A cross-party group of MPs and peers has suggested that students should be allowed to leave contracts more easily and has called for a new council tax fund to subsidise landlords for empty properties.
It says landlords would then avoid paying charges for releasing tenants from their contracts.
It also wants the government to work with landlords to introduce measures increasing flexibility in re-letting accommodation to different types of tenants without a permanent licensing change.
The group believes students urgently need financial assistance through an emergency hardship fund and that they deserve full compensation for rents when they haven’t been using accommodation due to lockdown measures.
This fund would also provide support for students experiencing hardship as a result of lost income from term-time jobs in retail and hospitality.
The report says the approach is fairer and more effective than any general reduction in tuition fees.
It adds: “We believe that an additional sum more than doubling existing student premium funding, of £256m, would be required. Applying the Welsh approach would suggest a figure around £700m for England.”
It has heard from universities, accommodation providers, private landlords, the National Residential Landlords Association, student unions and students across the UK.
The report says that among those it quizzed, there was a general view that support should go to students directly, rather than to landlords, and that this would be best addressed through a substantial increase in hardship funds.
It adds: “We appreciate that our recommendations involve significant government spending, although not in the context of the overall costs of the pandemic, but we would emphasise the major financial costs incurred by universities, landlords and students themselves.”