WINCHESTER University is asking private landlords with student tenants to stop charging rent during the health crisis.

As previously reported, the uni will not be charging rent to any students living on-campus.

Now, the Chronicle has seen a copy of a letter sent to local providers, asking them to offer similar reassurances.

It is signed by vice-chancellor Professor Joy Carter, Winchester MP Steve Brine, and Megan Ball, president of the Student Union.

The letter reads: "As the vast majority of students have now returned home in the wake of the Covid 19 lockdown, and while university teaching has moved online, many students will no longer be requiring accommodation for the remainder of the academic year.

"As such, and in light of these extraordinary times, the university has taken the decision to allow students to be released from their housing contracts from March 27 onwards. This means no rent will be charged from 27 March onwards for those who have returned home and are no longer in their University accommodation.

"We have also put in place a support fund which will cover a 50 per cent discount on rent for those who have had to stay in university accommodation for this period and for the remainder of their contract.

"We are assuring students that if they are not able to vacate their accommodation when their tenancy ends for any reason in relation to Covid 19, that we will continue to provide them with accommodation. If they are staying because Government guidance indicates that they are not allowed to leave, then we will not be charging them for any extra nights.

"We are now calling on other providers who have contracts with University of Winchester students to offer their residents similar assurances for the remainder of this academic year."

MP Steve Brine told the Chronicle that all MPs, particularly those representing university towns and cities, have received lots of messages from students.

"We wanted to explore whether private student landlords in the city are able to help as the university itself has in respect of campus accommodation," he said.

"There are no winners from Covid 19 but Government has developed a plan to protect public services, people and businesses including working with lenders on a three-month mortgage holiday because we understand there are knock-on impacts from every action – and non-action – where this ghastly virus is concerned.

"Ultimately, it is up to individual landlords how they manage their property portfolio and the tenants they let to."

Sam Jones, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester, said: “These are incredibly challenging times and the wider impact of the lockdown continues to be felt by our students. Many of our students have been forced into really a difficult situation in terms of their living arrangements. Most have understandably returned to be with their families during the lockdown. Others find themselves out of work and struggling to meet rent payments.

“On behalf of our students who find themselves in this position, we have written, together with Winchester Student Union and Steve Brine MP, to local private landlords and letting agents asking them to do whatever they can to support student tenants by adjusting rents during this unprecedented pandemic.

“We have already set up a £3.4m fund to cover the accommodation fees for students no longer living in our halls of residence. We are also offering students who remain in lockdown in our halls of residence a 50% discount on their rent.

“We have done this to help protect students who have been hit financially by the crisis, for example, through losing their jobs. Our support aims to relieve additional financial pressure on students in this time of crisis, when they are no longer living in our accommodation.

“Many students rent from private landlords and we are calling on those landlords who have contracts with our students to provide them with similar assurances where they can and to keep a dialogue open with student tenants.”

- Before updating this story, the Chronicle stated that Winchester University did not respond to a request for comment. This is incorrect, they responded within the deadline set. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.