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Coronavirus - CS072108

An international student was on a two-year course that started in January 2020, living in accommodation owned by their provider. In March 2020 the student returned to their home country just before the nationwide lockdown was announced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April 2020 the provider announced that it was waiving the final instalment of accommodation fees for all students in its accommodation, whether or not they stayed in their accommodation.

The student’s accommodation agreement started in January 2020 and ran to September 2020. The third instalment, which the provider said it would waive, was due in April 2020 and covered the period from July to September. That meant that the student would pay nearly three quarters of their accommodation fees even though they had been in the accommodation for only two months. The student complained to the provider and it offered them a rebate which meant that the student would pay around 60% of their accommodation fees.

The student complained to us. We decided the complaint was Partly Justified. The provider had acted quickly to acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on students who wished to leave their accommodation, and on those who were prevented from doing so. For most students, the provider’s decision to waive the third instalment of accommodation meant that they did not have to pay for accommodation from April to June. This was a fair and pragmatic approach. But the student had to pay accommodation fees for the period most students had not had to pay for and we did not think that was fair or reasonable. Even with the additional rebate the provider offered the student, they were still being asked to pay a higher proportion of their rent than other students. We recommended that the provider should refund to the student rent for the period from April to July.

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