A message from Ama Uzowuru, NUS Vice President for Welfare

It would be a good idea to give those of you all a bit of an update on one of the key welfare issues discussed – tenancy deposit protection and what’s happening next.

Today two EDMs went down that we worked on with Unipol student homes.

EDM 1557 is regarding deposit returns in university halls of residence. In the housing act, there is legislation ensuring that all tenants get their deposits returned within 4 weeks from the end of the tenancy.

For those of you that have waited months and months for those deposits, and have consequently out of pocket when paying your deposit on your next house you will understand how vital it is that you can get your deposits back as soon as possible. However, being that universities are seen as different to other landlords in legislation, they are exempt from having to meet the legislation laid out in the Housing Act as long as they signed up to either the ANUK/Unipol/NUS code or the UUK/GuildHE code.

This EDM is asking that universities therefore are forced to adhere to the same regulations as other landlords as it stipulated in section 233 of the Housing Act.

EDM 1558 is about altering legislation to ensure that students that are currently unable to get their deposits protected can. Let me explain some more. Tenancy deposit protection is only applicable to assured shorthold tenancies (AST). One feature of an AST is that the annual rental income of the property must be below £25,000 a year. This figure was set in 1990 and has never been changed, whereas the housing market has seen drastic changes over this period of time. If the annual rental income to qualify as an AST was changed constantly in reaction to the housing markets changes the equivalent figure today would be £53,000.

£25,000 may still sound like a figure that your house would never exceed however students in a house of 5 all paying 100 per week exceed this limit. And that’s not a particularly high rent for London or the South East. And many students live in bigger house shares than that. You would only need to be paying £just over £70 a week in a house of 7 to exceed that limit.

This means that there may be as many as 40% of students in London and the South-East and 10% elsewhere that simply cannot get their deposits protected. Which we think is unacceptable.

The more signatures of MPs that these EDMs receive the more likely that these issues will get the attention they deserve and improve students’ rights in terms of their deposits.

We’ve written a model letter that you can use, or write your own to alert your MP to these EDMs and urge them to sign it.

Thanks again to those of you that came along to regional conference and to the sessions on this and your constant support in all our campaigning.