Students at the University of Sheffield are being encouraged to wait until 2021 to sign for next year’s accommodation.
Most letting agents start advertising in October for the following academic year but with a surplus of student housing in the city and ongoing Covid- 19 restrictions, Holly Ellis, Sheffield Students’ Union Welfare Officer, is urging caution.
She said: “This year we think it’s even more important to encourage students to take time to sign. We don’t want students to feel obliged to sign for a house with their flatmates just because they haven’t had the chance to really get to know many other students.
“Once you have signed a contract, it is really difficult to get out of it. We really don’t want students to end up stuck in contracts they don’t want.”
Ellis is also keen to use the pandemic as an opportunity for students to take back control of Sheffiled’s student housing market, even suggesting that rents could come down if everyone collectively held out on signing contracts.
She told Forge Press that landlords had been given the power to “increase rents to extortionate prices” and that if students held out on signing, landlords could be capitulated into reducing rent prices in an attempt to fill properties.
It’s understood the SU’s housing fair, which usually takes place in November, has now been delayed until February in an attempt to encourage later signings.
Ellis has also issued a stark warning to Sheffield’s letting agents and landlords, telling them to “stop trying to pressure students to sign contracts early” and that working with students at this early stage would help avoid issues further down the line.
“Good landlords will never pressure you or try to rush you into signing. The importance of working together as a community has been highlighted during the pandemic,” she said.
“Singing for a house is definitely not a matter of urgency, especially not in semester one during a pandemic. We all need to work together to bust the myth that you need to sign early for a good house, as the evidence suggests otherwise.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to suggest there is competition for housing in Sheffield, it just isn’t the case and leads to a situation [that] can scare students into making big financial decisions.
“With all the worries and stresses that the pandemic and university life bring, I really don’t want students to feel they have to worry.”
Image: Sheffield Students’ Union