Liverpool students forced into temporary housing after no electricity or water for days

Students at The Exchange were left without heating whilst temperatures reached lows of -2 degrees

Liverpool students living at privately owned accommodation, The Exchange, were forced to move into temporary accommodation after a power outage.

Tenants were left without access to electricity and water on Monday 15th January, with outages continuing intermittently throughout the week and of yesterday are still left without power.

The University of Liverpool has offered students temporary accommodation until the problem is fixed.

Students living in The Exchange were notified of a power cut issue at 8pm on Monday 15th January. This was reportedly due to the local power grid “losing a phase”, resulting in one third of electrical circuits being switched off.

This resulted in all systems relying on electrical supply being out of use, including lighting, sockets, internet, lifts and hot water and the accommodation was only lit by emergency lighting. The whole building was also left without heating whilst temperatures reached lows of -2 degrees and it snowed outside.

Jannat Anwar, a media and communications student at the University of Liverpool, told The Liverpool Tab: “Everything just went black so everyone went down to the reception and then they emailed and sent us a message. A few days it was on and off with everything.”

An email sent to students from The Exchange on January 15th

Scottish Power arrived at The Exchange at around 9pm on Monday, identifying the power cut to be an energy provider issue and that the supply to the building had been isolated.

The Exchange further updated students at 11pm with information that two fire wardens would be patrolling the building as the emergency lighting would soon run out of charge. Staff were also in reception giving out water to tenants due to the supply being cut off.

Image of stairwells in darkness at The Exchange

Jannat said: “It was towards the evening and I came back and everything [the power] was gone. They’d said that even the emergency lights were about to turn off, they had nothing. That was the day it started to snow as well so it was freezing. We had no heating, no water, no electricity, nothing to charge.”

Crates of water were left in the lobby for tenants’ use during the night and the next morning. Pizza was ordered by staff and left in reception of the 400+ room building as students were rendered unable to cook for themselves.

Jannat told The Liverpool Tab: “They gave out water bottles and ordered some boxes of pizza for the whole building.”

Pizzas and water left in reception for tenants

“All night over 24 hours we didn’t have electricity. The next day the electricity was on but the water still wasn’t, so there wasn’t hot water for a few days but electricity had been turned back on.”

Power was reinstated in the building on Tuesday 16th at around 10pm, with tenants at The Exchange being informed via email that there may still be some lingering problems with taps due to air in the pipes.

Inoperable taps at The Exchange

However, another power issue occurred on Thursday 18th January, with The Exchange emailing students shortly after 9pm that one third of the building had once again been affected. The accommodation informed tenants shortly after, at around 10:30pm, that repairs would be unable to be fixed until 10am the next day [Friday 19th].

The email from The Exchange informed students that they may seek alternative accommodation which they would be reimbursed for but did not provide assistance to students in doing this.

The email read: “If your apartment is experiencing a full loss of power then you will be reimbursed should you need to seek alternative accommodation tonight. If you do seek this route then please provide evidence that your apartment was affected and keep your receipt of your accommodation.”

An email from The Exchange to students on Thursday 18th January

Jannat said: “They [The Exchange] didn’t try and get us alternative accommodation, we had to do that ourselves.”

The University of Liverpool then contacted tenants itself who it had on its records to be living in The Exchange, which lists its cheapest room labelled as a Standard Ensuite at £135 per week, and offered them assistance in finding temporary accommodation, writing in an email to students: “We have limited rooms available in our properties that we can offer until you are able to return to The Exchange.”

Email communication from the University of Liverpool to a tenant in The Exchange

University owned Philharmonic Court is currently being used as temporary accommodation for University of Liverpool students who have been affected by the blackout, with those affected being able to stay for two weeks.

Jannat explained how the university contacted her and offered assistance and alternative living arrangements, which she took: “They [the university] emailed me saying we’ve just found out about the situation, if you’re having troubles with accommodations etcetera, call us and we’ll sort something out and they’ve given me temporary accommodation for two weeks. But honestly it’s a bit far away. I live in the city centre right next to Lime Street so it’s a bit far but I’ll take anything at this point.”

Jannat said how the whole situation had left her “incredibly stressed” especially as it occurred during her January exams. She told The Liverpool Tab: “It’s made me really stressed and anxious because of how uncertain and unreliable everything is.

“It was full black out again last night and it was the same thing just bottles of water and one slice of pizza each. No heating, no water, no nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Students from The Exchange have now spoken with a local city councillor, Ian Humphreys, about the issues in the accommodation, along with some tenants’ parents, with many making formal complaints.

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