‘I haven’t been back since reading week’: Why UoN students are withholding rent this term

They feel unsupported, mistreated and ignored

Over 950 University of Nottingham students have signed up to participate in a rent strike, where they are set to withhold over £2 million in rent money.

The campaign, run by ‘Notts Uni Rent Strike’ outlines three main demands: a no-penalty contract release, with full deposit refunds for anyone wishing to move out of halls before the end of their contract. Additionally, they are striking for a 40 per cent rent reduction for the entire academic year, and no repercussions for those involved in the strike action.

We spoke to a few of the students participating in this campaign, to find out exactly why they are striking.

‘I have OCD, yet during isolation I was given no support or help with tasks that are really difficult for me’

Molly Allen, a first year studying English with History of Art, has a support plan in place to help her with her OCD. While they’ve been “great”, on the academic side of things, none of this support has been extended to her accommodation in Hugh Stewart.

“I have contamination based OCD, so I struggle to do things like laundry and changing my bed by myself”, she told the Tab Nottingham. “During isolation, we weren’t allowed people from outside our household groups into our rooms. This was really difficult for me, because my boyfriend, who usually undertakes these things for me, was not able to come and help me without facing disciplinary action for breaking the rules.”

On top of this, Molly notes how this situation was made even more difficult for her when the laundry machines stopped functioning for a number of days in the first couple of weeks of term. She said: “I tried multiple times to contact the hall porter at Hugh Stewart about the issues, but there was no answer at any point, and none of the numbers provided to give help answered any of my calls.

“This coupled up with not being able to phone the accommodation offices about issues and only receiving automated emails meant living in halls was extremely isolating and there was such little support that I was left in no other position but to go back to my family home from the point of reading week, and I haven’t been back since.

“Yet I still am expected to uphold my half of the accommodation contract which has been breached in so many ways on the university’s side (no cleaners, the reception of the hall was closed, no answer from hall porter etc.). I literally have no idea how they are getting away with it and something needs to be done. That’s why I’m striking.”

‘It isn’t right for us to pay for accommodation we can’t use, especially when it can be such a struggle to afford in the first place’

Lewis Sharp, a third year student who lives in Albion House (Broadgate Park), has been struggling to pay rent this year, after losing his job shortly before Christmas.

He told the Nottingham Tab: “I work part time in a local warehouse to cover the costs, however lost this job shortly before Christmas. Having returned home and now to be told I can’t go back by the government, who are also at fault, I’m covering rent out of my own pocket for somewhere I don’t even live.

“The university talk about uniting as a community, but there’s no hardship fund for students who’s loans don’t cover their accommodation costs. It isn’t right for us to pay for accommodation we can’t effectively use- especially when it can be such a struggle to afford in the first place.”

‘They ignored my dietary restrictions and gave me pork during isolation, even though I’m Jewish’

When required to isolate earlier in the term, Zoe, a first year student living in Nightingale Halls, made sure to communicate with the catering staff that she could not eat any pork, due to her religious beliefs. Despite this, she was repeatedly given Ham and Cheese sandwiches- and with little amenities to provide for herself during this time, was left hungry with nothing to eat.

Now, she’s participating in the strike action, she says: “because I’m paying rent for a room I’m not legally allowed to use at the moment, paying for food that I’m not eating and facilities I’m not using.

“I think that the university are trying to take advantage of their students by not offering any reduction or even any updates about whether we can come back, and they are telling different students different things about returning. It’s not right and something has to be done.”

In response to these complaints, the university are now offering a rent refund for students unable to return to campus this term.

A spokesperson for the University of Nottingham said: “We appreciate that the sudden news of the latest lockdown has caused considerable anxiety for everyone. Since Monday, when the Government announced further changes to the return of students to campus, staff across the University have been working hard to to support our students on the issue of accommodation fees.

“We will be offering a support package for students in University-owned or leased and managed accommodation. Students who are not studying on a programme that currently allows them to return for in-person teaching and are not using their room will not be required to pay accommodation fees from the start of term – 10 January – up to and including the date they start to occupy their room or the projected re-start of in-person teaching on 13 February, whichever is earlier.

“Students studying on courses that have been advised by government to return for in-person teaching and those that return to their accommodation for any reason before 14 February will be liable for their full accommodation fees.”

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