Death clauses parents of students are being asked to sign.

Are you a parent of a student? If yes, read this.

If your child is off to university in the next week or so, will they be staying in accommodation supported by a parent’s guarantee?

In theory, a guarantor (the parent) is called upon to make payments to the landlord if the student (the tenant) fails to do so. I have noticed a worrying trend in such documentation for extreme and unfair terms.

Below is an example, taken from a guarantee I was expected to sign in support of one of my children who was entering halls of residence at a university, which will not be named. For now.

This guarantee seeks to put the guarantor (me) on the hook for paying my child’s rent if he does not, as well as an unreasonable and long list of other obligations. The crowning glory in this particular document is that

“The liability of the Guarantor [ i.e. the parent] shall not be affected by:

the Tenant [ i.e. your child] dying or becoming incapable of managing its affairs.”

clause for story

Yes, that’s right. If my child dies the landlord still gets paid – for the whole year. This is grossly unfair. It is symptomatic of the greed of certain organisations benefiting from student financing. In this case, the corporate landlord which runs the university’s accommodation.

This is the tip of the documentation iceberg.

Ice cold and heavy handed pursuit of loan debt, unfair processes in the signing of documentation and a general desire to extract as much profit as possible out of my children’s further education are creating a frozen landscape of students’ futures.

In my view the loan arrangements are a political and legal time bomb with many issues including enforceability. It’s a meltdown waiting to happen.

I believe it is important that legal documents which seek to bind our children and us in the provision of their further education be fair. If they are not, they may well not work. Certainly the ones that I have seen would not bind anyone in law.

If you see a death clause like the one above. Do everyone a favour and put a big fat line through it before you sign the document, if you sign it that is.

Here is a film of me doing that:

I’ll be looking at this and more in Legal and Important.

Cargo. A true story which happened yesterday.

Cargo landscape.
Cargo landscape.

I took the redundant kitchen shelves and empty cupboards to the dump.

“Which container for wood, please?” Winding down the car window to the rain and summer ending air.
“Number five.” Said the skinny guy who always helps me with heavy stuff.
“Thank you.” Smiling.

Metal gapped stairs reached the container’s lip. Lugging the shabby shelves, it was a ten-step climb to the pulpit of refuse. I looked over the edge and into the container, empty and huge. A few random planks of wood dropped across the bottom did not disturb its frightening eeriness. The thick steel walls smelled impenetrable. They sank downwards twelve feet or so. This was a lidless trap. If you were in it your plight would be hopeless, like a spider in a bath. I gasped, grasped by clinging images of girls in frilly dresses facedown in the sand, young boys in trousers and tee shirts, dead eyes directed to the stars, lying in white wave froth. Just two dead people. Seventy-one had been trapped in a container like this except it had a lid. Knowing their breaths were their last, having only the comfort of humanity’s love for each other in the closeness of dark. Sitting, dying ducks. I gagged on pain not mine to endure. Those poor, poor people, all dead for evermore.

I threw my shelves in. They fell to the bottom cracking their backs, still flat. Descending to ground, I saw the nice guy dismantling a cupboard for me. Choked up by the wasted life I mistook his kindness for kindred spirit,

“It’s so awful” I said, “looking over the edge and thinking of all those refugees trapped inside.”
“They paid for it.” He said, as if they had chosen death.

His inhumanity smote me with despair.

“They didn’t pay to die.” I said.

Impenetrable locks and meta of containers.
Impenetrable locks and metal of containers.