Manchester Uni offers students two-week rent reduction, rent strikers say is ‘insulting’

215 students have been withholding over £300,000 in rent

The University of Manchester has offered all students in uni accommodation a two-week rent reduction.

UoM Rent Strike, which earlier this term organised at least 215 Manchester freshers to withhold over £307,000 in rent and is now one of the key groups leading the occupation of Owens Park Tower, has called the offer “insulting”.

The university has just published a five-point “accommodation pledge“, which says: “There will be a reduction of two weeks’ rent for all students in our accommodation. This is equivalent to around 20 per cent rent reduction for the remaining ten weeks of Semester One. This will be applied to your next payment taken in January 2021.”

Other parts of the “pledge” include being able to “break your accommodation agreement without financial penalty”, “better maintenance support”, “tackling antisocial behaviour” through an anonymous report system, and “additional Covid-19-compliant meeting and study facilities” being provided in “main residences”.

However, UoM Rent Strike have called the two-week rent reduction pledge “insulting”, in light of the 40 per cent overall rent reduction they are asking for. Speaking to The Manchester Tab, they said: “We completely reject this insulting offer and continue to ask for a meeting with the university management. The demand of 40 per cent remains the same and the occupation will continue whilst the January rent strike will ramp up and go ahead.”

The group says they and the rest of the occupiers have received “no communication”, and says “the university has refused every attempt at discussion we’ve offered.” In a tweet, they said the uni is still yet to “open negotiations” with the strikers and occupiers.

The Rent Strike group has already begun signing people up for January, and told The Manchester Tab: “We’re ready to continue and escalate for as long as it takes.”

It’s also been announced the University of Bristol, where over 1,200 students have been withholding £1 million in rent, has now offered its rent strikers a 10-day rent rebate – but only if they have paid full rent by the 1st February 2021.

In October, a University of Manchester spokesperson said about the rent strike: “We fully understand that these are challenging and difficult times for all our students, especially those who are self-isolating in university accommodation, and we are doing all we can to support them.

“Our students – subject to their course requirements – have an informed choice as to whether to study in person in Manchester or remotely. The UK Government advice for Greater Manchester is that students are strongly encouraged to remain in their current accommodation and not return to their family home or other residential accommodation.

“If in exceptional circumstances students wish to return home for a period and no longer require their University accommodation, we will work with them to make sure they can safely leave the campus. Details of how to do this were emailed to all halls residents on 9 October 2020.

“We have put in place a comprehensive support package for all students who are self-isolating, which includes a partnership with a major food retailer, delivery of parcels, wellbeing support, and assistance with practical matters such as arranging for laundry and prescription medicines. All students have been sent this information which includes clear guidance on the circumstances under which they are able to leave their accommodation whilst self-isolating.

“We continue to provide support for all students in our halls of residence, and students can contact their local ResLife team for help and advice, at any time.”

The University of Manchester has been contacted for additional comment. 

Stock featured image via SWNS.

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