200 King’s students have signed up to rent strike

They say they’re tired of ‘appalling living conditions’

Last semester, thousands of students across universities withheld their rent payments, protesting poor halls conditions and meagre university mental health support, among other issues. King’s has now joined the growing list of universities with student rent strike groups. The King’s Tab spoke to the organisers of KCL Rent Strike, the group drawing attention to student “hall horrors” experiences and campaigning for rent rebates.

‘There’s been countless reports of harassment from security, racial profiling from reception, and lack of disabled access in halls’

The KCL Rent Strike group began spreading awareness by anonymously sharing difficult student hall experiences, dubbed “hall horrors,” on their Instagram page. The student response was astounding– they have so far collected over 100 responses from students. “We set up a Google form to anonymously collect complaints, and found massively widespread problems of basic amenities not working across residences, and management incompetence in resolving these issues,” the organisers said.

Via Instagram @kcl_rentstrike

In addition to this, they said there was a “lack of support” for isolating students. “There were complaints of King’s residences sending students mouldy food, or only sending food after the flat had finished isolating.” The group also received “countless reports of harassment from security, racial profiling from reception, and lack of disabled access in halls.” The group decided to post multiple student experiences in order to “get the word out, and get students together to speak out about the terrible living conditions in many King’s residences.”

Via Instagram @kcl_rentstrike

‘It’s really inspiring to see students at other universities achieving rent rebates’

Speaking to The King’s Tab, one of the rent strikers highlighted the importance of resolving the maintenance issues that so many students living in halls say they are facing. “Maintenance issues aren’t being logged, leading to prolonged periods where flats are without running water or other amenities. Many students continue to live in mouldy rooms with bedbug and silverfish infestations.”

They went on to say: “We received a report from a student with severe type 1 diabetes being forced to store medication in food fridges, which is incredibly unsanitary. King’s needs to have better provisions for students with medical issues and physical disabilities.” The significant amount of similarly reported experiences is what drew the group to ask for a re-evaluation of living standards at King’s residences.

The organisers said they were glad to hear of rent rebates occurring at other UK universities, like the University of Manchester. “It’s really inspiring to see students achieving reduced rent cuts through organised efforts. Students are paying extortionate rent fees for a non-existent ‘university experience,’ this just can’t go on.”

‘There’s a lot of fear of the legal and educational repercussions of a rent strike’

The group added that while there has been an “overwhelming response of students” willing to take part, “there’s a lot of fear of legal and educational repercussions of a rent strike.” Through spreading awareness, the group is “hoping to ensure people know that legal and educational repercussions are unlikely. No one has been kicked out of uni for a rent strike till date.”

Speaking about why they feel the need to campaign for a rent strike, the organisers told The King’s Tab: “Rent cuts are absolutely what we deserve after being lured hundreds of miles away from home, to appalling living conditions, with false promises. King’s assured us of a blended learning approach, but so far everything has been online.” The group’s plan of action includes urging students to sign a petition with a list of demands addressed to the University, followed by students rent striking until those demands are met. As of today, 200 King’s students have signed the petition and pledged to withhold their rent as part of the strike.

Earlier this week, the group released their list of demands. The list includes a 30 per cent rent rebate for the full year’s rent, a no-penalty early release clause from student tenancy contracts for two years, a total review of living standards across all KCL student accommodations, and a re-evaluation of the maintenance and security system at King’s residences that includes mental health, disability and diversity training for all staff.

The group also goes on to demand an end to all evictions during the pandemic, better university mental health provisions, and a guarantee of no repercussions for those participating in rent strikes.

A King’s College London spokesperson said: “Students who have not been able to use their accommodation because of the impact of travel restrictions during the national lockdown, will not be charged for the period they have not stayed with us.

In response to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, since September, we have ensured a range of flexible options and support for our students living in King’s accommodation. This includes the option to defer and cancel their accommodation contracts in line with the teaching plans for the semester, reimbursement for any periods of self-isolation or quarantine and the delivery of food care packages. Where our Residences Team are made aware of any individual student concerns, they address these as soon as possible.

The mental health and wellbeing of our students is our utmost priority and our Residences Team has been supporting our students throughout the year. This includes regular check-ins with students in self-isolation, enhanced online ResiLife activity and out of hours support from our Welfare Leads within Residences. Students can find information about how to access our other Student Support & Wellbeing on Student Services Online.

You can find more information about King’s Rent Strike here.

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