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Scotland’s students given powers to leave rent contracts early

Changes to Coronavirus Bill introduce notice periods for student renters

Students in Scotland will be able to give seven days’ notice if they want to leave their university or purpose-built student accommodation because of Covid-19, under new emergency powers.

An update to Scotland’s Coronavirus Bill, revealed on 20 May, means students are allowed to give a week’s notice period if they want to move out of the university-owned accommodation, or private purpose-built student accommodation blocks, because of the pandemic. Most of the provisions in the emergency bill are set to end in September.

It follows widespread reports of students being unable to break their rental contracts, despite moving away from their term-time accommodation due to the coronavirus pandemic. A number of universities and private accommodation providers have already changed their policies to allow students to cancel contracts early due to Covid-19.

Announcing the changes to the Coronavirus Bill, Scotland’s constitution secretary Michael Russell said the government would “continue to do all we can to help Scotland get through this most testing of times”, including helping students with accommodation costs.

The National Union of Students in Scotland had been pressuring accommodation providers to let tenants leave their contracts early. NUS Scotland president Liam McCabe said many providers had “disgraced themselves” by refusing to release students from their contracts early and called on the Scottish government to review the student accommodation sector.

Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the NUS, welcomed the introduction of notice periods to end rental contracts and called on other UK governments to extend the changes to students in their countries.

“We’ve been saying for years that the student accommodation system is unsustainable, and that students can’t afford to pay sky-high rents when they are funded by a maintenance system that relies on them topping up with wages or support from their parents,” she said. “The Scottish government has shown it is possible to legislate to support students.”