PLYMOUTH STUDENTS COVID-19 RENT STRIKE


Rent Strike Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I participate in a rent strike?

We should not be paying for accommodation we are not using. By getting involved in the rent strike you are showing solidarity and assisting others who physically can’t afford to pay their rent whilst putting pressure on landlords/letting agents to update their cancellation policies and review the rent they are charging to those remaining. There is government help available to landlords/letting agents so they should apply for it rather than expecting students to pay for a crisis that we have been heavily affected by.

I can afford my rent, why shouldn't I pay it?

Even if you can afford your rent, we ask you not to pay it to stand in solidarity with those who can’t during the rent strike. If only the students who genuinely can't afford their rent participated in the strike, it would make them easier to pick out and target for unfair treatment. If we all join the rent strike, we can put more pressure on landlords and letting agents to change their policies and seek financial support from the government, not us.

I'm staying in my student accomodation, should I participate?

For the same reasons outlined above, we recommend that students who have chosen to remain in student accomodation participate in the rent strike. We are advocating for rent to be scrapped for students who have chosen to remain as well as those who have left.

What if I already paid all my rent upfront?

If we can secure rent reductions and early cancellations, we may be able to secure a partial refund. Even if you’ve paid your rent in full you can still contribute by being part of the student committee, writing to your landlord/letting agent and lobby your university to break ties with any landlord/letting agent which puts its profits above the well-being of students.

What about the landlords and letting agencies?

It is immoral and exploitative for these companies to continue to profit from students during this crisis. Companies should not be allowed to hold students to a contract when the circumstances have changed so drastically since we signed it.
Student accommodation providers have assets, property and insurance and should show compassion towards students who may be struggling to decide between paying their rent, feeding their family, or exposing themselves and their loved ones to the coronavirus.
We understand that some landlords will be experiencing hardship but it is not the responsibility of students to pay the bills, mortgage and costs of landlords. There is government help that has been made available for letting agents and landlords who are genuinely in need and we encourage landlords/letting agents to seek it.

I want to get involved with the rent strike, but I'm worried about...

My guarantor

We understand that students are worried about guarantors, and rightfully so. However, landlords/letting agents cannot simply take the money from guarantors and must first exhaust all means of getting the tenant to pay their rent.
Getting money from a guarantor is a slow difficult process for an agency to go through, if your guarantor refuses to pay the rent it will necessitate legal proceedings [2]. Due to the coronavirus crisis courts are taking mainly emergency cases and so it could be quite some time until any legal proceedings can take place. In the case of a mass rent strike this would be very costly and time-consuming for providers. It’s as scary to the landlord as it is to you.
Plymouth student rent strike members have been in conversation with student activist groups who are experienced in this area and they have assured us that they’ve never seen student accommodation providers go after guarantors as the result of a rent strike.

My rent arrears

We encourage you to still get involved in the strike even if you are in arrears. The government has put in place a three month ban on evictions and if we secure rent reductions and early cancellations it will ease the pressure you’re already under.

My visa

If you are taken to court for missed rent payments, it could have implications for your future visa applications. However, we think that the likelihood of being taken to court is relatively low, and court cases aren’t usually seen in relation to student rent strikes.
The only time there would be a sensitivity is if you have an international funder (fully funded), say if your fees are paid by an NGO (some people doing masters are here through these arrangements). In those situations the university does have an obligation to report back to your funder on a periodic basis. But they probably would have done this whether there is a problem or not. For most Tier 4 visas, there is no difference in terms of effects of not paying your rent.
The normal approach in the immigration regime is not that there is a continuing obligation to monitor sufficient funds for the duration of the stay. Sufficient funds must be present when the visa is administered but not afterwards- there is no continuing obligation to maintain these funds, nor is there penalisation for those who fall beneath the initial financial threshold.

My provider will forcefully take money from my account

It is illegal for providers to take money from you or your guarantor’s account without express consent. If you have direct debits, standing orders or regular bank transfers set up you are well within your rights to cancel them and we encourage you to do so throughout the rent strike campaign. Landlords/letting agents would need to undertake legal proceedings to retrieve any monies owed which can be expensive and time consuming.

My lecturers / university finding out

We understand that some strikers may be afraid that action will be taken against them by the university if they refuse to pay rent. However, it is completely illegal for the university to academically punish a student for financial reasons. This rent strike campaign is between students and landlord/letting agents, there is no reason for universities/colleges to have any involvement.
We also want to assure strikers that the Facebook group and any related materials that could be used to identify individual students will be deleted before the start of the next academic year.