Hall residents at the University of Auckland are calling on the university to follow Victoria University's lead in not charging students for rooms left empty because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Victoria, which had initially planned to charge students $150 holding fees, backed down last Friday and said it would be reviewed on May 11 when the Government will decide whether to extend alert level 3 or move New Zealand to alert level 2.

A UoA science student, who wanted to be known only as John, said he and other hall residents there have been paying for their empty rooms through the level 4 lockdown.

About 40 per cent of students have remained in their hall accommodation over lockdown. Photo / File
About 40 per cent of students have remained in their hall accommodation over lockdown. Photo / File

"At my hall - University Hall - we are being asked to pay $263 per week for rooms we cannot access until level 2," he said.

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"I believe this is the wrong decision for the university to make, the cost is putting a heavy financial burden on my family and me."

Students usually pay $393 a week, but are being given a $130 discount over the period that they cannot access their rooms.

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Massey, Waikato and Lincoln universities have not charged students who have left accommodation under the lockdown.

Another UoA hall resident, who did not want to be named, said it was unfair that students at other universities are not being charged.

"It just seems unfair that there seems to be one rule for Auckland and another for Victoria, Massey and others," he said.

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Auckland University Student Association president George Barton said the association's priority was to support students who are unable to afford their rent.

These included hardship grants or through the university's Covid-19 hardship fund.

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Barton said that although the association completely support the intentions of students who are calling for full rental reduction, it would be difficult for the university to do so.

"We think it will be very difficult for our university - and other universities - to be able to make further reductions without Government intervention," he said.

About 40 per cent of students stayed on in their halls during the lockdown period, Barton said, mainly because they had no alternative.

"Unlike the students at Victoria University, they had the choice to stay," he said.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

"We've been supporting students who have been having difficulty paying their rent to the university and we've been pleased that the university has made cancellation of contracts possible over this period, even if students might have left some of their belongings behind."

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UoA spokeswoman Lisa Finucane said also that it was in a different situation to Victoria.

"We have remained open all through lockdown," she said.

"Students who do not wish to preserve their place in the hall can withdraw with a reduced penalty clause. This is different from a situation where accommodation is closed but students were still being charged."

Students who are not staying in but chose to retain their rooms have been given discounts, she said.

"We also have established a $1million hardship fund to support students who are staying in the university halls but are struggling to meet the costs," Finucane said.

Those wanting to move out are also charged four weeks rent instead of the usual 25 per cent of their contracts.

"At every stage we have encouraged students to contact us so we can find the best solution, whether it is moving out or being supported through our hardship fund," Finucane added.

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