A group of furious students are fundraising to take their university to court over “pest-infested and mouldy” accommodation that left inhabitants suffering “health crises, distraction and distress”.
London School of Economics (LSE) students claim conditions in Sidney Webb House, a postgraduate halls of residence near Borough Market, were so bad that inhabitants suffered respiratory infections and allergic reactions - while another had to undergo surgery due to a skin infection.
Because of these health issues, some students will not graduate on time and others will be forced to pay to take missed exams next year, the group of more than 215 students say.
They also argue that occupants of the building, managed by Unite Students, were left without heating and hot water, while a noisy construction project was launched just weeks before students’ final exams.
“Living conditions and quality of life rapidly deteriorated during our time at Sidney Webb House and reached unacceptably low levels, in recurrent and systemic violation of our licence contract,” the group said.
“The mental and physical health, academic performance and overall well-being of the student residents was significantly impacted.
“Rodent infestations were rife, while breakdown of essential facilities such as drinking water, water heating, bedroom heating, elevator service, and cooking facilities were systemically ignored, delayed, and/or not resolved.”
Rashee Mehra, who lived there between September 2016 and June 2017, told HuffPost UK: “I had a problem with my room the day I moved in. The room was not cleaned, there was a foul stench from the carpet and curtains. There was dust all over the room.
“Other residents also complained about foul carpets, curtains and broken lights. The toilets regularly broke - from broken toilet seats, clogged pipes, to no hot water, rusted and shower rods that could fall and cause injury. The vents in most bathrooms did not work.”
Postgraduates set to live in the building for the 2017/18 academic year will be charged between £6,933.15 and £9,123.30 for a 40 week stay.
The students have launched a crowdfunding project in an attempt to raise enough money to take LSE to court.
To date, the group have raised £2,300 of their £5,000 target, saying they have “exhausted” the university’s complaints procedure.
“The London School of Economics and Political Science is renowned for its academic rigour, and most of us are full-time students who have left behind jobs, incurring huge debts to fulfill our dreams of achieving a better education,” the CrowdJustice page reads.
“We came here to study law, human rights, governance and economics, and we sincerely wish that this could have remained our primary concern.”
The postgrads hope that successful legal action would reduce the risk of other universities and housing companies from “exploiting” vulnerable students.
A spokesperson for LSE, a Russell Group university, said that Sidney Webb House is set to be refurbished over the summer, while student complaints are being investigated.
“We take student welfare issues in our halls seriously,” they said.
“Onsite pastoral care is provided to students by an LSE warden, who is an academic member of staff, and a team of LSE sub wardens. The building is also staffed 24 hours a day by Unite staff and night security who are able to respond to issues as they arise.”
A representative for Unite Students said it aims “to provide the best possible accommodation and experience for our residents” and denied “any suggestion” that the accommodation was the cause of any resident’s ill health.
“Any class action being prepared by a student against LSE is a matter between those two parties and therefore we do not wish to comment,” they said.
“In recognition that on this occasion at Sidney Webb House, students’ experience fell below perfect, Unite Students offered all 450 residents a payment of £100 each, as a gesture of good-will.”