UK: Thousands of students can't keep up with rent payments
The data suggests more students are facing financial hardship. Source: Pexels

University students are facing evictions and crippling housing debt as they struggle to keep up with their rent payments.

About 17,300 students could not pay their rent on time last year causing some to be evicted and getting their tenancies cancelled, information obtained via the UK’s Freedom of Information Act revealed, The Guardian reported.

Evictions doubled from 40 the previous year to 97 last year, according to the data which was based on responses from 90 universities in the UK. Rent at the universities surveyed is on average GBP5,208 a year in 2016-17, increasing 13.6 percent from GBP4,583 a year in 2012-13.

This isn’t surprising to National Union of Students vice-president Izzy Lenga, “given our broken system of student financial support – which doesn’t even begin to cover the ever-increasing cost of basic accommodation”.

Lenga said:

“This leaves students in the precarious situation where they’re uncertain how they’ll even pay their next month’s rent.”

“Rather than falling into the easy temptation to label these as cases of rent avoidance, we instead need to urge the government and the higher education sector to wake up to the reality that students are being priced out of housing and their education.“

Financial hardship among students is on the rise, with an NUS report last year revealing how UK students’ finances are in “desperate” shape with many struggling to afford essential groceries, and other basic costs such as travel and books.

A Masters student in London made news last week for her less conventional dwelling choice to tackle soaring rent prices in the city. The 27-year-old Alexandra Knox is housemates with the 95-year-old Florence Smith, paying just GBP199 (US$274) per month compared to the average price of around GBP600 (US$830).

Which university has the highest rent arrears?

Universities that had the highest number of students in rent arrears were: Brunel, York, Leicester, Leeds and Warwick.

Warwick’s high arrears is said to be due to hosting “great many more students renting accommodation from us than other universities”. It’s also a campus university that continues to own its own accommodation.

A spokesman for the University of York said: “The University of York manages the majority of its student accommodation, unlike some institutions which contract a large proportion of its services out, which makes like-for-like comparisons difficult to measure.”

Brunel University London said no students had been asked to leave. It also has a budgetary advice service to help students plan their spending, and support for those who found themselves overstretched. No students had been asked to leave, it said.

The Department for Education said: “Students from the lowest-income households who started their courses this year have access to the largest ever amounts of cash-in-hand support for living costs.

“This government increased means-tested maintenance support for full-time students on the lowest incomes by 10.3 percent in 2016-17 compared with the previous grants and loans package, with further increases in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.”

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