Should you pay accommodation for an online course?

It’s happening.  We have been here once before when lockdown first hit back in March and the controversial debate continues. 

Students from up and down the country have been locked into accommodation contracts for accommodation they will not be using. Many first year students moving into Halls had already signed their contracts before the announcement was made that courses for now would be online.  

Second and third year students moving into independent housing too have suffered the same thing.  It is widely reported that some students are paying £525 a month for a room in a shared house that they have not lived in since March.  When they have tried to negotiate with the landlord the landlords have not budged or tried to be flexible in any way. 

In several instances, companies have refused to offer any waiver, arguing that they are merely enforcing the contracts students signed up to at the beginning of the academic year – and that students have received money from their maintenance loans to meet the bills. 

Some companies and landlords have offered ten per cent discounts and given students and parents more time to pay the fees.  However, some parents have been left frustrated trying to get rents waived. 

As a landlord myself this is a tough call because I know a few landlords in this space providing accommodation for students and they too need to survive.  They say the only way they can do this is by charging the rent regardless of whether the student is there or not, and the moral issue does not come into it.  

University students have been telling the BBC and other media how they were only told that most of their courses in the coming term will be taught online after paying hundreds of pounds for accommodation far from home.

Several students have reported that for the first semester they will be taking their classes online and the universities have offered little guidance about what campus life will look like and whether they would be able to spend any time there.

There is a wider question here too.  If most lectures will be online should there not be some kind of fee reduction? If seems unfair to charge the same fees to students when the universities will ultimately have reduced their overheads with students not being there.

The universities blame the sudden change on increased student numbers this year. The late changes to the way A-level and Higher exam results were calculated have obliged them to admit significantly more entrants than would otherwise have been the case.

They say most students will experience a blended offer of online and in-person underpinned by a safety-first approach.

But the National Union of Students called on universities to be “honest and clear about the practicality of studies resuming” and to “provide support with housing, finances, digital learning, support services and transport if circumstances change”.

NUS president Larissa Kennedy said government officials needed to offer a “bigger package of financial support for student renters – many of whom have struggled to pay rent and fallen into arrears.”

I have no doubt that this issue will run for a little while yet.  

So, what’s the answer?

Property, Me… How did I get here?

Small Business Britain is the UK’s leading champion of small businesses, supporting all 5.8 million small businesses in the UK – no matter their location, their sector, or their ambition level.

Through a series of reports, events and campaigns, Small Business Britain champions, inspires and accelerates small businesses in the UK to foster growth and increased confidence. @Michelle Ovens MBE who is the brains behind it is an absolute legend.

Each week Small Business Britain interviews a small business owner to share their story, insight and experience of entrepreneurship.

This week was my turn. The wonderful and talented @Karen Campbell talked to me about View From My Window.

I came from a humble £62.50 pw to a growing portfolio of beyond £6.2m. If I can you can. Please have a listen and feedback a snippet of your story.

Where is your pension coming from? Have you thought about legacy planning? Have you watched Homes under the Hammer and thought one day I would love to do that but not sure how? Get in touch. Let’s make your first class dreams come true. I would love to hand hold you through your first project and ultimately your portfolio.

PM hails ‘end of hibernation’ but what does this mean for a crippled property market?

360 Degree Me

Once upon a time I was a was a high-flying career woman working in major law firms in the City. My role straddled business development and marketing. It was fast paced, furiously hectic, unbelievably challenging and incredibly stimulating. I was client facing, conducting reviews, running events, sharing my marketing prowess and building practice areas with Partners and their teams. The days started early. They finished late but had a regular ebb and flow.

There was a pattern to the day and a rhythm to the week. A working wardrobe hung neatly on hangers alongside my professional persona. And like the majority of my team-mates and co-workers, my evenings and weekends were a mystery to everyone but a select few, who straddled my personal and professional life.

Then two things happened. First I said goodbye to Nine to Five and hello to the life of a Property Developer. Second I started to swim in the social media pond where the neat dividing line between personal and professional lives seemed to have blurred or even completely flown out of the window.

This got me thinking as I found myself getting to know an awful lot about people I’d never even met. Mainly names and personalities within the property sector. Which was now my stomping ground. Some I gravitated to. Others I found myself moving away from. All as a result of what they were posting and sharing.

How much of the real YOU should you reveal?

Recently I attended a Business Breakfast where a Brand Called YOU was the topic on the table. It’s no longer a case of ‘who do you know’ and more of a case of ‘who knows YOU’. How much of YOU should you be sharing with social pals who you may have never met but who can tune into your world by simply following you on Instagram, friending you on Facebook or linking up on LinkedIn?

Keep it real

The consensus over breakfast last week was that being ‘authentic’ has become an overused buzz word that’s lost its gravitas. Let’s just keep it real because real stories resonate. They’re bound to cross the divide but as long as we’re posting and sharing truisms and realisms it really shouldn’t matter whether it’s personal or professional. Just don’t let it all hang out by amplifying the drama. By the same token don’t be all buttoned-up and proper. Hints and insights gleaned as a result of daily antics and mishaps can inspire, inform and really help someone following your digital footprint.

Paint a picture of YOU 

Balance is the key. You could be at a Property Awards ceremony or attending a glittering property dinner, You could be wearing a hard hat on site or a bobble hat for a Sunday stroll in the park. Or you could be having a business lunch with a potential Joint Venture partner or celebrating your partners milestone birthday. All of the above are made for sharing. 

We’re all complex and colourful. So embrace social media by showing your true colours. Perhaps the line is less about personal or professional but more about emotional vs rational. 

Would you like to meet brand YOU at a party or a property seminar? If you want people to understand you, know you, like you and trust you then invite them to the 360 degree YOU and let them see the world from your window! 

Part I of II: Going Once. Going Twice.

The beauty of an auction is the certainty of a hammer sale. No gazumping. No gazundering. Property auctions have a reputation for being a risky yet thrilling exercise and adrenaline rush. You can save a packet if you have your wits about you and get it right. On the other hand you can lose a packet if you don’t.

Having gone through the process I’ve learnt lots of lessons. I’ve become wiser and significantly smarter as I’ve graduated from complete novice to a seasoned Property Auctionette. I view the process as an adventure that starts with planning and researching and ends with the purchase of a property that completes within 28 days. 

Part I : Visit. View. Take a View.

Do your homework

Do as much research as possible before the property viewing. Visit the area at different times of the day. And night. Pour over local area statistics. Google the postcode to see if there’s been any adverse headline hitting press. Check online property websites for comparable property prices. Call in on local estate agents as they can be a goldmine of information.

Don’t be a White Rabbit

Lateness is rude, disrespectful and unprofessional. Often the agent will have a small window with back-to-back viewings. They won’t entertain playing the waiting game for investors cutting it fine. Give yourself as much time as possible. Leaving yourself less than 10 minutes to view a property that you may be investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in is irresponsible and foolhardy.

Be alert

At the viewing listen to what others are saying with their trades people, financial advisors and partners. However, take everything you hear with a pinch of salt as they may be throwing you off the scent if they suspect you are eavesdropping. Take a tape measure to measure up. Use your phone to the max. It’s one of the tools of the trade. Take lots of photos. Think about a video. Record notes the instant they occur.

Going ahead

If you feel the property ticks at least 50% of your boxes but you are still undecided consider the ONE factor that would be a deal breaker to take it over the line. Book a second visit. Bring a posse of professionals. 

  • An architect is always my first choice. They can visualise different layouts and immediately tell you what that might look like to increase your return. 
  • A good builder should be able to do the same and look at the property with a structural eye.  

The Legal Pack. 

Think of it as the voice of the property. Don’t read it. Scrutinise it. Put it away. Then read it again. Properties go to auction for a reason. Work out the reason. Study the floor plan. Get a second opinion from a switched on conveyancer or paralegal. Look out for loopholes, inconsistencies to minimise any nasty (and costly) surprises both in advance and on the day of the auction as there are times when special conditions may have crept in: 

  • Outstanding bills you may inherit
  • Extra buying costs
  • Planned works
  • Planning permission (granted and pending)
  • Fixtures & fittings list
  • Searches & covenants
  • Leasehold information

Part II of II: Going. Going. Gone.

Dress rehearsal

It really is worth doing a dry run for a phantom auction to experience the process and get a feeling for the competitive frenzy. Attend one even if you are not buying. Make plenty of notes as an aide memoire.


Get there in good time for your Lot and re-read the legal packs. Find a spot where you are comfortable and visible to the auctioneer. Know your spending limit. Auction fever is a real phenomenon. It’s easy to get carried away by it. Write down your maximum bid for each property before you go in. Stick to it. Don’t over-bid. Sit on your hands. You’re there to buy a property not compete with egos in the room. Be cool so you don’t get hot under the collar.

Play it cool

Be prepared to go home empty-handed. There are plenty of auction houses in London. If you’re outbid today there will be another chance round the corner.

Approachable auctioneers

It’s perfectly acceptable to request that the auctioneer takes smaller bids eg. £1000 increments as the bidding rapidly increases. Ultimately the decision lies with the auctioneer. That said they will deviate from rising the bids by £5,000 to keep bidders in the game in an attempt to keep the room alive and “help out” potential purchasers. However, you must ask for it.

Auction House rules

If you are successful, you’ll need a £10% deposit so have a pre-approved facility in place. Check payment methods. My last auction did not take cheques. Fortunately, they trusted me to transfer the money to their account in the morning. That was a close shave.  

The Paper Monster

If the hammer purchase has your name on it you’ll be required to complete a raft of paperwork. Check the auction catalogue for the list of documents they require. It’s a checklist. Don’t leave out a thing and ensure you have everything such as ID (passport or utility bill and proof you can afford the 10% deposit).

You’ll also need to be on the ball. No room to dilly dally or shilly shally:

  • Send the sale documents to your solicitor as soon as the hammer falls
  • Respond to their enquiries at once as auction purchases typically complete within three to six weeks
  • Call them and your lender/broker regularly to ensure everything stays on track
  • Sort out insurance ASAP as you are the owner and therefore liable

Do you have any stories – the good, the bad or the ugly that you can share about your auction experience? 

Deck the Doors

One of the things I particularly love about the countdown to Christmas is seeing how all the houses on the street transform. Trees and twinkling fairy lights in the windows. Wreaths of all the colours of Christmas on the doors. Bought on the High Street or local florist or craft fair. Others hand made at a wreath making workshop, which are all the rage at the moment. One thing they have in common. They all create a sparkling first impression that deserves a second look.

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

Besides being the gateway to a property, the front door provides the first exclamation mark of the entry procession. That’s why I believe function should harmonise with form to create #househarmony.

Not all of us have the opportunity to choose our front doors but if you do take great pride in choosing one that reflects you.  If you pay attention to the little things, then at the very first moment that someone comes to your home they’ll have made an impression. In an instant. You’re in charge of that first impression. 

Knock! Knock! Ding! Dong!

December is the one month when we probably think about, look at and open our front door more than any other time of the year. To the postman delivering parcels that won’t fit through the letter box. To carol singers singing carols and collecting for charity. To neighbours popping round with cards and home made mince pies. To friends dropping presents round. And of course, the family full of cheer ready to tuck into turkey and all the trimmings.

What is your door saying?

Windows are the eyes of a property. They let in the light and provide a view of the world on your doorstep. Doors are ‘The Mouth of Chi’. They speak volumes. Not just at Christmas but 365 days of the year.

So take a look at your front door and ask yourself if it is conveying the right message. Is it tough enough to withstand the elements yet handsome enough to make a great first impression.


Registered address: View From My Window Ltd Kemp House 152 - 160 City Road London EC1V 2NX