SOME North-East students will be able to apply for a discount on accommodation rent after being asked to stay at home during the third Covid lockdown. 

Unite Students, a private student accommodation provider with sites across Newcastle and Durham, has announced a 50 per cent rent discount form some students for four weeks.

Eligible students will be told they can apply for the discount, which will be credited in March.

There will also be a four-week extension of these tenancy agreements at the end of the academic third term, extending students' stay into the summer if they want to - a move the organisations chief executive says "is the right thing to do".

All Unite Student properties across the country remain open, providing homes to thousands of students including in the North-East. 

There are three private halls in Durham, ranging from £142 a week to £169, and eight in Newcastle, costing from £95 per week to £130.

The package provides support to students who have been asked by the Government to remain at home and comes on top of Covid safety measures put in place.

Unite Students is emailing all students and guarantors informing them of this discount and inviting them to apply.

Unite Students says its discount recognises the exceptional circumstances Covid has presented.

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite Students, said: “We recognise that this is again a particularly challenging time for all students which is why their health, safety and security has been our priority since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are now providing a 50 per cent rent discount for a four-week period and an additional complimentary four-week contract extension at no extra charge, in recognition of the challenges and disruption that students face following the Government’s latest lockdown announcement.

"We feel this is the right thing to do."

Newcastle University, which last week announced it will not be charging students in university halls for the time they are not in Newcastle, welcomed the move.

A spokesperson said: "We welcome the decision by Unite Students, and we are actively working with other universities to raise this issue with the government and the housing sector.” 

Durham University also announced accommodation charges will be waived for students who are not staying in their halls this term.

For Unite Students tenants to be eligible, you will need to be up to date with rent payment as of January 31 and not be at your accommodation between January 18 and February 14.

Any student who is struggling to keep up to date with rent payments is urged to get in touch with Unite Students and to contact their university’s student finance team for further support.

Mr Smith added: “Working through this decision has had its challenges as there are a range of varying circumstances to consider in different parts of the country and across different universities. 

"Universities remain open, unlike the first lockdown, and we continue to have thousands of students living with us as of today.

"Some students studying specific subjects have already returned to university and more will be returning for face-to-face tuition during January as per government guidelines, while for other students our accommodation is their only home. 

“Against the backdrop of the Government Covid-19 guidelines we are working closely with our university partners. We will continue to support students and maintain our focus to keep all students and staff safe across our properties during the pandemic.”

It comes as university students across the country have been left frustrated by the lack of support they have received through the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Claudia Simmons moved from Tyneside and down south for the first year of her English literature and creative writing degree in September.

The student, 19, said: "I have considered dropping out but I've spent all of this money and moved. This is just not the experienced we were promised.

"I'm a very social person but you just couldn't go out and meet people. Everyone says you make your friends for life at university. It's taken a huge toll on my mental health.

"I was really unhappy, loads of people have been feeling like that. Covid has created a large amount of anxiety for students.

"When you reach out for help with mental health you just get directed an app, but that's just not the same as in-person support."

Miss Simmons, who went back to university after spending Christmas in the North-East before the lockdown announcement, says people are choosing between paying rent and eating. 

"These are people, like me, who would have gotten a job during university if not for Covid," she said.

"For students not to get a mention when the Prime Minister announced tiers and another lockdown - we are a large part of the popular that are being overlooked but we are starting out lives during coronavirus and a recession, it's really tough.

"Some people are holding a rent strike by withholding it but I can't afford to be fined the late fee."