Students win £100,000 after going on rent strike over rat-infested homes

The UCL residents were each awarded a term's rent rebate

Jon Stone
Friday 16 October 2015 17:15 BST
London terraced houses
London terraced houses (Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

A group of students in London have won a £100,000 rent rebate after going on rent strike over their "unbearable" living conditions.

The 87 tenants of Campbell House West had refused to pay rent to University College London since May and were initially threatened with academic sanctions and exclusion from their courses.

But after an inquiry, a university complaints panel has now ordered the institution to pay the tenants £1,300 each, the equivalent of a full term’s rent rebate.

The panel found that the university management demonstrated “a lack of empathy towards the students’ circumstances and an understanding or appreciation of what would be an acceptable student experience”.

“Overall the living conditions with which the residents of Campbell House West were faced with were unacceptable and their experiences were not in-keeping with that expected for students of UCL,” it said.

The panel also found managers were “disingenuous to the students concerned”.

Students had complained that demolition work near the property had made it impossible to sleep, study, and revise and that the building was infested with rats and mice.

Giulia Gandolfo, a second year Information Management student and rent strike participant said: “It’s great to hear that the effort of all those who were involved in the protest have finally paid off. I feel that we have finally achieved a fair compensation.”

Research by the charity Citizens Advice published in May found that tenants in the private sector spend £5.6bn in rent every year to live in homes that can make them sick or kill them.

An inquiry by the charity found 740,000 privately rented homes across England contain serious risks to health including severe damp, rat infestations, and risks of explosion.

“Rogue landlords are putting profits before safety,” Gillian Guy, the chief executive of the organisation, warned at the time.

“With a growing private rental sector, increasing numbers of people – including more than 500,000 children – are falling prey to landlords who fail to meet decent standards.

Privately rented accommodation was in a significantly worse state to council and housing association property.

Sixteen per cent of all privately rented homes were found to physically unsafe, compared to just six per cent in the socially rented sector.

Eight per cent of private homes were found to have serious damp, which can contribute to chronic illnesses such as bronchitis, eczema, and asthma.

Six per cent were excessively cold and ten per cent risked a risk of dangerous fall; both of these factors present significant hazards for elderly people.

The Independent contacted University College London for comment on this story and was directed to quote parts of the complaints panel’s letter.

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