Students organise against landlords; rent strike possible
In response to emails sent from estate agents regarding rent during the COVID-19 lockdown, students are organising to demand fair treatment.
The movement follows the success of 130 Bristol students whose refusal to pay rent has succeeded in Digs Residential Lettings offering zero rent for vacant properties, or half if occupied.
Gathering over 200 likes and 60 comments in an hour, Tristan Thomas’s post on ‘Overheard at University of Exeter’ proposed an open letter, or alternatively stopping rent payments to demand “at the very least a reduction and re-negotiation in the amount of rent to be paid during the current crisis.”
He argued that “students for too long have simply accepted the bullish and selfish behaviour of landlords and agencies alike. In a time where we need to come together as a society, let’s show them that the students of Exeter are united against what we believe to be unfair and unjust treatment.”
Students for too long have simply accepted the bullish and selfish behaviour of landlords and agencies alikeExeter Students for Rent Reductions
With over 900 students joining the group Exeter Students For Rent Reductions, an open letter was sent to landlords and estate agents on 14 April.
Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw responded to one student’s enquiry “many private landlords or small letting agencies will be unable to afford to lose rental payments because this could jeopardise their livelihoods or businesses where they don’t qualify for Government support.”
However, he did co-sign a letter on 2 April from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students which called for reimbursement for vacated properties.
Unfortunately we are not in a position to simply agree to none payment of rent.Star Lettings, 25 Mar
An email sent by Star Lettings to its student tenants insisted that “we are very sympathetic in relation to what may be a very difficult time/position for you, however we are sure you can appreciate as mentioned above, we are all in this together and we are all directly affected.”
They also note “Unfortunately we are not in a position to simply agree to none payment of rent. At present we advise you to continue to pay your rent as normal.”
A Q&A section in the email also states “your tenancy is for a fixed term and cannot be terminated until the end of this period.”
Whilst the government has not announced any specific CV-19 related assistance for student rents, they of course already have the Student Loan system operating and continue to pay those loans.Cardens, 26 Mar
Cardens Estate Agents also sent a similar email, explaining that “whilst empathising with our tenants, we act as agents for private landlords and are employed to manage their properties and collect rents.”
They also outlined their expectation for students to rely on loans to pay rent regardless of whether or not the property was vacant:
“Whilst the government has not announced any specific CV-19 related assistance for student rents, they of course already have the Student Loan system operating and continue to pay those loans.”
To get involved, join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/219586096037097/
Have you spoken to your landlord or agency about rent during the pandemic? Get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org