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Student housing - your behaviour in halls

This advice applies to Wales

If you live in halls of residence or other university accommodation and you breach your tenancy or licence agreement, your university may deal with the matter using its disciplinary procedure.

This means that, how you behave can have an impact on your accommodation. This page highlights some of the issues you may need to be aware of.

What is different about universities as landlords?

Universities as landlords are different from other landlords because they have the power to discipline student residents using university codes of conduct or disciplinary procedure. These are in addition to legal action that they can take using your tenancy or licence agreement.

For example, a student who behaved anti-socially in their halls of residence by deliberately setting of a fire alarm, could be fined or face some other penalty under the code of conduct or disciplinary procedure. A private landlord could not do that for a similar incident in private rented accommodation – they could only take action if the tenant had breached a term in their tenancy agreement.

Where there is a very serious breach of a code of conduct or disciplinary procedure, a university could ask you to leave the university accommodation and start legal action to evict you.

Does your agreement refer to such procedures or codes?

If your tenancy or licence agreement doesn't refer to or incorporate the disciplinary procedure or codes then you may be able to argue that you weren't aware of the rules when you signed the agreement.

Generally, for a contractual term to be legally binding, it needs to be in a signed agreement or reasonable notice of it has to be given before the contract is finalised.

What should you do if you are being evicted because of how you have behaved?

It's likely that a university would only seek to evict you if what you did was a serious breach of their disciplinary procedure or code of conduct.

However, if you do find yourself in this position, it's important to consider:

  • whether the university as your landlord has acted proportionately, and
  • if you've had the opportunity to give your version of events before the landlord reached its decision.  

If you find that you're at risk of losing your accommodation but don't think that your landlord has acted fairly, you should get help from an adviser or your students' union. You should also get a copy of the procedure or code that your landlord is using to take action against you to see if you have a right to appeal or similar.

How rent arrears for university accommodation could affect your academic career

In some cases, if you still owe the university rent at the end of the academic year, it may not allow you to progress to the next year of your course or to receive exam results or graduate if it's your final year.

These sorts of sanctions are likely to be set out in disciplinary procedures or codes, so you should check yours to make sure.

Whether it's reasonable or not for a university landlord to impose such sanctions on students has never been tested in a court of law. Before it closed, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) carried out an investigation into this area. It concluded that terms to withhold graduation or progression, or to exclude students from tuition for non-payment of debts such as accommodation, which are applied in a blanket fashion and regardless of the circumstances, are open to challenge as being unfair and/or unreasonable under consumer protection law. On 1 April 2014, the OFT's powers to enforce consumer law passed to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The findings from the OFT's investigation are still available on its former website at www.oft.gov.uk.

If you're being prevented from graduating or are subject to a similar sanction because you still owe the university rent, you should speak to an adviser.

If you're having difficulty paying your rent, the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) has student money advisers in institutions throughout the UK. You can also find some useful information on its website.

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