FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The SOAS Residents’ Council has advised residents to continue with the current rent strike after Sanctuary Students failed to make a reasonable offer of compensation.
SOAS Students’ Union and the Residents’ Council brought these demands to a meeting this morning (Wednesday 29th April) with Sanctuary Students and SOAS.
Sanctuary Students has agreed to all of the Residents’ Council demands, except for the demand for compensation for all residents. Instead of compensation, Sanctuary offered to set aside £1,500 to reinvest in the Dinwiddy estate, this works out to about £3 per resident and does not include any improvements to Paul Robeson House.
The Residents’ Council response is as follows:
“This offer is, frankly, insulting. Reinvesting money in the estate for future residents does not do anything to address the unacceptable conditions that students have been living in this year. Sanctuary have breached their contractual obligations by not providing services as stated in their contracts with residents, especially in regards to the provision of running water and carrying out maintenance, repairs and dealing with complaints to a satisfactory condition in a reasonable timescale. Residents are owed compensation because they have paid for services that have not been delivered, as stated in their contracts with Sanctuary.”
“Also under this offer students who have had to pay extra money out of their own pockets due to conditions in halls would not be reimbursed. This includes students having to buy bottled water during water outages for days on end, students having to buy their own sprays and traps to deal with cockroaches, mice and rats, having to spend extra on food due to having to throw away food when pests have got into cupboards or when fridges or freezers break. Some students have also had to pay for alternative accommodation for periods of time, when they could not stand the appalling conditions in Sanctuary’s halls.”
“Moreover, £1,500 is not even a sufficient sum to address the work required to address the widespread problems around infestations, mould, leakages, maintenance of water pumps, and broken lifts and other repairs. And this offer of reinvestment is only being made for Dinwiddy, not Paul Robeson, despite the fact that the same problems have persisted in Paul Robeson and residents from this House are also taking part in the rent strike.”
“We have asked Sanctuary to reconsider our demand for compensation for all residents. They have agreed to consider this demand in light of our discussions today, and we will have a further meeting to discuss this next week. We hope that they will recognise that the conditions in Dinwiddy and Paul Robeson have been completely unacceptable and constitute a breach of Sanctuary’s contract with residents and their commitment to upholding the National Code of Standards for larger residential developments for student accommodation.”
“Moreover, we hope Sanctuary will recognise their utter failure to live up to claims on their website and in their marketing to have a positive impact on the student experience and to provide a “home away from home” – on the contrary statements from residents show that living in Sanctuary’s halls has had a negative impact on students mental health, wellbeing and academic studies.”
“We are pleased that Sanctuary Students have agreed to our demands to make a full and unreserved apology from Sanctuary, for regular open meetings with residents, and for monthly meetings with the Students’ Union, Residents’ Council and SOAS, with published minutes, and for minutes of meetings between Sanctuary and SOAS to be published. However, we have been raising residents complaints since students moved in in September and have tried continuously to establish a working relationship with Sanctuary whereby issues can be addressed, so we are concerned that Sanctuary are only considering this now that the rent strike has started and it has received media attention.”
“We are also concerned about suggestions by Sanctuary in today’s meeting that there will be consequences for students taking part in the rent strike. As Sanctuary have not upheld many of their contractual obligations, residents are entirely justified in not upholding their end of the contract by not paying their final installment of rent. We reject any attempts to victimise residents as a result of their participation in this strike.”
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 was due on Thursday 23rd April. More than 150 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.