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My accommodation for the 2019/20 academic year included certain housekeeping benefits---these are in-built into the price, not billed separately. The exactly details are not so important, but the UK lockdown (starting March 2020) meant that these had to be cancelled. I completely support the decision to remove the services---it would involve housekeeping agents visiting many houses; clearly very dangerous.

However, come bill-time, the accommodation provided, which is the university/college, is refusing any reduction in the rent. The provision of these housekeeping benefits are clearly stated on the company's website and in the "handbook" describing obligations of the student/provider.

Note that I remained in the property throughout the entire lockdown. The provider's reason for not providing a reduction boils down to roughly the following:

  • the rent is already subsidised (seems irrelevant)
  • giving reductions would limit the ability of the university/college to support students in the future (they're insanely rich, btw);
  • students were given the option to remain (I'm fairly sure eviction in this context was prohibited during the lockdown)

Do I have a right to demand a suitable[*] reduction in rent? [*What comprises suitable can be discussed elsewhere.]

I am sure that there are many other students in similar situations, where their accommodation has not provided what was promised but are being told to pay up anyway. I hope that this question can become a base-point for others to gain relevant information. (Feel free to make it a community wiki if that is useful.)

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  • This question has received significantly more attention than I expected---5 upvotes in the first day. However, there have been no answers, even with these upvotes. I have tried to keep the question as general as possible so as to be relevant to others. Has this lead to too generic a question? Should I add further details, including further responses from my accommodation provider?
    – Sam OT
    Jan 15 at 17:20
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You have no legal right to a refund/rebate

You are only entitled to a refund if there is a total and utter failure of consideration by the supplier - that is, they provided none of what they contracted to supply. They have provided the accommodation so there is no total and utter failure.

However, because they did not provide everything that they were contracted to provide they have breached the contract and you can sue for the damage that caused you. For example, if the contract provided for cleaning services you would be entitled to demand reimbursement for the cleaning products you used and reasonable payment for your time in providing those services yourself.

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  • Thanks, Dale, for your answer. I don't quite understand your conclusions, though. You clearly state, "no legal right to refund/rebate". It did include cleaning services. You then say, "[Y]ou would be entitled to demand reimbursement for the cleaning products ... and ... your time in providing them yourself" [emphasis mine]. Do you literally just mean that products. In particular, "time" corresponds to time obtaining the products, not the time spent doing the cleaning myself (the agreement included five days per week of cleaning---quite a lot!). Thanks again for your comments :)
    – Sam OT
    Jan 16 at 8:47
  • @SamOT Some aspects of the portions of the contract that were not fullfiled were caused by force majeure, which also should be taken into account. Jan 16 at 17:35
  • @MarkJohnson there is no force majeure at common law. Unless the contract excuses the provider for being unable to provide the service, they are in breach even if it is now impossible or illegal to do so. See law.stackexchange.com/a/50119/344
    – Dale M
    Jan 16 at 21:15
  • @MarkJohnson There is no (explicit) force majeure clause in the contract. However, others may have it in theirs. Would such a clause mean the provider can no provide and still charge? My understanding---very uninformed, mostly based on guesswork of what "seems reasonable" to me---would be that something saying "the provider is no liable if [force majeure]" would mean I can't sue for damages due to their not holding up their contract. It wouldn't mean I'd still have to pay for these services which weren't provided
    – Sam OT
    Jan 17 at 9:16
  • Perhaps an example helps make my position and question clear. Suppose I have a barn which needs refurbishing for a big gala I'm holding at the end of the year. I contract a builder to do the repair work; we agree £10k for the work. There is a force majeure clause. Pandemic hits. She can't do the work. Pandemic clears in time for party (wishful) but I can't host because she didn't do the work. I lose out on earnings from hosting. I can't sue her for those lost earnings due to force majeure clause. Can she still charge me £10k for the building work which wasn't done? I guess not
    – Sam OT
    Jan 17 at 9:21

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