RENTERS across Oxford have shared their concerns and preparations as the coronavirus outbreak disrupts working life.

The government’s announcements last week included that all pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops should close to slow down the spread of the virus, and ease the burden on the health service.

But the result of this has been that many people working in hospitality have lost their jobs.

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Meanwhile, people who usually work office jobs are now largely working from their homes, and others with underlying health conditions are self-isolating for their own protection.

In a city which has among the highest rent rates in all of the UK, behind only London and Cambridge at recent counts many tenants are now feeling the pinch.

Some of them spoke to the Oxford Mail to share their feelings about the situation.

Joanna Giannouli

Joanna Giannouli said she felt overwhelmed by her current situation.

She said: “I rent from a private landlord but I’m out of work for several months now due to several serious health issues.

“I’m immunocompromised and if I fall ill with the virus, it’s guaranteed that I will end up in hospital. I’m on UC and that doesn’t cover everything, also I’m running out of food because everyone is stockpiling and home deliveries slots are all booked until mid to end April.”

Ms Giannouli added that her fiancé has recently had surgery and cannot driver long distances to find a stocked supermarket, so they are currently relying on deliveries.

She said: “I’m just overwhelmed and don’t know what to do.”

Brad Terrell

Oxford Mail:

Brad Terrell works in hospitality and rents a private room in Holloway.

He said he is unsure about how much longer he is likely to be paid from his job now that the restaurant he works at has closed.

But he added: “My landlord has been very assuring that if a problem arises with any of the tenants in the house he will support however he can.

“This has made me feel a lot more positive about the situation.”

Mr Terrell added he was looking for some short term work options now his employment situation was uncertain.

Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon lives in a one-bed flat in Iffley Village and has been able to work from home since the government advised all workers who could to do so last week.

He said: “I’m currently renting a one-bed flat in Iffley Village, and I’m not feeling too concerned at the moment. I guess that’s because the jobs I do I’m able to do from home, so there’s a sense of security for me.

“I’m actually starting a new job on Wednesday but it will begin remotely. I think that if I had any concern at all, it would be if I fell ill and went onto statutory sick pay and would struggle to pay the rent.”

Mr Deacon, who works in publishing, said he would be apprehensive about having a rent holiday, as it might lead to having to pay it back in the future in the form of increased rental payments.

He added he was not apprehensive about starting a new job during the coronavirus outbreak, as he had worked from home using Skype while living abroad.

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Rob Zinkov

Oxford Mail:

Rob Zinkov is a graduate student working towards his DPhil.

His partner works for a food delivery service and the only way the two can afford to continue living at their college-owned accommodation is with her working full time.

The college has recommended that Mr Zinkov and his partner should apply for university hardship grants, but they are worried about the precarious nature of their living situation.

Mr Zinkov said: “There have been mortgage holidays and eviction freezes announced but that it would really help to have even a temporary rent holiday given how many businesses are restricting their hours and sending people home.”

Linda Worden

Linda Worden, an MPhil student, has left her college-owned rented accommodation for a private-rented house share in Marston.

Ms Worden said she had moved into the house because of uncertainty about what would happen to her accommodation if the college decided to close.

She said: "I had no problems with my college. But the response from each college has been different. Many colleges were shutting, which was making students anxious."

While some of the university's colleges have closed and sent all students home, others have not.

Ms Worden said there was also an issue for international students who had been advised to leave the country by governments in their homelands, but were still paying rent for ther university accommodation.

Ms Worden added: "If international travel is effectively suspended then how can they access that accommodation? I have a friend who asked me if I could pick up her belongings in the event she cannot come back."

Support available

Oxford City Council and volunteer group Oxford Hub are currently setting up a support network across the city to help people as they practice social distancing measures.

This will include dropping off food parcels and pharmacy prescriptions.

See more at the Oxford Together website

The government has announced financial aid for businesses which have had to close in recent weeks, including paying staff up to 80 per cent of their wages.

Buy to let landlords are also being offered mortgage holidays to deal with lost income during the coronavirus outbreak.