University students have declared a rent strike, in protest at what they say are ‘high rents for dilapidated and unsanitary conditions in university accommodation’.
University of Sussex students at Kings Road Halls on Brighton seafront allege the block suffers ‘rodent infestations’, broken kitchen and bathroom appliances, and that some flats are without hot water.
They added that ‘constant construction work frequently renders rooms uninhabitable due to noise and dust pollution, forcing students to vacate their rooms during working hours’.
The University of Sussex said it is addressing ‘temporary issues’ but it doesn’t recognise all of the claims by students.
Supported by the Brighton branch of ACORN renters’ union, over a third of the 110 residents of Kings Road Hall said they will withhold their rent, which is £502 a month, until full repairs are carried out and tenants are adequately compensated for disruption caused by ongoing building work.
The strike comes just days after it emerged that the university had awarded the last Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, a £230,000 leaving bonus.
Duncan Michie, ACORN organiser and third year Sussex chemistry student, said: “If they can spare the hundreds of thousands of pounds for university bosses, they can spare at least as much to compensate students enduring squalid housing conditions.”
Laura Stevens, a first year international relations student and Kings Road resident, said: “When I came to Brighton I was so excited to live in a great city. This accommodation has been a horrible shock. Universities shouldn’t rent out halls that are in such bad condition. I just want a flat without mice and black mould that I can afford - it’s not too much to ask.”
The union said the university has offered £35 per month in compensation, but that students had rejected this as ‘insulting, given the continuous and highly negative impact on our quality of life’.
The students are asking for: immediate and total repair of all maintenance issues reported by tenants; compensation of £100 per month for the duration of construction works; provision of a free travel card for every resident given the increased need to commute into the main campus; compensation for all expenses incurred by tenants owing to accommodation faults.
Jack Carpentiere, a first year criminology and sociology student and rent striker, said: “We will not back down, until we get what we deserve.”
Ethan Richold, first year student and rent striker, said: “Our movement will only escalate as we reach out to more students who feel that the university are taking them for a ride.”
A spokesperson for ACORN Brighton said: “Britain has thousands of dodgy landlords, who make their money by renting poor quality accommodation for extortionate prices. Sadly, the managers of the University of Sussex are no different. As members of ACORN renters’ union, we stand in full support of the thousands of students and renters getting organised around the country. We will no longer be exploited.”
A University of Sussex spokesperson said: “All of the University’s managed accommodation, whether it is on campus or in the city, meets our quality standards. We regularly check all of our properties and ask that our students report any maintenance requirements so they can be rectified quickly.
“While we are already addressing some temporary issues, we don’t recognise all of the claims that have been put forward but we are in active discussions with the Students’ Union and directly with our students about these.”