Oisin Duncan, Glasgow Young Socialists and Socialist Students
University students in Glasgow have begun a rent withholding campaign after their student accommodation company, Nido, expected students to continue to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Students Resident Committee has been set up to organise this protest. It is shameful, in such a difficult and stressful period, that student accommodation companies like Nido Student continue to firstly provide zero guidance on the future of tenants’ contracts, and secondly that they still expect to collect this month’s rent!
Glasgow Young Socialists have read the statement from the Student Resident Committee released today, and extend our full solidarity to those who have taken the impressive initiative to organise on this crucial issue of rent payments during the lockdown.
To echo and support the points made by the Committee in their statement, it is not only unfair but also totally impractical for Nido to expect rent payments while many students simply will not have the income available to cover these. As pointed out in the statement, the Student Loans Company will continue to pay out during the lockdown, but should this money be immediately paid on to the landlord?
Most student loan payments amount to around £1,000 for three months – Nido charges £580-700 a month for rent in Glasgow. The company is therefore quite clearly placing their own income above the financial stability and mental health of their tenants, as students would barely have enough money to pay for their groceries or transport home.
It doesn’t take a maths graduate to work out that these numbers don’t add up – but the argument may be made by Nido that they simply need this income to continue operations. This seems dubious given the fact that private student accommodation seems to be a booming sector in Glasgow (given that Boyce House was just built in September and another block is under construction on Dobbie’s Loan).
However, if this is truly the case then Nido should open up their books to the Student Resident Committee’s democratic oversight. This would allow the committee not only to verify the claim, but also to participate and take a leading role in figuring out an alternative method of funding the company.
Regardless, Unite Students (another private accommodation firm) have set a precedent in Glasgow by allowing tenants out of their contracts if they so wish. The Student Resident Committee has rightly pointed this out, and Young Socialists echo the call on Nido to do the same.
Nido Student, as with all landlords, have a sole duty to provide shelter to their tenants. However, in such a tumultuous period, they simply cannot expect business to continue as usual. The Student Resident Committee has every right to withhold payment until the management complies with the request for more information on the company’s intention.
The current pandemic, and the government-imposed lockdown, have thrown the routine functioning of Scottish society into disarray. Students have been greatly affected as universities have cancelled classes and many workplaces have shut their doors (including all of the bars, cafes and restaurants where thousands of students work part-time).
Add to this the recent news that Easyjet, along with other airlines like Ryanair, has grounded all commercial flights means that students who’ve come to Scotland from overseas may be unable to get home for weeks or even months.
Young Socialists members will do our best to support the Student Resident Committee in the event of this, and we call on students and workers to struggle alongside us for suspension of rents during the pandemic and tenants’ right to terminate their contracts if they wish.