Students organise against greedy landlords in Plymouth

Sami Vickery, Plymouth College of Art

I write on behalf of the tenants of the Old Dairy, a student accommodation under the Host Student Accommodation umbrella located in Plymouth.

The Old Dairy is private rented accommodation provided by Host Student Accommodation to students in the University of Plymouth and Plymouth College of Art. It is one of the few Plymouth student let buildings that have yet to put into place measures to assist students during these special circumstances such as rent discounts or early cancellation of our tenancy agreements.

These current times are extremely stressful and difficult, especially as we don’t know what’s going to happen regarding our studies, which is why we ask that our voices be heard. Rather than staying in large blocks of shared flats, a lot of students have opted to return to our families, to ensure we’re adhering to social distancing recommendations.

With many students having returned home we are unhappy that we are still required to pay in full for our accommodation when our college has shut. We’re even expected to pay utilities as part of our rent, utilities that simply aren’t being used since many of us are not present in our flats. The situation has been acknowledged by Host in an email; ultimately however, Host has told us that no action will be taken and that no changes will be made to tenant contracts.

Students have collected over 400 signatories in less than a week for a petition demanding changes to Host’s cancellation policy to allow students to exit their contracts early due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Host Student Accommodation has repeatedly denied any attempts for early termination, and will only do so if you receive a letter from your GP to exempt you from the tenancy agreement. This further highlights how poorly this is being handled, opting to take away precious time from doctors, who are the only ones to send off these documents, to settle petty disputes. This proves that Host Students Accommodation has chosen money over morals.

Discussion about the possibility of a rent strike and reaching out to the press are currently being held by the Old Dairy student body, however we feel that it is unreasonable that it has even gotten to this point.

Our colleges and universities have shut; does the government seriously expect students to pay for our rent in full when and many of us have lost jobs or are on reduced pay? Surely it’s not unreasonable to not pay for accommodation we’re not using?

Socialist Students demands;

  • For universities to provide rent free accommodation for students and international students who are unable to get home because of self-isolation, transport cancellations etc. No evictions of any students who are unable to pay the rent.
  • For the right of students who have been forced to move home because of the coronavirus to withdraw from their housing contracts early without the loss of any deposit.
  • For universities to provide affordable and decent accommodation for students. For rents capped at no higher than a quarter of the average student maintenance loan – end the driving of students into the arms of rip off landlords and letting agencies. Ban all agency and contract fees.
  • For the establishment of democratic student rent strike committees across accommodation to organise mass collective non-payment of rent campaigns when necessary. 

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