YOUNG VOICES

Bristol University Refunds Students For 'Poor Living Conditions'

23/07/2015 10:20 BST | Updated 23/07/2015 10:59 BST

Bristol University was forced to refund money to a number of its students living in halls following "poor living conditions", including strangers entering bedrooms without permission, and unannounced.

But students in Hiatt Baker Halls at the university have expressed their dissatisfaction following rebates, saying the amount of money was "unacceptable", according to student paper, Epigram.

Despite the university claiming construction would end in September 2014, with continuous delays this has been the third year of refunds the university has had to issue. In previous years the rebate has been closer to £700 in comparison to this year's £50 to £300 on offer, and students now feel in the context of the £5,800 they have paid in rent during the 2014/15 year, the amount is unacceptable.

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Samar put together a collection of pictures as evidence of the disruption.

Simon Bray, Director of Residential and Hospitality Services has said “Following consultation with student representatives at Hiatt Baker and University staff, a letter making an offer of payment was sent last week to all residents who were affected by the impact of the prolonged finishing and landscaping works. As part of the process it was noted that students within the blocks did experience different levels of disruption and the resulting payments were calculated accordingly."

Students living the halls have not only been disturbed by constant noise from the construction site, but have put up with workers entering their flats and even bedrooms without permission, often in large groups. One student was woken in the early morning by two men coming into her bedroom to check the fire alarm, another mentioned witnessing a group of workers enter a friend's bedroom and comment on her belongings.

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Construction work at Hiatt Baker.

Female students in particular say they have been made to feel very unsafe in the knowledge that builders have master keys to their bedrooms. One student described how she was locked out of her bedroom and became aware that through having a master key, it was entirely possible for builders to enter her personal space at any time which made her "feel very vulnerable as a girl".

Others have added that the issues have been "distressing and disruptive" especially as it concerns "complete strangers".

Residents of the halls feel their complaints are not being taken seriously by the university and have found the accommodation department entirely ignored most of their emails and phone calls, so moved to express their frustration through complaint letters, photos and videos providing evidence of noise disruption. This year's students claim their experience has been even worse than that of past generations of Hiatt Baker inhabitants.

Ex-Hiatt Baker resident Samar, told Epigram: "The real travesty is the means by which the University has dealt with our simple and sound request for reimbursement. They are incredibly desensitised to the desires or needs of students and the fact that they blatantly ignored requests and complaints from over 80 residents this year is proof of this."

"Two years ago, they paid Hiatt Baker residents who endured the same amount of disturbance we did 14% of their rent; this year they have decided we deserve only 5% and many of us only 0.8%!"

He added "It is crucial to note that the 5,800 per annum charge for staying at Hiatt Baker is not even covered by the maintenance grant that we receive from the government, not even close. Not only was every resident who was not born to a family that is a member of a social class higher than the lower middle class have to implore their parents to support them in paying for a roof over their head, at Hiatt Baker self-catered the roof over our head had many cracks."

However, Bristol University has given a contrasting account of the problems faced by these students, Bray stated: "Contractors access to the buildings was restricted to between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday, and all access cards were programmed for those times only. None of the builders access cards gave access to student bedrooms.

"[We] sincerely regret the disruption experienced by residents of Hiatt Baker Hall as a result of prolonged finishing works carried out by our contractors Following discussions with student representatives from Hiatt Baker, a letter making an offer of compensation has been sent to all students affected."

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Hiatt Baker Self Catered Halls.

According to Bray, Bristol are "now in the process of evaluating the feedback comments received from Hiatt Baker residents as a result of this letter".

He added: "Once we have considered all the responses from the residents, a meeting will be arranged to discuss their comments and the next steps."

Unfortunately Bristol students are not alone in their frustration, The Square, student newspaper for City University reported complaints from new students who turned up on their first day to find their accommodation remained a construction site. As for Hiatt Baker, rent is set to increase once again in the coming academic year to £6,056.