More than one in three students living at a Sussex University halls of residence are going on an indefinite rent strike over ongoing building works and ‘unsanitary’ conditions – and campaigners say the campaign may spread to other halls.
The students at Kings Road Hall say they are angry at being charged hundreds of pounds for what they say are inadequate accommodation while the university gave former vice chancellor Michael Farthing a £230,000 payout.
Reported issues include rat infestations, broken white goods, bathrooms and boilers and dust and noise from ongoing construction work.
They say the university has offered them £35 a month to compensate for the disruption, but brand this “insulting” and are demanding £100 a month plus a free travel pass to escape the building work.
The strike is being supported by the Brighton branch of Acorn renters’ union. Duncan Michie, Acorn organiser and third year Sussex chemistry student said: “If they can spare the hundreds of thousands of pounds for university bosses, they can spare at least as much to compensate students enduring squalid housing conditions.”
Laura Stevens, a first year international relations student and Kings Road resident said: “When I came to Brighton I was so excited to live in a great city. This accommodation has been a horrible shock.
“Universities shouldn’t rent out halls that are in such bad condition. I just want a flat without mice and black mould that I can afford – it’s not too much to ask.”
The rent for a Kings Road Hall room is £502 per month. A five month rent strike at University College London last year ended with the university agreeing £1.5million in concessions including a rent freeze and an increase in accommodation bursaries.
Jack Carpentiere, a first year criminology and sociology student and rent striker, said: “We will not back down, until we get what we deserve.”
And Ethan Richold, first year student and rent striker, added: “Our movement will only escalate as we reach out to more students who feel that the university are taking them for a ride.”
A spokeswoman for the University of Sussex said: “All of the University’s managed accommodation, whether it is on campus or in the city, meets our quality standards. We regularly check all of our properties and ask that our students report any maintenance requirements so they can be rectified quickly.
“Whist we are already addressing some temporary issues, we don’t recognise all of the claims that have been put forward but we are in active discussions with the Students’ Union and directly with our students about these.”