|Issue 17 - December 1973|
|Student Rents Robbery|
week starting November 5th, 13 students who were living in furnished
accommodation were presented with bills which included, as well as
College fees, their rent, payable to the College. On examining these
bills, all but four of the students were surprised to find that their
rent came to a sum far higher than they had expected, and, what is
more important, than they had budgeted for.
When questioned, their college told them that this sum included not only a retainer fee for the summer of half the weekly rent (this had been expected), but also a similar fee up to two weeks after the end of term. However, the bill was still higher than it should have been. An explanation soon followed. Their rents had been raised by 12½% without notice. When asked why they had not been informed of the increase, the College said they had “forgotten” to tell them.
It is important to note at this point that the increased rent had been back-dated to the beginning of term, i.e. the tenants were expected to pay four weeks’ increase which they had not even known about. Seven of the students had been living in the house last year and had paid to retain their rooms for this year on the understanding that their rents would remain at the old rate. Had they been told of the increase at the end of the summer term, these students may have wished, and indeed would have had the opportunity, to search for alternative accommodation.
The College authorities said they could not understand how 13 students had not known about the increase, as they had told two of the students what the rent would be. However, these two were new to the College and had no way of knowing that the sum mentioned involved an increase, and hence would have no reason to mention it to the others. Also, even if they had realised its significance, they would have had no opportunity to pass on this information to the other students.
After a meeting concerning this issue, representatives went to the Students’ Union and sought legal advice, which was all very helpful, but they pointed out that, as the accommodation was furnished bed-sits, and as the students had no written agreement or rent-books, etc., the students would be unable to take the case before a rent tribunal. The students then consulted a solicitor, but unfortunately he told them the same story – that their legal position was hopeless. If they refused to pay the rent there was the likelihood of their being given notice to quit.
The Union wrote a letter to the College authorities, informing them that the case had come to their notice and that it was recommended Union policy that all students have a written tenancy agreement.
The point of this article is not to show others how these students have succeeded in getting an independent estimate of their rent from a tribunal (which they haven’t) or even how they managed to get the back-dated rent annulled (which they didn’t), but to show how impotent they have been in their attempts to be granted even the basic right of being informed of the rent increase in advance. If this had happened, they would have had the reasonable choice of staying on at the new rate or of moving to alternative lodgings with a more satisfactory and above-board, tenancy.
The fact is that students renting accommodation from a College have no tenants’ rights at all – any written agreement regarding the tenancy is between the College and the landlord, and therefore it is the College’s responsibility to see that any rent is a fair one and that their students have the same rights as any other tenant. This they refuse to do. Students are given the choice of being tenants with no written agreement to protect their interests, or of having no lodgings at all.
THIS SITUATION IS KNOWN TO EXIST IN COLLEGES ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.
Unfortunately, names and addresses have had
to be withheld from this article as the landlord threatened the
via the College,
with immediate eviction if any action of any kind was taken against
him. – Yes, we know it’s illegal, but the students can’t
do anything about it as they are denied any written tenancy agreement,
and the College are obviously quite content to go along with this