Students told to pay thousands in rent for rooms they cannot use

Students have been told to pay thousands in rent instalments for rooms they are no longer able to live in.

While many accommodation providers across the city with links to university's have agreed to waive or substantially reduce the final installment of rent, some private providers are not following suit.

The ECHO has spoken to students who were living in Calico, a new 735-room apartment block in Islington, Liverpool city centre, when the coronavirus pandemic hit and who are now expected to pay £2,500 for the final part of the year.

With university lectures and lessons cancelled, many students moved back to their families, vacating their rooms.

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Calico recently released a statement saying it was offering its scheme for the use of the government for NHS workers – although many students are still expected to pay rent.

Exterior of Calico student accomodation on the corner of Islington and Norton Street, Liverpool.

Calico, owned by investors and managed by asset management firm Niveda Realty, was the subject of controversy at the start of the university year when students were told their brand new accommodation was not ready the night before move in date.

Fresh Student Living, which runs the accommodation for Niveda, offered alternative accommodation scattered around the city.

One Liverpool John Moore's University Student, who did not wish to be named, said: "With universities and private companies such as Unite and Student Roost cancelling student accommodation payments, we have been informed by John Moore's that Calico are not taking part in talks of cancelling rents, even the other Fresh [the name of the management team] buildings such as the Lantern and Europa are in talks to cancel.

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"We are at our last straw and are looking for any help with this we can get.

"Even if we remained in the building all extra amenities such as social rooms, the cinema room and gym have all been locked off from access, so where is our rent going? Into the pockets of Niveda, rather than students' families who are struggling after losing jobs and are now supporting students who have moved back home."

Exterior of Calico student accomodation on the corner of Islington and Norton Street, Liverpool.

Another student living in the building said: "Calico is not talking to our unis about this and it's so frustrating as I live with two NHS bank nurses who could use the money from my loan to support them.

"They have both put so many years into the NHS service and it would be nice to be able to tell them to take a few days off and help with the bills during this rocky time."

Students have also complained about problems with the building since the problems at the start of the year.

One said: "The building has been falling apart while we have been there; sockets falling out of walls, our shower leaking into our room due to incorrect installation, brown patches on our ceiling due to a previous leak.

"All of these have been reported and took months to fix. The ceiling was reported in our first week moved in in October and still remains."

A spokeswoman for Niveda said the shareholders who own the building "are made up of families with small businesses who are also struggling in this COVID situation."

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A statement from the company said: "During this rapidly changing environment our priority has been to maintain the highest level of standards for the safety and welfare of our residents and staff, working closely with our management team, Fresh Student Living, to keep the building open for residents that have chosen not to go home or are self-isolating.

"Since the lockdown was enforced all the communal areas were closed off adhering to government guidelines.

"Calico has 463 rooms occupied by students and over 200 vacant rooms; the vacant rooms have been offered to NHS Personnel.

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"As there is no government support readily available for Calico as a business, we are handicapped in fulfilling our obligation and our priority is to be able to continue to operate and maintain Calico to the highest of standards and to keep the building open for the residents living there.

"We are working with Fresh Student Living to reduce our operational costs and our lenders by requesting interest holidays to calculate how we can reduce the rent burden on our residents by working on a not-for-profit basis during this COVID period.

"Please be assured that we understand the pressures of maintaining rental payments at this time, and we are working tirelessly on several options.

"We are aware of the issues within the building and have been working hard to get these resolved with Create Construction, who are liable for the defective works."