Student renters from one of University College London’s (UCL) halls of residence have succeeded in getting the institution to pay £75,000 in compensation for disruption caused by building work amid the ongoing strike over accommodation costs.
The UCL, Cut the Rent (UCL CTR) campaign group said on Monday the residents of Campbell House West received the sum - 20 per cent of the annual rent - bringing the total amount of compensation awarded to students to almost £500,000 since the beginning of 2015.
UCL CTR said in an online statement: “This is the latest in a series of disputes in which the university has conceded that they are failing students in their provision of accommodation.
“Since the start of 2015, UCL has...been forced by student protests into reducing or freezing the cost of rent in 1,224 rooms, in addition to a 2.5 per cent rent cut in all halls of accommodation.”
The revelation has come amid what CTR protesters from Goldsmiths have labelled “the largest student rent strike in British history” with around 1,000 students from universities across London reportedly refusing to pay “extortionate” rent costs.
In January, UCL CTR said Campbell House West residents had rejected the university’s offer of refunds ranging from £16.86 to £28.68 per student, depending on their accommodation type.
However, after a second offer of refunds ranging from £20.83 to £35.43 per student was put forward, the campaigners have accepted.
The campaigners said: “Rent strikes have been fundamental in each case. By taking this radical course of action, students have successfully held the university to account for unbearable living conditions and extortionate rent prices.”
The group has claimed building work being carried out at the nearby Wates House affected the living conditions at Campbell House, the same accommodation which, they say, led to another payout settlement being made for the students living there last year.
One student, who has been a resident of Campbell House this year, described living alongside the building noise as being “almost unbearable.” She said: “It comes a great relief that UCL has finally capitulated to our demands and admitted the standard of accommodation is simply unacceptable.”
A UCL spokesperson confirmed to the Independent residents at Campbell House West had been awarded a rent rebate for the 2015/16 academic year in response to a group complaint of “unacceptable disruption and noise levels” from neighbouring UCL construction work.
The spokesperson said: “This claim is separate to the payment awarded to those who were residents of Campbell House West during the 2014/15 academic year. It is not related to the UCL CTR campaign and does not vindicate its actions.
“The students routed their complaint through official channels and this was fully investigated and upheld by UCL. All students that have been affected by the disruption during their stay at Campbell House West will receive the agreed amount of compensation.
“This decision by UCL acknowledges and validates the claim of Campbell House West residents and the rent strike has had no bearing on the outcome.”
The campaigners at UCL, though, said they will continue to call upon management to enter negotiations on an immediate 40 per cent rent cut as the first step towards “a social rent-setting policy.”
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