Student tenants of UCL hall of residence Campbell House West have secured a total of £75,000 compensation, after a long-running dispute over poor living conditions caused by disruption from nearby building work. The sum is equivalent to 20% of their annual rent.
This comes as the latest in a string of victories for the UCL, Cut the Rent campaign group, whose activists and rent strikers have been holding the university to account for the poor quality and unaffordable cost of its student accommodation. The latest payment from UCL brings the total amount of compensation awarded on account of poor quality student housing to almost £500,000 since the start of 2015, according to a statement released by UCL-CTR on Monday.
Further achievements of UCL-CTR and student rent strikers include forcing university management to freeze or reduce the rent for 1,224 rooms, as well as a 2.5% rent cut in all UCL-owned halls of residence. There are now over 1,000 London students on strike at Goldsmiths, Roehampton and the Courtauld Institute, all demanding affordable student housing from their respective universities.
This is not the first time that UCL has paid out compensation towards residents of Campbell House West alone: in 2015, rent striking students there had their first major success in gaining nearly £100,000 in total for disruption caused by building work at Wates House. Not long after, residents of UCL’s Hawkridge House were awarded a total of almost £300,000 over “unacceptable” living conditions.
Lydia Hayman, a student in Campbell House West, said:
Living at Campbell House this year has been almost unbearable with the incessant building noise from Wates House. It comes a great relief that UCL has finally capitulated to our demands and admitted that the standard of accommodation is simply unacceptable.
UCL management categorically dismissed the link between the large payout and the gathering momentum of the student rent strike. According to a university spokesman quoted in The Independent:
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. […] 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.
However, UCL-CTR claim that the collective student rent strikes were “fundamental” in pushing the university to offer fair compensation towards unhappy tenants:
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 also attacks what it sees as UCL’s “inherent disregard for the welfare and wellbeing of its students” in the re-opening of Campbell House West, after having described living conditions there as “unacceptable” in 2015. They are ultimately campaigning towards a 40% rent cut as the precedent to a new social rent-setting policy.
Featured image: UCL, Cut the Rent/Facebook