Staff and student anger as Bristol Uni hires debt collectors to collect unpaid rent
‘Rent Strike Bristol believes that this sets a dangerous precedent and could potentially damage student mental health’
Bristol Uni have hired a third party debt collector company, STA International, to collect debts from students who haven’t yet paid their rent for living in halls.
Students were informed of this on 3rd May via email and told that STA International could pursue them 14 days after this notice.
Rent Strike Bristol believes that this sets a dangerous precedent and could potentially damage student mental health, especially during the exam period.
Alice, a participant in the Bristol rent strike said: “Financially being a student this year has been really tough, jobs are hard to find and the university threatening this action is upsetting.
“Having an outside company potentially affect our finances and credit score is really scary”.
However, Bristol Uni says that this is their last resort after all other procedures have failed.
Robert Kerse, Chief Operating Officer for Bristol Uni, said: “Multiple contacts have been made with students who have not paid, primarily to extend support at this very difficult time.
“The latest letter tells them that the debt may be passed to a company, as is standard procedure once we have exhausted our own income collection processes, which have been extended by 3 months this year. We have pre-agreed that no debt will be sent to an outside collection organisation until June 10 at the earliest.
“We have regularly reminded students what support is available and have encouraged them to get in touch if they’re having any financial difficulties.
“We do not make a surplus from student rent and all accommodation fees are used for operating, maintaining and improving our halls of residence. This includes 24/7 pastoral and wellbeing support.
“Our hardship funds are uncapped and available to all students, regardless of landlord, during this challenging period”.
“We are continuing discussions with the rent strikers and will be meeting with them this Friday.”
Bristol Uni professor, Dr Oscar Berglund waded into the debate slamming the university’s action. He argued: “How on earth can you claim to care about student wellbeing if you set debt collectors upon your 18 year old students?” He has called on the university to “do the right thing and forgive this debt”.
The money that these students owe is negligible compared to what to uni would have lost had it acted morally. It’s a cost that the university can absorb. 4/5
— Oscar Berglund (@berglund_oscar) May 11, 2021
Rent Strike Bristol claims that Bristol Uni can hold on to debt for 12 months before going to a third-party debt collector. They believe the university are acting prematurely, with unpaid rent only dating back to October, seven months ago. Bristol Uni have disputed this saying that no such 12 month policy exists.
Bristol Uni also says that they are working closely with STA International to make sure students’ wellbeing is not negatively affected. They reiterate that “student wellbeing remains our top priority”.