Students who cannot take up places in purpose-built accommodation due to the Covid-19 pandemic will be able to end their lease under new legislation.
People under contract in halls of residence will be able to give seven days’ notice to cancel their agreement, according to the proposals being introduced at Holyrood this week.
Those who enter into a contract in the life of the Bill will also be given the power to give 28 days’ notice.
If passed by MSPs, the legislation will mean students unable to take up their offers of student accommodation in the next academic year due to coronavirus will not be held liable.
According to constitution secretary Mike Russell, the changes made in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill, will bring the student rental sector in line with the private sector.
He said: “To reduce the spread of this terrible virus, many students have returned to their family homes for the duration of the lockdown but are still paying for their term-time accommodation.
“During this time of great uncertainty and financial hardship for many, these proposals would relieve a significant extra financial burden on students.
“Introducing a 28-day notice period for contracts entered into during the lifetime of this Act recognises the uncertainly around the impact of ongoing lockdown measures, as well as providing the same rights as for those students renting in the mainstream private rented sector.
“We continue to press the UK Government to recognise the impact the pandemic is having on the higher education sector and for appropriate financial support to be made available to Scottish institutions.”
National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland president Liam McCabe welcomed the Bill, describing it as a “victory for students”.
He added: “Since before the lockdown students have been paying for student accommodation they moved out of. NUS Scotland’s message to accommodation providers is clear: provide refunds to the students you have been exploiting, finally giving them the peace of mind you have been denying them.
“NUS Scotland has long called for the Scottish Government to instigate a comprehensive review of the student accommodation sector. The conduct of some accommodation providers during this crisis makes that review all the more urgent.”
The new legislation would only be applicable when a student cannot take up their place in halls of residence or other purpose-built student accommodation due to coronavirus.
The Bill will be introduced on Monday, when it will also be published in full.