Hundreds of students have pledged to go on rent strike after having to fork out thousands of pounds for accommodation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many private landlords have refused to cancel rents for the summer term, which is increasingly looking like it is a non-starter.
Others are trapped on campuses which are practically deserted and where services have been shut down. The lock-down has also resulted in many students losing part-time jobs which they were using to fund their studies.
At the University of Bristol, students in private halls of residence may be forced to pay up to £1,500 for accommodation. Many private landlords are demanding that students pay rents right up to the end of summer term, even though they have returned to their families.
The group Liberate the University, in tandem with students from London School of Economics and School of Oriental and Asian Studies, is involved in organising rent strikes in the private halls of residence.
The University of London has been forced to let students off their contracts early and are charging a storage fee, whereas before they would only do this if they moved their belongings before April 1st. Whilst the charging of a storage fee is far from okay, it shows what can be done with collective action.
Over a hundred students are on rent strike, and this number is increasing.
Whilst the big companies are being bailed out by the government, there are no such schemes to protect students and workers.
One of the private landlords, Sanctuary Students, said, “While we understand that you must make the right decision for your health and well-being, and that of your family’s, we regret that we cannot terminate any contracts early if you have decided to leave your accommodation. We realise this will be disappointing for you but it is not a decision we have taken lightly. Many of our students rely on us to continue providing them with a safe and secure home, and without us, they would be at risk of becoming homeless.”