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Student housing - ending your agreement in halls

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus – student accommodation

The Scottish government has advised people, where possible, to avoid moving house while social distancing rules are in place for coronavirus. You shouldn’t leave your student accommodation to travel home. This means you might need to live in your accommodation after your existing agreement ends. 
Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) has more information on how student accommodation is affected by coronavirus. Check the SAAS website for advice on student accommodation.

Ending your agreement in halls early due to coronavirus

You can end your student tenancy agreement in halls or purpose-built student accommodation early, if you can’t live there due to coronavirus. 

To end the tenancy because of coronavirus, you’ll need to tell your landlord in writing and state the date that you want it to end. This must be a date after the end of the notice period.

You need to give:

  • seven days’ notice if you entered into the tenancy agreement and lived in the property at any time before 27 May 2020, or
  • 28 days’ notice in all other cases.

If you have a joint tenancy agreement that was entered into before 27 May 2020, the 7 days' notice period will apply as long as one of the tenants lived in the property before that date. If joint tenants want to end their joint tenancy in halls due to coronavirus, notice must be given by all of those tenants.

You can get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau.

You can find more information about students and coronavirus on the Student Information Scotland website.

You should be aware that when you enter halls of residence or any other rental property owned by the educational institution you are entering into a legal contract. This should be clear when you sign a tenancy or occupancy agreement.

You may be given a list of private landlords by the student accommodation agency of your educational institution. If you rent from a private landlord the rules about the agreement you make are different and you have many more rights as a tenant of a private landlord. Find out more about renting from a private landlord.

The rules on ending an agreement for halls of residence will be covered in your occupancy agreement. This is a binding contract which means you have to comply with the terms you have agreed to. This page highlights the issues about the agreement most relevant to students in halls of residence and other property owned by the educational institution.

If you have a fixed term agreement

Most students in halls of residence will have a fixed term agreement. This means that you have agreed to rent your accommodation for a certain period of time. In most cases the fixed term will be the academic year. This is likely to include three separate terms.

In halls of residence, you generally have to move out on the day that the fixed term agreement runs out without having to give notice to your landlord. This is because the agreement between you and your landlord ends when the fixed term ends.

Leaving your belongings in your room between academic terms

You should check your agreement for the rules about leaving your belongings in your room. In some halls of residence your room will be free for you to use for the whole period of the fixed term. In other halls the educational institution may have rules about emptying the room so that it can be properly cleaned, rented to someone else for a short period, for example for a conference in between terms. There may be storage space for you to use for larger items rather than having to take them home for the holiday periods. Check what insurance cover there is for this temporary storage.

If you want to leave halls before the end of the contract

If you want to move out of halls before the end of the contract you can end the agreement by giving the accommodation service written notice but you are likely to still be liable for the rent for the rest of the academic term.

If you leave before the end of the contract, without your landlord being informed, you are liable to pay the rent until the fixed term ends even if you aren’t living there.

You should speak to your landlord if you need to move out before the end of the contract. If you give the landlord reasonable warning you should be able to negotiate some reduction on the rent for the full fixed-term period. Check your agreement. It may be the case that your room can be re-let within the fixed term period once you have left.

You can end your agreement in halls early if you can't live there due to coronavirus.

Getting your deposit back

If you paid a deposit at the beginning of, or before, your time in halls of residence, it should be clear what rules apply to getting it back.

In some universities the initial prepayment is deducted from the total rent due or rent instalment due. This may be called a 'holding deposit'. In others it is treated as a security payment usually called a 'deposit'. It is legal for your landlord to ask for this payment as the type of tenancy you have is not protected from charges such as deposits. It could be one of two tenancies which are a common law tenant or common law occupier.

Check what happens to your 'holding deposit' if you take up the accommodation. If it is not deducted from your rent your landlord should register this money with a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 working days of the start of your tenancy.

If you're having problems getting a deposit or pre-payment back you should speak to your accommodation manager in the first instance.

If you don't think that the problem has been resolved then you can make a complaint to the accommodation service.

Landlord wants you to leave

As a student in halls of residence you are usually a common law occupier or common law tenant under housing law. A common law occupier or tenant has limited rights but you cannot be forced to leave without prior notice and a court order from the landlord. The tenancy or occupancy agreement should provide the details about any notice period that the landlord has to give you. If your agreement is for a year or more you will need to give at least 40 days written notice that you want to leave the property.

If you are being asked to leave because you have broken a condition of your tenancy agreement, for example, because of your behaviour, you should be given a written notification of this at least 4 weeks before the landlord wants you to move out.

If you refuse to leave the accommodation the educational institution will have to go to court to ask for a court order to evict you. If you don’t agree that you have broken a condition in the tenancy agreement you can defend yourself in court. You may want some help to do this. You should approach the student counselling or support service in the first instance or you could get advice from Shelter Scotland

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