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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 27291
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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I am a 2nd year student at the Newcastle University living

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Hi there I am a 2nd year student at the Newcastle University living with a group of 7 other students in a rented house. We were just wondering if we can envoke any common law of frustration clauses in relation to the Covid-19/canceling of all our university courses for the rest of this academic year and terminate our tenancy agreement?
JA: What steps have you taken so far? Have you prepared or filed any paperwork?
Customer: no
JA: Where is the house located?
Customer: Newcastle
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 15 years experience.

 

Would I be correct to assume that your accomodation agreement is a separate agreement and is not tied to university provision of tuition? This would be the normal state of affairs but there is some variation between university accomodation agreements.

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Hi Joshua this is correct it's a private contract not a university accomodation agreement

Thank you. The position right now is that accomodation constitutes a separate agreement to tuition fees/contract and as such is not contingent upon the university continuing to operate its tuition. Although tuition has been cancelled, the accomodation provider (whether this be the university or a third party provider) can as things stand legally argue that its accomodation remains available and as such you are free to continue to benefit from it and have no right to cancel the agreement. There are often conditions in university provided accomodation that the accomodation can be cancelled by the college if you cease to be a resigstered student of the college but that would usually operate to allow the provider to cancel not you. Unfair contract terms provisions in the Consumer Rights Act dictate that cancellation terms should not be one sided and therefore arguably you should have a right to cancel if you cease to be a registered student of the college but it is not a straightforward claim and in any event I assume you probably remain a registered student as you intend to continue your studies on the far side of the pandemic restrictions? Beyond that there is unlikely to be any provision that would give you a basis to cancel.

 

Frustration can be a basis to repudiate (terminate) an agreement but the courts have consistently set a very high bar for this - e.g. fire, uninhabitable etc. There has been no direct UK court decision on grounds of Pandemic. There has been a decision following brexit where a commercial tenant argued his tenancy was frustrated due to Brexit changing the trading conditions but this was rejected by the courts. There was a decision in the Hong Kong courts which does not directly bind the UK courts but their legal system is still fundamentally based on ours, which was brought during the last SARS pandemic in or around 2003 I think where a tenant argued that his tenancy was frustrated because of the epidemic but again the courts ruled that it was not because the restrictions were temporary and a significant period in view of his 10 year lease. Obviously neither of these cases directly reflects your own circumstances but they do indicate the reluctance of the courts to allow frustration as a basis for repudiation of tenancy.

 

The above being said, this is a rapidly and unprecedented situation in modern times, and the law is playing catch up. There is likely to be a series of further policy announcements by the government in the coming times particularly aimed at people renting, particularly the right to ask a loandlord for a three month rent holiday if affected by coronavirus (precise details still to be published) so the position may, or even one could say is likely, to alter and change in the coming days and weeks and it may be that universities and colleges will come under pressure or instruction to release students from accomodation commitments where they are not providing services. It is a point under discussion among many others. Accordingly it is worth keeping a close eye on government announcements this week and next - a daily press conference is being held every afternoon and announcements are being publicised by the BBC and press. I am sorry that the above does not give you a definitive way out today but I hope it at least gives you a clear understanding of the position at present and the potential position going forward.

 

Does the above answer all your questions? If it does, I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service by selecting the 5 stars at the top of the screen before you leave JA today. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me though

Joshua and 3 other Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Hi Josh, many thanks for providing your opinion. It seems options are limited. We will try to speak to the landlord and push for some compromise maybe a 1-month rent holiday especially that our tenancy contract runs out in June and we are all moving out. Saty safe and good luck with your business!

Thanks for your reply and kind words. If I can assist any further with the above plese let me know - and good luck with your approach to the landlord