Student Rent Strikes Take Off in Britain

Students in universities around the UK are taking part in, or are intending to take part, in rent strikes. As Plymouth rent strikers explained:

“Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Plymouth students are facing a reduced capability to manage the rent payments on our student accommodation. For many students, the April student loan payment is absolutely necessary to support themselves and family members that may be suffering from job loss, financial difficulty, illness, and certainty during this time. Every single student who signed an accommodation contract before the Coronavirus outbreak did so with the full expectation that they would be able to remain in their student accommodation for the full academic year, and that they or their family members would not suffer any significant financial difficulty in the coming year. All of our circumstances have changed massively since we signed for our accommodation and we are asking that for compassionate reasons, the contracts should be reviewed under the circumstances and that the final rent payment should be waived by ALL student accommodation providers in Plymouth.”

At Plymouth, on the first day of the rent strike, January 17th, there were 430 strikers, with £750,000 withheld. They have also organised a mutual aid scheme to provide Covid care packages containing food, hygiene products and PPE for students in Plymouth.

In universities in Wales, students are organising. Over 300 students have cancelled their direct debits and the number is growing. In Bangor, the university’s offered a 10% discount to eligible students living in university-owned accommodation. Rent strikers there felt that this did not go far enough, as students who went home for Christmas were not eligible, despite being unable to use facilities paid for during the first term. At Cardiff, where a similar rebate was offered, rent strikers commented that the university should have offered the rebate this January, as opposed to the third installment in April.

Rent strikes are also taking place in Cambridge University, Glasgow University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham University, Oxford University, Sussex University and Goldsmiths university in London. Students at Queen Mary University in East London recently decided to come out on rent strike too.

One of the biggest rent strikes is at Bristol where 1,400 have withheld rent since October 24th. Bristol University was forced to offer a rebate of 100% for the 10 days leading to the end of term (up to and including Friday 18 December). Plus, a further 30% rent rebate from 19 December until the end of the Government proposed staggered return period in early February; a total of 7 weeks. Rent strikers expressed the feeling that this was not enough, and pledged to continue the strike in January.