University of Bristol students to withhold over £1 million in rent strike

Over 800 students have signed up

Bristol University students living in halls are going on a rent strike and will be withholding over £1 million in rent money.

Over 800 students have signed up to withhold their rent money due at the end of this week, according to prolific campaign group “Bristol, Cut The Rent”. Strikers feel the university has failed to “meet a duty of care to students, particularly those self-isolating.”

Strikers are demanding a no-penalty contract release and deposit refunds for those who choose to move out of halls, as well as a 30 per cent rent cut for students who decide to stay in their accommodation.

They also have demands specific for those self-isolating, including outdoor access for students who have tested negative, food boxes that cater for all dietary requirements, regular mental health check-ins with Resilife and full transparency on the role of security in halls.

We’re calling a rent strike!!It’s unacceptable that the university told students to come and live in halls when they…

Posted by Bristol, Cut the Rent on Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The strike is being fully supported by the Students’ Union, and they are assuring those who want to take part that there will be no consequences. They describe rent striking as a “legal grey area.”

The university have an official procedure to follow before any legal action is taken. Members of previous strikes state that this procedure has not been strictly followed in the past.

It is also guaranteed that there will be “no academic sanction” for students wanting to take part, and international students will not have any issues with their visas.

Organisers have created a guide on how to rent strike, which includes information on how to cancel direct debits with the bank and online payment plans with the university.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We fully acknowledge how stressful and challenging it is for students living in University accommodation having to self-isolate.

“We thank them for following Government advice to keep themselves and the wider community safe and are doing everything possible to support them. This includes providing cleaning supplies, laundry services and free food boxes with fresh goods which we understand some other universities are charging students for.

“Security and support staff within residences are essential to remind students of the need to behave in a responsible and lawful manner.

“Self-isolating students have full access to wellbeing and mental health support services, and our blended learning provision has been created to ensure they can still continue with their studies online.

“Students who aren’t having to self-isolate are still able to attend face-to-face learning and move around freely within Government guidelines.

“The health and safety of our students is a top priority, and our Residential Life teams are available 24/7 to offer help and advice. Regular support and contact with students will ensure everyone is kept up-to-date and can ask any questions.

“We welcome further discussions with representatives from Cut the Rent and Bristol Students’ Union, but this is an issue that is affecting all universities at the moment and our actions are guided by Public Health England and the authorities to limit the spread of coronavirus.”

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