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Student housing - rent arrears and other debts

This advice applies to Scotland

What kind of debt

If you still owe money to the educational institution at the end of the academic year, it may not allow you to progress to the next year of your course or to receive exam results or graduate if it's your final year.

You may owe:

  • rent
  • cost of repairs done because of damage
  • library fines
  • car parking tickets for the campus.

If you do not pay these debts the educational institution may prevent you from progressing to the next year or if you have completed your final year, from graduating. You should try to negotiate with the accommodation service if this happens or seek advice and ask for some help to negotiate.

These sorts of rules are likely to be set out in disciplinary procedures or codes, so you should check yours to make sure you know what will happen if you fail to pay for any of the above or other costs you incur.

Can you challenge the rules about a debt

Whether it's reasonable or not for an educational institution, as a landlord, to impose such sanctions on students has never been tested in a court of law. Before it closed, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) carried out an investigation into this area. It concluded that terms to withhold graduation or progression, or to exclude students from tuition for non-payment of debts such as accommodation, which are applied in a blanket fashion and regardless of the circumstances, are open to challenge as being unfair and/or unreasonable under consumer protection law. On 1 April 2014, the OFT's powers to enforce consumer law passed to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

If you're being prevented from graduating or are subject to a similar sanction because you still owe rent, you should speak to an adviser. Check if your educational institution has behaved in a way that might mean it is guilty of harassing you.

More about harassment by a creditor

Further help

National Association of Student Money Advisers

If you're having difficulty paying your rent, the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) has student money advisers in institutions throughout the UK.

You can find some useful information on the NASMA website at

Young Scot Lawline

Young Scot Lawline is a free, confidential helpline available to anyone aged 11-25. It’s open 24-hours a day and offers legal advice on any legal problem, including debt. 

Young Scot Lawline
Tel: 0808 801 0801 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

You can also get help from a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

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