Direct action paid off for the UCL Rent Strikers!

by Sophie Watson – UCL Department of Latin and Greek

….And we will do it again!

Earlier this week UCL forked out £100k in compensation to residents of Campbell House West following 7 months of protest, strike action, and hard graft.

Full compensation to all 87 former residents of Campbell house West. Each resident is to receive up to £1368 in compensation following the dispute over unbearable living conditions and vermin infestations. UCL repeatedly responded with neglect, delay, and breach of contract.

The rent strike started on 8 May and during that time 17 complaint forms were submitted by to management. The strike was accompanied by more protests and direct actions. By the 10 October, there was still no outcome.

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Students at Campbell House WON!

In addition to vermin infestations in the basement, the demolition works happening opposite the halls literally shook mirrors and tables. Unbearable noise forced many students to return home to revise, incurring huge travel costs, instead of being able to use their falsely marketed “study bedrooms.”

UCL did not only respond with senseless bureaucracy and lazy treatment, but also with illegal threats of academic sanctions and expulsion over withholding rent. This, of course, was totally illegal, and nothing but scare tactics.

Commenting on UCL’s response, Pascal LeTendre-Hanns (UCL Union Officer) said that: “The important thing is how much of an upward struggle it’s been for the residents and those supporting the campaign. UCL management have delayed, obfuscated and denied responsibility at every stage; that’s why this full compensation is such a huge vindication of the cause”.

Angus O’Brien (UCLU Halls Representative) who spoke at the complaints panel puts the victory into context: “this does not constitute the end of the campaign – due to wider concerns about sharply increasing rents, the 45% surplus made by UCL on running halls, totalling £15,779,000 profit this year, and diminishing standards, this this example will only prove to disenchanted students that disruptive protest works.”

For “UCL, Cut The Rent”, this is only the start. We’re now looking to get wider to get results for inhabitants of other halls, where UCL fails to adequately maintain facilities and justify their supernormal profit. Many students I have spoken to are hit hard in an attempt to make ends meet. Maintenance loans and grants almost never cover it, let alone allow some sort of weekly budget.

By celebrating the success of the Campbell House West Dispute, we demonstrate and maintain that students do not have to be exploited. UCL Management has been beaten, and can be beaten again. Wider action is on the cards with a larger and more empowered group of students from other halls, including a housing bloc at the 4th November student demo!

  • You can join the next meeting of the Cut The Rent campaign on Wednesday in the Ramsay Hall common room! Everybody is welcome and the BBC will be there to film the event (Full details here!)
  • Support the campaign on twitter and Facebook! Find out more, get involved and together we’ll stop monetisation of student accommodation.

@rentcutUCL

http://www.facebook.com/uclcuttherent

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Rent Strikes – Past and Future

“When they say ‘rent hike’, we say ‘rent strike’!”

We don’t have to settle for these extortionate rents and terrible living conditions. At UCL halls in Camden, residents with elected reps are organising together and putting pressure on the managers to fulfil their demands. Get in touch with us to join that campaign or for help starting one in another hall.

A banner for the UCL Camden RENTS Campaign
A banner for the UCL Camden RENTS Campaign

Sadly it’s not always enough to ask nicely. UCL managers have an interest in keeping rents high and costs low. Our campaigns have to take action to force improvements.In the past, one powerful tactic has been the rent strike. Residents
collectively agree not to pay rent until an acceptable deal is reached. At Sussex University throughout 70s and 80s student rent strikes reduced rent rises and stopped low quality halls being built. 4 years ago, an Oxford college struck over fire safety.

We hope UCL managers voluntarily improve standards and cut rents. But if we have to fight, we will!

An item on one of the rent strikes at Sussex Uni, from the uni newspaper 'The Bulletin' January 1973.
An item on one of the rent strikes at Sussex Uni, from the uni newspaper ‘The Bulletin’ January 1973.