'Stop charging student campus rents in lockdown' Mile End protesters urge

Queen Mary University campus at Mile End

Queen Mary University campus at Mile End - Credit: QMUL

A nationwide campaign has been started calling on the government to give cash aid to students like those at Queen Mary's in Mile End who have to pay rent on campus while stuck at home. 

Many students must pay the rent even though they may not be able to return, the Housemates online platform points out.

Government support for rebates is being called for so that student accommodation providers can give refunds and not lose revenue because of the lockdown.

“Students are under stress having to pay for unused rooms during their disrupted education,” Housemates founder Lydia Jones said. “They make a commitment to education but are then asked to sign contracts and take on huge debts with legal liabilities. It’s unacceptable.” 

Hundreds of students went on rent strike earlier this month at Queen Mary’s. They are having to stay at home to avoid travelling to the Mile End campus. Tower Hamlets has one of the highest rates of Covid infections in the country.   

Tower Hamlets Cllr Puru Mia supporting students' rent campaign

Tower Hamlets Cllr Puru Mia is supporting the students' rent rebate campaign at Queen Mary's Mile End campus - Credit: LBTH (inset) and Mike Brooke

Many sought help from Tower Hamlets Cllr Puru Miah who backed their strike action. He fears an influx of students could put the population at risk in his Mile End constituency which includes Queen Mary’s. Some private landlords in the district aren’t collecting rents from tenants during the lockdown, he pointed out, and he urged universities to do the same.  

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Queen Mary’s insisted it was following government guidance and keeping campus facilities going for those who need them. It was offering 30pc reduction on the remaining full term of their rental agreement “recognising the impact of the national restrictions”.  

Students call for rent rebates on unused campus accommodation

Students are calling for rent rebates on unused campus accommodation during lockdown - Credit: QMUL stock picture

But campaigners say rents should be suspended altogether and students be given refunds if the accommodation on campus can’t be used while they’re at home. 

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They are calling on the government to step in and support students and those providing accommodation "to avoid long-term damage to higher education". 

The students pay rents from £145 a week, but want early release from contracts without penalty if they opt not to return to Mile End during the lockdown.

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