How the national codes protect students in accommodation

Amy Lawson is User Experience Marketing Coordinator for Unipol Student Homes

The pandemic has highlighted student wellbeing as a major concern, with accommodation playing an important role in creating a supportive environment.

Recent additions to the National Codes for student accommodation (owned by ANUK, Unipol and NUS) emphasise tenant wellbeing and will ensure better measures are in place in future.

The National Codes were established in 2004 in response to a number of concerns raised about the level of management within purpose built accommodation. Since then it has grown to 155 members across both Codes, with over 370,000 bed spaces accredited nationally covering both the private sector and some educational institutions.

Providers who voluntarily join the Code, commit to raising standards in their accommodation through the physical condition of the property and day-to-day management.

New requirements for student wellbeing

A timely edition to the Code is a new section dedicated to health and wellbeing.

Accommodation providers must now have the knowledge to identify and signpost students experience mental health problems:

  • Providers with university agreements must clearly inform students which support services are available and how to access them. A contact in the university will ensure up to date information regarding wellbeing is available
  • All providers must display information on sources of support for mental health through online and offline means. Providers must also encourage students to register with a local GP
  • If a student is at risk of harm, the provider must have a set procedure to contact the relevant organisations on a lawful basis and ensure the tenant is informed
  • Training must be available for all staff to ensure they are equipped to support students who disclose or exhibit poor mental health. Training is extended to crisis management including actions to take, what help and assistance can be offered and students and staff affected

And there’s more

Some other additions to the Code in 2021 include:

  • Protections for students against the disadvantage of late buildings. Provision for defined payments to students when buildings are running late will also appear in the 2022 version of the Code.
  • Adapted/accessible rooms for students with disabilities must be let at the lowest room rate available, to prevent these student paying higher rents for larger rooms
  • Some gender neutral communal toilet facilities must be available
  • Buildings with ACM cladding present must be notified to the Codes, with risk assessments to be supplied annually

The National Codes set a blue-print for good management, and we would encourage universities and students unions to only work with and promote with Code members to their students.

The Code provides confidence that students are being housed in a site that is held to high standards, and with guidelines that are regularly reviewed and up to date.

If things go wrong, students, universities and students’ unions’ can take advantage of the independent complaints process. In instances where providers who breach the Code, they can be held to account and the Codes can assist in finding resolutions for issues that may arise

If you are from a students union or university and would like more information on how you can advise students about the National Code, please email us.

To learn more about the National Code or find out who is a member and which sites in your are are accredited, visit the codes website.

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