Ben Hayward April 15th
2020

Hundreds of students have joined a rent strike, protesting at having to pay thousands of pounds for accommodation where they are trapped as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some say they are now stuck on ‘deserted’ campuses where facilities and services have shut down, while others are struggling to pay rent after losing jobs that were funding their living costs.

Some caught in the lockdown are international students stranded thousands of miles away from their families.

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One of those is masters student at Sussex University, Jamsheed Cooper, who is unable to get home to Dubai. Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’ve decided to withhold my rent. We can’t leave even if we wanted to. 

“Almost all the campus services are absolutely closed. What are we paying for? The cleaners are not even coming. It’s a ghost town right now.”

A University of Sussex spokesperson said students were told in March that rental payments for the final term would not apply for those who were no longer living on campus, costing the university over £5m in lost rent.

Roughly one fifth of students have stayed on campus at Sussex with reception and security services as well as catering, a supermarket, wellbeing services and regular cleaning and maintenance all remain in operation according to the university.

Students Buying Houses No Deposit

A university spokesperson said: “Providing these students with the many services required to enable them to live on campus and support their welfare at this very difficult time has, and will continue to be, our overwhelming priority.

“We do appreciate this is an extremely unsettling time for our students on campus and we wish their time at Sussex could be different. We hope that our students know we will continue to do everything we can to respond to their needs.”

Some students at the University of Warwick have also initiated a rent strike.

Although the institution has cancelled contracts for those renting on campus, many students renting off-campus from private landlords are still obliged to pay, and a Facebook group supporting the strike now has over 650 members.

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Speaking to student newspaper, the Boar, management student Alfie Brepotra said: “Student tenants are already in a precarious position where it’s easy for landlords to manipulate us and this crisis only highlights that, especially for working-class students and those who rely on part-time work who are now temporarily unemployed.”

A Warwick University spokesperson said: “Off-campus renting during the current situation continues to present complex challenges to everyone concerned.

“Our principal and immediate focus is on student hardship, ensuring that students with real financial support needs can access the support they need through the university’s students hardship scheme, rather than taking any other action that could lead them into potentially costly, and lengthy, legal disputes, particularly with private sector landlords.”

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