accommodation at the end of the contract period will be presumed abandoned and the university can dispose of such belongings. Students may be concerned that belongings left in accommodation due to Covid-19 could be disposed of if the strict letter of their accommodation contract is applied and the contract period comes to an end whilst restricted travel continues. Institutions should confirm that no action will be taken to dispose of items within the accommodation without students having the opportunity to return to retrieve these thus putting students minds at ease and stopping unauthorised returns to the institution until government guidance changes.

• A longstop date for collecting belongings: clearly institutions may wish to place a time limit by which all belongings should be collected, once free movement is permitted, to ensure rooms can be cleaned and prepared in advance of re-opening. Additional consideration may need to be given to overseas students who are still unable to travel or who will require more time to collect belongings.

• Storage of belongings: an institution may want to get an agreement with a student to remove belongings from a room where a student is unable to return before the institution needs the room back. Consideration will need to be given to how an inventory of what is being stored is recorded to ensure there is no question of possessions going missing/being damaged.

• Controlled returns: institutions may need to stagger students returning to accommodation to collect belongings to ensure that campuses are not overrun with demand. In addition, future government guidance may still restrict the number of people who can be in close proximity and universities may not be able to accommodate large numbers of students returning at the same time. Facilities, support services and staff resources may also still be limited.

• Living in accommodation: where accommodation contracts have not come to an end during the lockdown period, students will have the right to return to live in their accommodation prior to the expiry of these contracts. Institutions should carefully consider whether accommodation will be fully re-opened for all students or whether students are asked not to return to accommodation until the new academic year. Please refer to our guidance note here regarding termination of student accommodation contracts in light of Covid-19.

The situation regarding Covid-19 is ever changing in these uncertain times.

For more information contact

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