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help from anyone who knows about uni tenancy agreements and special needs, so not niche at all!!!!!! Bit desperate so would really welcome help

43 replies

MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 10:48

DS has diagnosis of ASD and a whole host of specific learning difficulties including dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Managed to get a place at Uni to read a subject that he loves. However, we've run into a real issue with his accommodation.

He applied through clearing and when he received notification of his place, there was only one accommodation option left available and the accommodation officer for his uni was helpfully on holiday, so there was no one to speak to. We therefore secured a place at a commercially run halls of residence that was recommended on the university website. The halls were apparently only 15 mins walk from the city centre/uni and seemed ok.

We arrived and the halls are a 45 minute walk out of town and are situated in the most dodgy area. Despite having asked that DS be placed with other students from his university, he is actually with 3rd years from a variety of different unis in the same city.

One of DS's biggest issues is anxiety and being miles out of town in a dodgy area is hugely anxiety provoking for him. He has to carry specialist gear in and out of the university most days, that is worth a lot of money and he has been chased by crack heads with sticks and had 3 attempts to steal his phone.

The other people sharing his flat have no interest in chatting to him, so he eats alone every single night and feels horribly isolated.

He has had lots of meetings with the disability coordinator and the accommodation officer, but there seems to be NOTHING they can do to help him to release him from his contract. He has his room advertised on all the relevant student web sites, but so far no one is interested in taking it.

In the meantime, he gets issued with a fine every single week by the private halls manager because the communal areas aren't properly clean - which means there are unwashed pots, pans and crockery in the kitchen. This sends DS into a further tailspin of anxiety, as he himself is incredibly clean and tidy but he gets massively stressed about having to clean up other people's dirty stuff and he doesn't know how to ask the others, who he never sees, for help.

Does anyone have any idea how we can break the 42 week contract with the halls of residence, so he can take up a place closer into town?

Any advice, suggestion really welcome.

OP posts:
Bibijayne · 02/11/2018 10:51

I believe the fine may fall under unfair contract terms.

Worth talking to Which?

MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 10:54

Hi Bibijayne, could you say a bit more about that - what would be unfair?

OP posts:
user139328237 · 02/11/2018 10:56

Basically you can't break the contract. Even if the fines are unfair (which they probably are) that has no effect on being able to break the contract.

BarbarianMum · 02/11/2018 10:57

Really you need proper legal advice if you want to break the lease agreement as you are already doing the other obvious things. In the meantime could you fund taxis for your ds to stop him having to walk through the worst of the area? How are other aspects of uni life going for him? Is he enjoying the course and getting to know people through that or through clubs and societies?

Celebelly · 02/11/2018 11:00

Drop the price of the advertised room and plug the shortfall yourself? It means you'll lose some money but if you can afford it, sounds like it might be worth doing for his wellbeing.

MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 11:08

I'm funding bus fares and ubers but he is so lonely stuck out on his own.

He's joined some clubs and societies but he finds it exhausting having to trek in and out all the time to go to them, plus having to lug a heavy bag around with him all day, when everyone else can just pop back to their halls to get things, as they are only 10 mins away.

There are also no shops nearby these halls, so getting food is a massive PITA as well.

OP posts:
overagain · 02/11/2018 11:13

It's a tenancy agreement like any other (private, local authority etc, being a halls of residence is no different) and he has to abide by the terms of it. The only way out is mutual surrender, which the landlord has obviously refused to agree to unless a replacement is found.

Tenancy agreements are very difficult to get out of without paying out or unless there is a break clause - have you checked for one?

Butterymuffin · 02/11/2018 11:19

The university can't do anything as your contract is with the accommodation provider. It's a legal matter not a student support one.
Your best bet though would be to keep contacting the nearby halls and asking if a vacancy has come up (it will do, students will still be rethinking their choices and dropping out at this point) and say you'd like to take one up asap. That may have to be as an additional cost though, but it would be a better practical outcome for your DS.

LaurieFairyCake · 02/11/2018 11:20

You have an option : blow it up (figuratively)

When things are THIS bad you can choose to get out. He leaves and rents somewhere he wants to rent.

The very worst thing that will happen is he will be taken to court for the money owing. Now I know that sounds dreadful but with him trying to mitigate the loss by advertising it at a reduced rent and with his disability it is likely he will just have to pay it off at £5 a week (or whatever he can afford) until it's done.

When I was much younger I had to do this - had a ccj for 6 years and it fell off my record when I was 25, just before I bought my first house.

There is always the option to take the consequences.

Feel so very sorry for him and hope you find a solution.

Villanellesproudmum · 02/11/2018 11:22

Think you might be stuck, did you pay a deposit, if so it might be worth offering it as a financial penalty for an early release. They don’t have to but if you explain your sons difficulties maybe they’ll understand?

MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 11:43

Thank you. Some options to consider here.

I'm wondering if we could come to a mutual surrender arrangement, with some kind of pay off but not the full 42 weeks. I can't afford to cover that and another set of hall rent as well.

We're waiting for his DSA allowance to come in, which should be able to be used for transport but they need more evidence of his day to day issues, so he has to get the GP to provide further info, which means we probably won't see any money from that until nearly Christmas.

It was always going to be stressful for him, but he's barely holding it together.

OP posts:
overagain · 02/11/2018 11:49

I'm wondering if we could come to a mutual surrender arrangement, with some kind of pay off but not the full 42 weeks. I can't afford to cover that and another set of hall rent as well.

Write (pen and paper) to the landlord and make an offer of what you can afford. Worst they can say is no. Make it clear the offer is not subject to a replacement tenant being found and nor will you ask for money returned should the room be re-let.

BananaDrama589 · 02/11/2018 11:53

My first year at uni I lived in a shared student privately owned house, 3 miles each way. If there is public transport and uber I don't see what the problem is. I would suggest stay where he is now. Start asking about accommodation for next year, perhaps you can put a deposit for somewhere more suitable. There is a lesson to be learnt here, that life is not perfect.

sashh · 02/11/2018 11:59

Surely they advertised the accomodation incorrectly, not sure on that bit of law.

Or on the contract.

However, they legally have to make 'reasonable adjustments' to accomodate his disabilities.

The reasonableness or not is something that is often a bone of contention decided in court, however if you make a case that for him not to be disadvantaged he will need a taxi to and from uni every day and the private halls will have to pay for it because they said they were so much closer, and they will also have to pay for an escort due to his anxiety, then they might just decide that an alternative 'reasonable adjustment' is to refund him rent paid and break his tanancy with no penalty.

I agree he need to be out of there ASAP and if they do take him to court and you have a CCJ you can have a notice attached to his credit file.

But obviously if it does go to court then you will say all that you have written plus the need for a taxi and make a counter claim, oh and the local newspaper will probably send a reporter, they don't normally cover this kind of thing but you can request to take someone with you.

Finally as well as looking at uni halls have alook at some other accomodation. Most universities have lists of accomodatio and he may be more suited to a family enviroment.

Look at post graduate accomodation, often it is someone renting a room in a house who doesn't want a messy, noisy, partying 18 year old but would welcome a clean, polite young man.

ExplodedPeach · 02/11/2018 12:08

I would argue false advertising given the distance and argue for release from contract on those grounds.

AllyMcBeagle · 02/11/2018 12:24

Do you have a copy of the advert? Was it incorrect or did you misunderstand it? Did he have the address of the accommodation when he signed the tenancy agreement even if the advert was wrong/misleading?

I am not sure if I agree with the advice above re: taxis as a reasonable adjustment. That wouldn't be an adjustment to the accommodation being provided. I am not sure what adjustments you could ask the landlord to provide without knowing the full facts, possibly the following:

A) Transfer him to accommodation closer to the uni if the landlord owns multiple properties and a vacancy becomes available?

B) Do not fine him for the messy communal areas (although I am not hopeful that this would be seen as reasonable if the landlord has no way of knowing who is causing the mess)?

C) Let him end the tenancy early because it has become apparent it does not meet his needs due to his disability (again, I'm not hopeful that this would be deemed reasonable)?

I think you're a bit stuck to be honest unless the landlord is willing to agree to let him out of the tenancy. I can't see anything that the uni could do either.

I'm a lawyer who has specialised in the Equality Act but I don't know the full facts and am currently very sleep deprived with a newborn so take this with a pinch of salt and you may wish to obtain legal advice (eg

MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 12:35

Thank you again to all those with good suggestions. I'm wondering if there is anything in the false advertising aspect. I've just double checked and it definitely says 15 minutes walk to the city centre.

I checked using postcodes on and it says that if you walk fast, you could do it in 24 mins, walking medium speed it would take 32 mins and a slow walk would be 45 mins, so the 15 minute thing is bollocks.

OP posts:
MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 12:36

Thank you so much Ally - specially in your sleep deprived newborn state.

Yes, I do have a copy of the original ad.

OP posts:
Villanellesproudmum · 02/11/2018 12:46

Is the premises in England or Scotland?

MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 12:49

England Villanellesproudmum.

OP posts:
Feefeetrixabelle · 02/11/2018 12:49

I would approach the landlord and argue you rented on the basis that the property was closer and that they are in breach of contract. They may release you from the contract to get rid. What does it stay in his contract about these weekly charges?

Villanellesproudmum · 02/11/2018 12:57

I’m due to speak with a MHO landlord about something this afternoon I’ll ask his thoughts, I think it’ll be a case of if the address on the agreement is correct the responsibility on distance might lay with the tenant. I’ll report back later, although you could also speak with Shelter or Citizens advice.


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BarbarianMum · 02/11/2018 12:59

The thing is, you could have checked that before you rented it. The block hasn't moved. Also, can you afford to fight this through the courts if it comes to it?
MargoLovebutter · 02/11/2018 13:04

Thank you Villanelle.

Barbarian, you are right I could have done. We were possibly naive believing the written word. That doesn't make them right though.

I also believed that they would take into account his preferences of students to be placed with - which they completely ignored.

I also believed that the university wouldn't have somewhere like this on their recommended list of accommodation. A recommendation suggests that they think it has their endorsement.

Clearly very naive, which of course just makes me feel worse, because I feel as though I should have tried harder to ensure DS wasn't somewhere like this.

OP posts:
BarbarianMum · 02/11/2018 13:33

Again, I bet they will argue that they "tried to accomodate your ds' preferences but it wasn't possible because of x/y/z".

Seriously, get proper legal advice before you embark on a legal remedy for this.

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