ASK TONY: Why won't student accommodation services allow girls to rent my university room
23:45 GMT, 24 April 2012
23:45 GMT, 24 April 2012
I started at the University of the West of England (UWE) last September. I decided to take student accommodation, costing 538 a month, so I could avoid a three-hour round trip and be close to student amenities.
However, by the beginning of November I was feeling isolated and became depressed, which affected my studies. I decided to move back home.
One reader was told they had to pay rent for their student accommodation until a new tenant was found, but that the tenant had to be a boy
Student accommodation services said until a new tenant was found, I’d have to pay the monthly fee. A girl approached them to rent the room, but was refused because it would result in a ‘gender imbalance’ in the block.
The 538 a month is placing me under considerable pressure.
J. C., Bristol.
Leaving home to attend university is a massive step in any young person’s life. Some take to it like a duck to water, but others, like you, find it extremely traumatic, especially if they are particularly close to their family.
Student accommodation services said if someone could be found to take your room, you’d be released from your liability before the end of the academic year. It then reneged on this because of a ‘gender imbalance’.
This may be university policy, but it has no place in the contract that you sent me.
I pointed out to UWE that the terms and conditions appear to be particularly onerous on the student and rather less so on the accommodation services. For example, it can remove you with four weeks’ notice, yet the contract potentially ties you in for a full academic year.
After consulting the guidance of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on tenancy contracts, I was struck by the following:
‘We [the OFT] would object to a term in a fixed-term tenancy that requires a tenant who leaves early, without the landlord’s agreement, to pay rent for the remainder of the period in full. Though a landlord is normally entitled to the rent for the whole of the term, whether or not the tenant remains in occupation, a tenant may have a valid defence to a claim for rent.
‘In those circumstances such a term would be an excessive penalty. This would also allow landlords to escape their obligation to reduce (or “mitigate”) their loss, by re-letting the property to another tenant.’
UWE now says: ‘In view of the circumstances, we have no hesitation in releasing J. C. from his accommodation contract.
‘This particular case we believe to be unusual in that the accommodation would have been occupied by five females to one male.
‘With good intent, those managing the accommodation were trying to maintain the gender balance in the accommodation taking into account the requirements of the remaining student occupants.’
I have sent you the contact details for the adviser within the accommodation services.
Good luck with your future studies and I hope that at some stage you once again decide to take the plunge, because your student days are a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed.
My son cannot access an Alliance & Leicester savings account that was opened for him when he was born
When my son was born in 1994, a friend opened an Alliance & Leicester savings account for him. He put his then girlfriend on the account as trustee.
By the time my son was five, my friend had emigrated to South Africa and we had lost touch.
At this time, I rang Alliance & Leicester and said I no longer had contact with my friend or knew of his, or his girlfriend’s, whereabouts.
A&L said when my son was 16 he’d be able to access his account as long as he had proof of identity. When he was 16 we went to the bank (now Santander) with all the relevant documents, but it refused to release the money, saying only the trustee had access.
I phoned Santander’s head office, but despite its reassurances, he was again denied access. My son is 18 and studying at the Academy of Music, and the money would be useful.
S. C., Leicester.
Sometimes I want to tear my hair out at the sheer intransigence and stupidity of those who work in financial services.
This money belongs to your son, you alerted the bank to the situation 13 years ago, yet he has problems gaining access to it.
When I got involved, Santander put its skates on. Once you had sent a copy of your son’s passport and a letter from him saying he wanted to close the account, a cheque for 954.82 was sent to him. And you are to receive a case of wine, with Santander’s apologies.
Incidentally, I notice your son has been receiving just pennies in interest and has been paying tax on it.
Other readers take note: if you want to assign a trustee to a child’s account, make sure it is someone who is likely to maintain a long-term relationship with them.
Co-operative Bank won't let me close my mother's credit card account
For more than a year I have been trying to close my mother’s credit card account with the Co-operative Bank. She has dementia and my brother and I have power of attorney.
I have had to ring the bank several times and frequently spend more than 20 minutes on hold. I thought I had finally succeeded when I received confirmation on February 22 that all the documents were in order. But I then received yet another statement with a 24 annual fee and a 12 late payment charge.
G. P., Kings Lynn, Norfolk.
The letters you have received are emblazoned with the logo ‘The Co-operative Bank — good with money’.
Well, the Unco-operative might be a better name and it certainly hasn’t been good with your mother’s money.
You first wrote to the bank on March 3 last year clearly explaining your mother had dementia, you had power of attorney, enclosing documents, and politely asking that a 12 late payment charge be waived.
Co-op’s policy is to accept only power of attorneys stamped by the Office of the Public Guardian or accompanied by a letter signed by the account holder.
You attempted to call several times, but gave up trying after, you say, being consistently left on hold for 20 minutes on the 0845 number it supplied. At a typical cost of around 8p a minute, I don’t blame you!
You wrote again on April 5 enclosing the 12 late payment fee and explaining how unhelpful you felt the bank had been.
This should have triggered a high-level response. Instead you got a standard reply, once again requesting you phone the same number.
Another 24 annual fee was added in January and a late payment charge slapped on for good measure.
Now Co-operative Bank has finally apologised and sent you a cheque for 150 in recognition of the inconvenience you have suffered and the time it has taken to close this account.
The bank is also looking into its power of attorney processes to ensure that, in future, customers’ requests are dealt with more efficiently.
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