University College London students withhold £250,000 rent money in accommodation row

Students at a top London university are withholding around £250,000 of rent in a row over spiralling living costs.

More than 150 students at University College London (UCL) announced today they would hold off payment until demands for a 40 per cent cut in rents are met.

Protesters claim the average rent for a person at UCL has gone up by more than half since 2009, making even the cheapest rooms more expensive than student loan payments.

The student union claimed the increases were “tuition fees by stealth” which ratchet up the stress and debt of their membership.

One of the buildings affected, Ramsey Hall, has rooms that cost from £159 to £262 per week, while the cheaper Max Rayne House, which also has rent strikers, charges £103 to £232.

Angus O’Brien, who is the union’s student halls representative, said he knew of one student who was looking for a third job to cover their rent.

He said: “It’s forcing students to be dependent on other sources of income. That could be their parents, which stops people from less privileged backgrounds from studying at UCL.”

Rent striker Nyima Murry said: “The housing situation in London has to be made affordable. Landlords have refused to cut the rent, so we have no option but to do it ourselves.

“Hopefully, we can inspire others to do the same.”

Last year, students at the same university forced bosses into a payout of nearly £300,000 following a rent strike over poor conditions at the Hawkridge House halls in Kentish Town.

A spokesman for UCL said: “UCL Estates is actively seeking dialogue with the Cut the Rent campaign so that we can discuss the issues and set out how the finances of UCL accommodation work.

“We make every effort at UCL to keep rents as low as possible, which is a difficult challenge considering our central London location.

“Our rents are competitive in comparison with equivalent London institutions, and far less than rates for comparable accommodation in the private sector.

“The NUS’s accommodation costs survey recognises UCL’s efforts in this regard, and acknowledges the university’s commitment to keeping a significant proportion of its accommodation in the lowest cost band of £120-150 a week.”