London students prepare to join the rent strikes: Which universities are striking?
Here is all the info you need to get involved in the rent strikes across London
to Rent strikes are taking place across the country in light of the latest government announcement which effectively prevents students from being able to access their campus.
Students from across London are joining the strike at their own universities. UCL, Queen Mary’s, UAL, Goldsmiths, King’s and LSE will all be participating in the strike as well as the University of London intercollegiate halls.
Find out how the strike is working for each London University here, as well as why students are taking a stand.
What is a rent strike?
A rent strike is a form of protest commonly used against large landlords. Typically a group of tenants come together and withhold their rent payments en masse until a specific list of demands are met by their landlord. Common themes across all of the London Universities’ Rent Strike demands are partial refunds for students living in halls, job security for staff whose jobs have been endangered by the pandemic, and better mental health support for students isolating in halls of residence.
Here’s what each London Uni is asking for:
Goldsmiths Rent Strike
Goldsmiths students have been calling for a rent strike since early December. Their Instagram posts from across December attest to shocking levels of neglect in halls (broken heating, mouldy ceilings).
They have said “The Goldsmiths Rent strike is run for students, by students and needs YOUR help. As a movement the rent strike needs to be directly accountable to those it is serving: you, the students!” and “Are we really expected to keep up with our studies or isolate with covid symptoms when we don’t deven have wifi or a working hob?”
They claim “We cannot oppose these injustices or this mood of fear and powerlessness alone. We must come together and use our collective voice to shout loud and clear: “STOP”. Every student’s voice is important and that is why we are asking for students living in halls to stand up for what is right and represent their friends, coursemates and fellow students with this rent strike”.
In their Instagram captions, the strike organisers have also sought to inform potential strikers of the risks involved in not paying rent and the ways in which they can ensure they do not pay rent by accident i.e. by direct debit.
More information at @goldrentstrike
Kings College London
The Kings Rent Strikers plan to send their list of demands to the Kings Board of Management later this month, their demands include:
• A 30% rebate off rent for the year
• A no-penalty early release clause for tenancy contracts for all academic years
• A total review of standards of living across all KCL Student Accommodation and KCL Affiliated Halls of Residence
• A re-evaluation of the inefficient maintenance and security systems at KCL halls, to include Mental health, disability and diversity training for all staff
• An end to all evictions for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, not just a slowdown on the eviction process
• Better provision for students with physical or mental illnesses as well as students isolating with Covid-19
• No repercussions for rent strikers
• Over 150 Kings Students have pledged to strike so far – expect to see more over the coming days.
For more information go to @kcl_rentstrike
These are the demands issued by the LSE rent strikers:
• A 30% reduction of rent for those choosing to live in LSE halls of residence
• No repercussions for rent strikers
• No-penalty contract releases and deposit refunds
• No staff redundancies
• Proper quarantine food and mental health support (catering for all dietary requirements)
• Open the books: access to the University’s finances regarding rent payments; where does the money go?
• Student democracy: there should be students involved in the management of the university’s finances
• Our license agreements should be turned into tenancy agreements
More information available at @lserentstrike
Queen Mary University
Yesterday Rent Strike QMUL surpassed 200 pledges by students to withhold rent!
The QMUL rent strikers are calling for other students to join them in not paying rent for their student halls. They have created a petition for strikers to sign and their demands are for the University Residences to initiate:
• A 30% rent reduction for all students in halls for the remainder of the 2020/21 academic year
• No-penalty early tenancy release clauses for home and international students from their rent contracts (for future academic years too)
• No job losses for cleaning, maintenance and teaching staff who work in QMUL Halls or in QMUL teaching, plus better health and safety protection
• Increase the support the University can offer for students in the QMUL Halls of Residence by allowing students alone in halls to bubble up with other houses during lockdowns and providing sufficient food, laundry and post for students in isolation as well as better and more consistent mental health support for students
• The university to take no disciplinary action against rent strikers
• The QMUL petition is an incredible example of students using the leverage they have to ask for general improvements not just for themselves but staff too.
• The QMUL rent strikers also provide advice and instructions on how students can cancel their direct debit payments to their halls on Instagram @rentstrikeqmul
University of the Arts London (UAL)
UAL have sent an email to the University’s Executive Board, the Dean, the Vice Chancellor and iQ management. They wrote that from early January “large numbers of students will be withholding their rent payments from UAL run halls and iQ” because “students were promised facilities we are not being given access to, and many halls put up their rent prices from the previous year despite the closure of communal areas and workspaces”.
The UAL email also references the poor living conditions provided by some of their Halls including “mouse infestations, broken windows, falling ceilings and long periods without running water”.
These are the UAL students’ demands:
• A rent reduction of 30% for all currently residing in UAL halls and The Costume store, including a 30% refund of the first terms accommodation fees.
• No penalty contract releases and deposit refunds for any student who wishes to terminate their contract prematurely on the basis students shouldn’t have to pay for accommodation they cannot stay in.
• No staff redundancies – technicians, cleaners and any staff whose jobs are at risk in the pandemic
• Better mental health support made available to students in halls and retraining of all halls staff in mental health support
• Full access to workshop spaces in UAL halls
• No repercussions for rent strikers
Their Instagram page already has over 1000 followers! You can find it at @ualrentstrike
On why they are striking, Cut the rent UCL has said “Rent is everyone’s problem. As a collective action against exploitative landlords, we challenge the concept of rent itself. We fight for everyone to have access to safe housing no matter their means.”
They have also said this in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic and the latest Lockdown measures: “We’re resisting the marketised university that profiteers from students’ extortionate rents, not just reduced service during the pandemic. Covid-19 has accentuated the injustices that already existed.”
Their petition is part of a larger Student initiative led by the University of London Intercollegiate Halls, that aims to convince the UCL Student Union to Support the UoL rent strike. This petition highlights how coronavirus has disproportionately affected students and how University accommodations have become hotspots of the virus, confining many students to their room and limiting their University experience further. They also emphasise the extortionate prices that University students were being subjected to long before the coronavirus reared its ugly head, referring to the fact that “the cost of rent nationally in halls of residence doubled in ten years between 2002 and 2012 and there is no sign of rent rises ceasing”.
Cut the rent UCL’s petition calls on students to take action by signing their petition and withholding rent. They are also appealing for the UCL Student’s Union to hold a referendum on support for the University of London Intercollegiate Rent Strike. The petition asks that the Union:
• Provides financial support of at least £400 for the campaign
• Raises awareness via the SU email lists and social media
• Lobbies with the UoL management to meet and negotiate with rent strike delegates
• Issues a statement of support and solidarity with the rent strike
• Provides printing and other campaign resources available to the SU
To find out more you can find them @cuttherentucl on Instagram.
University of London Intercollegiate Rent Strike is organised to support those students in intercollegiate halls such as Garden Halls, Connaught Halls, College Halls and International Halls.
They have made the following statement:
“We, the students in University of London halls, are organising against the exorbitant rents charged, frequent threats of eviction and homelessness, exploitation of international students, and the University’s indifference in the face of multiple cases of highly disturbing cases of sexual assault.
Our demands are as follows:
1. A 40% annual rent reduction for all those who decide to remain in halls.
2. No-penalty contract releases and deposit refunds for anyone who wishes to move out of halls.
3. A commitment from the University of London that there will be no compulsory staff redundancies as a result of the ongoing restructuring.
4. Proper quarantine food and mental health support (catering for all dietary requirements: kosher, halal, vegan, etc.)
5. No repercussions for rent strikers.
We were encouraged to move into halls and used as cash cows by the university, intent on protecting its own financial interests over its students’ well-being. Despite the pandemic and unemployment crisis, no consideration has been given to students’ wellbeing or their ability to pay. Annual rent for many students tops £10,000, yet the average student loan is only £6,859. In normal times, 59% of students need to work alongside their studies, and 1 in 7 students work full time to pay the bills. The current crisis has meant that many of us are struggling to cope financially, having to choose between paying rent or being able to afford basic necessities.
Most UoL colleges have made the sensible decision to move teaching online this year. This is understandable, given the pandemic and the risk to both academics and students. However, that we have been forced to pay some of the highest student rent in the country, as well as £9,250 in tuition fees, is scandalous.
The way the pandemic has been handled has been, at best, negligent and blunt. Many halls forced entire floors to self isolate for weeks when just one person had mild symptoms, regardless of their recent contacts. The worst effects of this were felt by international students who had, in many cases, just been through two weeks of travel quarantine. The effect of this on our mental health has been serious, yet there has been little recognition, or help offered.”
To find out more you can find them @uol.intercollegiate_rentstrike on Instagram.