Student Rent Strikers Forced To Leave Occupied Buildings After Legal Threats From Universities | TOTUM
Ben HaywardMay 12th
2021

Student rent protesters are reporting being forced to leave occupied buildings on campus after being threatened with legal action by universities.

Several rent strike groups, who are have been occupying university owned buildings while demanding rent reductions - among other concessions - have been forced to move out. 

Students in Sheffield said they were leaving after the university won an interim possession order (IPO) - a legal device used to remove squatters, reports The Independent

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Not leaving within 24 hours of being served an IPO can lead to  imprisonment, leading the rent strikers to call the move a ‘heavy-handed institutional stifling of freedom of speech’ by the university.

The group has said it remains committed to securing its demands - including a 30% rent rebate for students in university-owned accommodation and clauses allowing them to leave contracts early without any penalty.

University of Manchester students have now also vacated the Sam Alex building on campus after being sent a letter from the university reportedly ‘threatening legal action’.

Speaking to The Independent one student who was involved in the protest said: “We have decided to leave because we were not in a position to risk criminal charges.

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“It is clear they have decided to use dirty tactics to get us out rather than actually meeting with us and agreeing to our demands.”

The rent-strike group is calling for a 30% rent rebate for all students in university halls for semester two - following a successful campaign during semester one - as well as a £1,500 cash rebate for students, the introduction of elections for leadership positions and a commitment of no compulsory staff redundancies.

In a tweet, the Manchester rent strike group said: “The university has refused to engage with the Sam Alex occupiers and has threatened us with legal action that could criminalise further occupations and lead to violent evictions.

“With a heavy heart, we are leaving the occupation so we can fight another day. If the longest occupation in Manchester since the 70s can’t force change in our university, we have to escalate with new radical tactics.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The students who have been occupying the Samuel Alexander Building have now left.

“With a full and welcome return to in-person teaching from 17 May, we will now begin the process of cleaning the building and ensuring it is Covid secure again for the use of staff and students.”

A University of Sheffield spokersperon said: “The University of Sheffield supports the ability of students to express their views peacefully within the law. However the university does not condone occupation of a building which causes disruption for other students.”

Students unable to access university-owned or managed accommodation due to Covid-19 restrictions had been waived rent and offered early contract releases, they said, while a £3m Covid Support Fund for those facing financial difficulties had been set up.

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