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London University Rent Strike Sees Students Withhold £1m In Payments

Hitting the universities where it hurts.

06/05/2016 14:47 | Updated 06 May 2016

More than one thousand students at universities across London are withholding £1m in rent as part of a protest against ever-increasing charges.

The rent strike, which organisers say is the largest of its kind by students, is in response to excessive prices and poor quality accommodation.

Students from University College London (UCL), Goldsmiths, Roehampton and the Courtauld Institute are among those refusing to meet rent deadlines.

Those taking part in the are refusing to pay their rent - with hundreds of students saying they declined to make payments that were due this week.

Some 300 students at Goldsmiths say they didn't meet their payment deadline on Monday, while 700 students have pledged to refuse to do so at UCL on Friday.

Dozens more are expected to do the same at Roehampton and Courtauld Institute, the Guardian reported. 

It's believed rents at UCL have risen by 40% since 2010. Protestors cite a reduction of 40% as part of their demands.

Complaints about poor quality accommodation go back years. Last November, UCL paid compensation of around £300,000 to students who reported rat infestations and excessive noise pollution.

Some £100,000 was paid to another group of students by UCL in October.

Joe, a student at Goldsmiths, told the Guardian: "Three hundred students at Goldsmiths are on strike because of impossible rents and unacceptable conditions in halls.

"Many are increasingly being put off studying in London because rental costs are just too high.

"We believe universities, wherever they are, have a duty to make sure money isn’t a barrier to education."

Last week students took to the streets near UCL's campus in Bloomsbury to protest against rent rises and the removal of support for low-income students.

Students at UCL pay as much as £260 per week for single accommodation.

Shelly Asquith, the National Union of Students' vice-president for welfare, said a national rent strike would receive the body's support.

She said: "NUS fully supports the actions of the students on rent strike and the wider campaign for fair rents.

"If a national rent strike for affordable student housing were to happen, the union would support it 100%."

The UCL spokesperson said: "We appreciate affordability is a real issue in London. This affects our students, it also impacts on us as a university as it is a challenge finding affordable space for us to work in in the heart of the capital."

They said a demand to reduce rents by 40% was "unrealistic".

A spokesperson from the University of Roehampton’s Accommodation Office said: "Eight students have confirmed that they have withheld payment of their final rent installment for student accommodation at Mount Clare and Chadwick Hall."

They confirmed maintenance issues were being dealt with in those accommodation blocks.

Goldsmiths said: "We understand that housing is a real issue in the capital ­which is why we work hard to keep our rents as low as possible.

"We’ve met with the student campaign group to discuss ways of meeting their demands but they have told us they are unable to offer any suggestions as to how these can be achieved."

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