FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Students at SOAS, University of London have pledged to withhold their final rent payment until a series of demands are met by their halls’ management.
The two central London halls of residence – Dinwiddy House and Paul Robeson House – are owned and operated by Sanctuary Students with an agreement to provide places for SOAS students.
‘£100,000 rent withheld’
Dozens of students have pledged not to pay the final term’s rent instalment at a collective cost to the halls of over £100,000. Residents are currently charged £147.28 a week for a single en-suite room in the halls near King’s Cross.
‘Three days without hot water’
Throughout the year, residents have raised a catalogue of complaints over poor service, cockroach and rodent infestations, lengthy delays to repairs and a number of water outages among other problems. Residents have experienced four days of water outages since the beginning of the year and three further days without hot water.
The hashtag ‘#sancsucks’ has been used on social media for residents to highlight the many problems at the halls.
Students report that the lift in the block with wheelchair-accessible rooms being out of order for two to three months and one flat has been without a working lock since October when residents moved in. Sanctuary Students’ guidelines say that all repairs should be completed within 28 days.
The Residents’ Council, which represents students across both halls, is demanding £800 in compensation for all students as well as “a full and unreserved formal apology from Sanctuary Management for the mismanagement and inappropriate handling of at least the following issues: pests, repairs, security, health and safety, accessibility, communications, reports of staff misconduct, bullying, break-ins, entering rooms without notice/knocking, [and] room allocations.”
‘Demands for £800 compensation’
Residents claim that a meeting with representatives of Sanctuary Students’ senior management held at the beginning of March has not led to the issues raised being satisfactorily resolved and, as a result, have resorted to withholding rent to make sure their issues are addressed and adequate compensation agreed.
The Residents’ Council is also demanding regular and transparent meetings between Sanctuary Students, the Students’ Union and the Residents’ Council and a full review of the halls’ internal procedures. They say they are willing to meet with representatives of the halls’ management immediately to agree to the implementation of the strikes’ demands.
Residents’ Council spokesperson Karmel Carey said, “We have tried to raise these issues for months, but Sanctuary Students have refused to take our concerns seriously.”
“After multiple meetings with us, and many email exchanges, Sanctuary Students staff still claimed they had never heard of the Residents’ Council – and now refuse to recognise it.”
“We will not allow residents of our halls to live in unsafe, cockroach-ridden accommodation, intimidated into keeping silent.”
“We will not be silent. Sanctuary Students must change.”
Resident Maisy Hatchard said, “We haven’t had a working lock fitted since the day we moved in, despite all of us reporting it several times. At the meeting on the 4th March, I was informed the locks were on order. Exactly where are they on order from? Are the couriers on foot?”
“I cannot understand why such a risk to our security has still been ignored. In fact, the information to residents states that emergency repairs will be carried out within 24 hours.”
“Why do Sanctuary have a repairs timeframe if they will not be adhering to it? My friends have gone for weeks without lights, freezers, fridges, hobs and ovens, and I have gone for months without a lock. This is completely unacceptable.”
Karmel Carey – firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to the Editor
- SOAS, University of London is the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
- Dinwiddy House is for undergraduate and postgraduate students and provides rooms for 510 students and Paul Robeson House is a postgraduate student halls and provides rooms for a further 268.
- The third of three rent instalments is due on Thursday 23rd April. At least 135 residents have pledged to withhold a final rent payment of £769.08 each.
- The Residents’ Council’s demands are:
– A full and unreserved formal apology from Sanctuary Management for the mismanagement and inappropriate handling of at least the following issues: pests, repairs, security, health and safety, accessibility, communications, reports of staff misconduct, bullying, break-ins, entering rooms without notice/knocking, room allocations.
– Compensation of at least £800 for all residents in Dinwiddy and Paul Robeson House.
– Monthly open meetings with Sanctuary Management staff, with all residents of Dinwiddy and Paul Robeson House, as well as the SOAS Students’ Union executive, free to attend. A response should be published within a week of these meetings.
– Monthly meetings with Sanctuary Management staff, SOAS staff and SOAS Students’ Union. At least one resident should be present at these meetings.
– Where meetings must be held between Sanctuary Management staff and SOAS staff without a Students’ Union representative or resident present, an agenda should be released beforehand and the minutes afterward.
– We call for a thorough review of all internal procedures at Dinwiddy and Paul Robeson House including complaints, repairs reporting and implementation, emails and communication, Senior Residents system, and staffing and training.