York’s public health director has intervened in two cases in which private landlords asked students to move out of their homes while they were self-isolating with Covid.
The University of York’s vice chancellor Prof Charlie Jeffery said landlords who take this approach are “encouraging students to break the law”.
Sharon Stoltz, director of public health, says most landlords have been very cooperative but that there have been a few cases in which they were “particularly difficult”.
On Monday the University of York had just under 525 students self-isolating after testing positive or coming into contact with a positive case.
Case numbers have since dropped and there has been good vaccine take-up among students, an outbreak board meeting heard.
Prof Jeffery, vice chancellor of the university, said students isolating in campus accommodation have had their leases extended free of charge and daily get food parcels, digital vouchers and phone calls to check on their welfare.
He said he has been speaking to private landlords to ask them to show the same understanding for students in difficult situations and added that he wants landlords not to charge self-isolating students who stay beyond the end of their tenancy.
“If they wanted to chuck students out at the end of their lease, they would be in effect encouraging students to break the law,” he said.
“We would also like them not to charge and given that they should in most cases be a bit of a buffer period between exiting and entering students it shouldn’t be that difficult to manage.”
He said York has seen fewer problems with student housing landlords than other cities, adding: “As far as I have been told this is not presenting as a big problem.”
Ms Stoltz said the issue is not limited to the University of York but has also affected students at York St John University and the city’s higher education colleges.
She said: “I’ve personally had to intervene with two landlords who were being particularly difficult about this.
“But I think it was just their lack of understanding of the legal restrictions around social isolation and helping them to work through the problem where they’ve got new tenants who are about to come into accommodation but can’t because others are self-isolating.
“We have got the support in place and it’s only been a small number of landlords where we’ve had to intervene, with most being very cooperative.”
Prof Jeffery added that the University of York is providing short-term accommodation to “bridge any gaps” when students are waiting to move into private homes but cannot until the previous tenants leave.