St Andrews poised to take legal action over council’s proposed rent increase

‘The anger of our students is entirely understandable’

The University of St Andrews will be seeking legal advice to contest Fife council's decision to massively increase local rent prices.

Following the council's decision to raise the fee paid by landlords of Houses in Multiple Accommodation (HMO), the University says  the "inexplicable" decision has left St Andrews "no option but to commission legal opinion" while they await further discussions.

"To our students it appears that the council is effectively seeking to fill its own pockets, damage a key local employer and inhibit our ability to provide affordable housing for our students," a spokesperson told The St Andrews Tab. "In these circumstances, the anger of our students is entirely understandable."

The proposed price hike was heavily criticised by St Andrews Students' Association President, Jamie Rodney, who sent all students an email expressing his frustration on Tuesday.

"Fife Council recently raised the Universities HMO Bill by 800 per cent", he wrote. "From around £54,000 to £512,000, a cost which will be passed on to students.

"They've given us this huge rise by unilaterally deciding to treat each flat in DRA as a separate HMO rather than each block, letting them screw a further £434,000 out of students."

Jamie said the move would set a "bad" precedent and will force students out of halls as prices continue to rise.

“For several months, we have been quietly asking Fife Council to explain and justify this sudden move to impose a massive rise in fees," a University spokesperson told The St Andrews Tab. "We have also repeatedly sought a sensible resolution.

“To date, they have been unable or unwilling to do so.

“In these circumstances, the anger of our students is entirely understandable.

“The council has now offered to talk to us, but these discussions have yet to take place. In the meantime, we have been left with no option but to commission legal opinion.”

The St Andrews Campaign for Affordable Student Housing (C.A.S.H) has also condemned the changes. They have complained that accommodation for 2017-2018 were £6486 per year for en-suite self catered. Next year, prices will rise to £7073.

The motion passed unanimously through the SRC said: "The vast majority of this price uplift (85%) comes from Fife Council’s decision to treat each individual flat in David Russell Apartments as a separate HMO, rather than each block as previously."

The bill also claimed that, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the university, the cost to Fife Council of renewing all of the University’s HMOs was £80,000. ”

We spoke to students who objected to the changes. Andrew, a final year student who lived in Andrew Melville Hall for his first year, told The Tab "obviously it's really unfair on returning students, but it also really doesn't help with the unis elitist image problem. The situation just makes living here much harder for people from low income backgrounds, especially given the state of rent in town."

When asked whether rising hall costs impacted his move into private accommodation, Andrew said "it was definitely a big factor" in his decision. He continued, "even though the rent in town is pretty extortionate I was able to find somewhere a bit cheaper"

Lauren, a first-year student, also said she disagreed with the price hikes. She said "even though it’s my first experience of the price increases I think it’s a bit ridiculous. For those who are choose to live in halls because they are a cheaper option or are forced to move back in because they can’t get a property in town, it can cause financial stress on top of the daily stresses of being a student. Me and a lot of my friends feel totally helpless about the whole situation."

Lauren said she had not "managed to get a house in town so our only option is now halls. It’s just another blow."

An open letter has been created to object to the changes to HMO costs, which can be found here.