Living away from campus

Check our advice if you have left campus or are living off-campus.

Leaving private accommodation to go home

On government advice, all students living in private rented accommodation should stay where they are and not attempt to travel.

Staying indoors is essential to ensure the spread of Covid-19 is slowed. You should follow the government’s advice on staying at home and away from others.

See more government Coronavirus information.

Living in or leaving private rented accommodation

We cannot provide any formal guidance about renting housing in the private sector. We are not legally trained advisors.

However, we will continue to share relevant information with you throughout this continuously changing situation.

If you left your accommodation early

If you have left your accommodation early and do not know if you can come back to live in the property, what happens next will depend on your circumstances.

If you have left a private rented property and do not intend to return, you will need to look at your tenancy or licence agreement to find out if you still have to pay rent.

Ending your tenancy agreement early

If you have am Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement for a fixed period (for example 12 months, from September 2019 to August 2020), and you are still within the this fixed term, you can end your tenancy early only if:

  • either your contract has a break clause,
  • or you negotiate an early end to the agreement with your landlord/agent.

If your contract has a ‘break clause’, and if everyone named on the tenancy wants to end the agreement, you might be able to get out of the agreement before the end of the fixed term by giving the appropriate notice. You’ll still have to pay rent for the whole of this notice period.

If your contract doesn’t have a break clause, or it’s too early in your contract to use the break clause, you won’t have any automatic right to end the agreement. You should discuss your concerns with your landlord/agent, as they may be willing to come to some compromise. If not, you do need to carry on paying the rent until the end of the fixed term.

See also advice from Shelter about how to end a fixed-term tenancy.

Tenancy agreement with a break clause

If your agreement has a break clause, this gives tenants the opportunity to end the tenancy early by asking the tenant to give notice on the date specified in the clause. For example, a break clause might say you can give two months’ written notice once you are six months into the tenancy.

The break clause should include:

  • how much notice to give
  • when you can give notice
  • where to send your notice.

Tenancy agreement without a break clause

Not all tenancy agreements have a break clause – look carefully through your tenancy for any mention of leaving your tenancy early.

If your tenancy agreement does not have a break clause or it cannot be exercised yet, you will not have an automatic right to end your tenancy and you will still be responsible for paying the rent as outlined in your tenancy agreement.

There have not yet been any changes to the law regarding ending tenancies in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic and as such you will need to speak to your landlord/agent and try to negotiate ending the tenancy agreement earlier. If it is a joint tenancy, your landlord/agent may say that everyone will need to agree to leave, or they may say that you will need to find someone to replace you. Make sure you get any agreement in writing from your landlord/agent.

Ending a tenancy when housemates are still living in the property

If you share your property with others and your names are on the same tenancy agreement, then you will most likely be what’s called ‘joint and severally liable’. This means that you all need to agree to ask the landlord/agent to end the tenancy early.

If you have moved home and want to end the tenancy early, but some of your housemates want to continue living in the property during the fixed term, speak to your landlord/agent. They may ask that you try and find someone to replace you on the tenancy agreement.

See also advice from Shelter about how to end a joint tenancy.

Student Pad

If you found your property through Student Pad, we are not able to make sure the landlord reduces your rent or lets you out of the tenancy early.

The University uses Sussex Student Pad as an advertising platform for trusted landlords across the city. Housing Services have a dedicated team who manage the site, ensuring that landlords and properties meet our Code of Standards. This Code reflects our expectations in terms of the quality of accommodation provided and adherence to regulations, including safety certificates and reasonable tenancy agreements.

Once a property is rented and a legitimate and reasonable tenancy or licence agreement is in place, our team will get involved with disputes only if these go over and above the terms of the agreement, or if there’s a breach of our Code.

Whilst we are encouraging our landlords to hold open discussions with their tenants and reach suitable arrangements that address the concerns of each party, we have no way of enforcing rent reductions or early terminations of contract.

Lodgings in a landlord’s home

As a lodger, you should have been given a licence/lodger’s agreement by your landlord. This document should tell you the basics of your agreement, such as how much rent you need to pay and how long you will be living with your landlord.

It should also give you a ‘notice period’. With a licence agreement, you can use this notice period at any time – even if your agreement says you’re planning on living in the property for longer. You will need to write to your landlord (e.g. by letter, email or text message) and give your notice.

You will still need to pay the rent for the whole of this notice period. The landlord cannot ask you to pay rent after this period.

If you’ve left belongings at the property, the landlord could claim that you cannot give notice as you have not vacated the premises. We suggest speaking with your landlord to see if an arrangement can be made to reduce the rent until you can safely collect your items.

If you weren’t given a licence/lodger’s agreement by your landlord, you should give reasonable notice that you are leaving/have left, and no longer intend to pay the rent. What is considered reasonable notice depends on how long you’ve lived in the property.

If you’re still living in private rented accommodation

Difficulties paying your rent or bills

If you are having financial difficulties that may impact on your ability to continue rent payments, you should speak to your landlord/agent as soon as possible. Discuss your concerns with them and explore if other options may be possible, such as a rent reduction or a payment plan to make smaller payments over a longer period.

If you are having difficulty paying your energy bills, you could also contact your utility providers to see if they’re able to offer any assistance. See who to contact.

Citizens Advice also offer advice about what to do if you can’t pay your bills.

Repairs and inspections by your landlord/letting agent

Landlords have the same repair responsibilities at this time to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards. You should continue to inform your landlord of any works or repairs that are needed. You can allow landlords and agents access to your home, if no one is self-isolating or shielding, for the following reasons:

  • routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks;
  • essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance
  • planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home.

Anyone working in your home should follow the government guidance for professionals working in people’s homes. This includes allowing a two-metre distance to be maintained (as much as possible) and follow hygiene procedures.

Some non-essential work may take longer than normal to carry out if there is a back log of work needed, following the restrictions that were in place.

Work should not be carried out in your home if you are shielding or self-isolating, unless it is an urgent repair that if not attended to would be a risk to you or your household’s safety. Examples of essential/urgent repairs include loss of water supply; issues with electrical safety and gas supplies; fire safety; blocked drains; and pest control.

In such cases, appropriate measures should be put in place before the visit to minimise physical contact – for example, tenants staying in another room during the visit – and appropriate steps taken to ensure good hand hygiene, as outlined in government guidance.

Gas safety checks

Annual gas safety checks are an important legal requirement and should be carried out where possible, if someone in the household is not shielding or self-isolating.

You should tell your landlord if you are clinically vulnerable, but have not been asked to shield, so prior arrangements can be made to avoid any face-to-face contact, to ensure social distancing guidance is followed and that appropriate steps can be taken to maintain good hand hygiene. Contractors should ensure they are up to date with the latest guidance on working safely in people’s homes.

Gas safety inspections should not be carried out in homes that are self-isolating until after the isolation period has ended, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.

Can property viewings now go ahead?

The government currently advises that a property should be viewed virtually in the first instance rather than in person where possible, to try and minimise public health risks.

If you have a strong interest in taking the property and want to view it before agreeing to take it, then this is possible but only when following strict social distancing requirements, and only if members of either the household being viewed, or the household viewing the property, are not showing any symptoms or self-isolating.

Viewings can only take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household. Any visits to a property must be in line with the government’s guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.

When should landlords and letting agents not conduct viewings?

Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.

My landlord/letting agent wants to show people around my house, what will the process be?

Initial viewings should take place virtually, with physical viewings only taking place if the prospective tenant is serious in wanting to take the property. Viewings should be limited to members of the same household and open house viewings should not take place.

Landlords and letting agents have to ensure that any viewings that take place adhere to government guidance and social distancing requirements. This may mean that you are encouraged to leave your home whilst the viewing is taking place to minimise contact with people from outside your household. Your landlord/agent should work with you to find a convenient time to hold a viewing that suits everyone.

Government guidance states that you should open all the internal doors before the viewing starts, and allow access to handwashing facilities, so everyone can wash their hands, with ideally separate towels or paper towels provided for use.

Those viewing the property should, where possible, avoid touching surfaces, wash their hands regularly and bring their own hand sanitiser.

Once the viewing has taken place, tenants should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.

Agents can accompany prospective tenants on viewings, practicing social distancing, but if they do not, agents should make sure that viewers and tenants understand how to carry out a viewing safely.

If you have signed a tenancy agreement

Anyone in England can now move home as long as health guidance can be followed. We suggest you keep up to date with government guidance around moving home at this time. Keep in touch with your landlord/letting agent as you approach your move-in date, and discuss with them if the move-in date needs to be delayed, for example if someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate.

Finding a property for the next academic year

If you haven’t yet found accommodation for September 2020, please be assured that there is currently still a good supply of properties in the city, and we anticipate that numerous properties will still be available over the coming months. We recommend that you view a property in person, where possible and if safe to do so following government guidance and social distancing practices, before signing a tenancy agreement.

We recommend you keep up to date with government guidance about moving home.

Previously in University-managed accommodation

There are several things to check if you were living with us.

Paying rent for the final term

If you have left your University accommodation, we will not collect your April rent instalment. This means rents due from 21 March until 20 June 2020 (due to be collected on 14 April), will not be collected from students who have left campus.

To confirm you have left and enable us to process this change, complete this form and email it to housing@sussex.ac.uk.

You don’t need to give 28 days’ notice and a termination fee will not be charged.

Collecting belongings from campus

Your belongings will have to remain on campus until the government removes the restrictions on travel and social distancing. We continue to run 24/7 security to ensure belongings on campus are protected and secure.

Returning your keys

Make sure you return your keys via post if you have already collected your belongings and do not plan to return to your residence. Postal addresses for all residences are available on our Residences page.

If you have moved out but still have belongings left behind, do not return your keys until you have collected all of your belongings. As long as you have submitted a moving-out form to Housing, you will not be charged rent, even if your belongings are still on campus.

Support

The Student Life Centre, International Student Support and Student Support Unit and the Careers and Employability Centre are currently providing online services.

Find out how to contact these services at this time.