Policy passed at NUS Wales Conference 2022
A Union for Student Renters
During the discussion although consensus was reached that the proposal should be passed, the workshop considered that the following two points should be added to this policy:
- The tenants’ union should be able to be accessed by all students
- Advice is a key part of what is needed for student renters, however in the proposal as it stands it is not clear how advice would work. Therefore if passed more consideration should be given and detail added on how advice is delivered.
What is the issue facing students?
- The global pandemic and national lockdowns have highlighted key issues within the student private and university accommodation sector, where there is varying levels of regulation and conditions across the four nations of the UK
- NUS Wales has said ‘For decades, student housing has been a byword for low quality. Being ripped off by dodgy landlords, living with broken appliances and having to put up with damp and mould are seen as part of student life, to be tolerated and left unchallenged.’
- Students have no additional accommodation rights, are unable to leave complex and unhelpful contracts, ask for refunds or discounts to help them during financial difficulty or always expect their accommodation be safe.
- Students are increasingly having to undertake additional employment to cover extra costs, which limits their ability to study and participate in external activities, resulting in lost social capital with other students and the true university experience that most students want, need and expect.
- Students are not normal renters, and accommodation providers are not adapting their practices or processes to provide support and flexibility for them.
- The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill 2016 is due for implementation in July 2022, but still there is no mention of the specific regulations for student tenants, despite their rental agreements being very different when compared to the rest of the population.
- Current tenants unions, such as ACORN UK are brilliant, but not equipped with student-specific information.
Why is this issue important to us as a movement?
- Students are not demanding irrational asks when it comes to housing. At the bare minimum they want their hardships to be acknowledged and acted on.
- The state of accommodation and housing has fundamental impacts on other areas of a student's life, with poor housing affecting nearly 70% of students’ mental health, with academic achievements and physical health also being affected.
- We believe that students should not have to participate in a rent strike in order to achieve change; and not all students will be in the financial or legal position to do so. Rent strikers will always be supported and will be able to work with local and national groups for support and advice.
- A tenants’ union for students will allow for connection and collaboration with renting students across Wales, to understand what is happening elsewhere and use collective pressure to get the changes that students deserve
- Student tenants’ unions will be able to give specific advice to student renters, who understand the complexities of the current rental system for students in Wales
What would the world look like if we solved it?
- Student tenants would be given the statutory right to bring their tenancies to an end early, as has happened in Scotland. This would allow greater freedom within what is currently an inflexible housing market for students, forcing many to stay in properties that they are not using or are substandard for extended periods.
- NUS Wales will have used its influence to secure legislative change and maintain a constant conversation with the housing sector across Wales. Student tenants would have a place around the table with national and governmental bodies such as the National Landlords Association, Welsh Government and with the Minister for Climate Change, whose remit includes housing.
- Contracts would be reformed to be student specific, and not based on ensuring maximum profit for landlords and investors. There would be the introduction of cooling-off periods (before and after signing) to allow students time to re-think their decisions.
- International and home students would have equal treatment in housing and legislation protection. In the case where a UK guarantor is required, international students would not have to pay large sums of money upfront or use a company to secure a guarantor.
- Student accommodation would be a safe place from all forms of identity-based discrimination. The difficulties that international students experience with the need for guarantors and the threat of visa removal.