Plymouth rent strikes win concessions – but the fight isn’t over

Sioned Freer, Plymouth Student Rent Strike Coordinator

A month in, the Plymouth student rent strike now has 750 group members, with over 230 pledged to withhold. The subject of student rent has quickly become a massive national talking point – we have had coverage from international media and TV coverage from the BBC. Famous faces and MP’s are also coming out in support of student rent strikes despite the government doing little to address the issue. We’ve received a huge amount of support nationally for the massive amount of people affected by this issue.

In response to a national rent strike effort, The Student Housing Company – who own Beckley Point in Plymouth – have now offered 50% reductions for those who don’t rebook and a 100% reduction for those who do. Although TSHC tenants are still fighting for a fairer resolution for final year students, this is a massive win for rent strikers – proving that rent strikes work and companies can and will meet our demands if we stand together.

We have received very little communication from other landlords and letting agencies in Plymouth. Some companies choose to simply ignore their tenants’ struggles, while others have been outright rude – a Pencraig Developments (StudentRooms) tenant received a devastating email in response to her pleas for rent reduction where the company told her “You won’t be receiving any sympathy from us.” If landlords and letting agents continue to ignore their tenants – insisting that they’re entitled to what in many cases is our only source of income and pointing us towards government guidelines that weren’t written with students in mind – it could have a massive detrimental impact on the student population as a whole. A recent survey by Ipsos Mori has shown that young people (18 – 30) are being disproportionately financially impacted by the pandemic, but despite this, there is very little government help for students. At a time when many of us and our families have lost jobs, fallen sick, or lost loved ones, we simply cannot throw thousands of pounds at accommodation we can’t even use.

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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