Rent strike victory!
During term three 14/15, residents at Dinwiddy and Paul Robeson halls withheld over £100,000 in rent as a protest against a lack of management response to cockroach and rodent infestations, unsafe and insecure infrastructure, repeated water and hot water outages, and many other problems besides. Over 150 residents from both halls withheld their final instalment of rent of at least £769.08 each, which was due to be paid on Thursday 23rd April. Following compensation offers, the Residents’ Council, which represents residents of the halls within SOAS Students’ Union, called an end to the rent strike and residents have paid their final instalments of rent.
During negotiations, Sanctuary Students agreed to meet our demands by making a full and unreserved apology to residents, holding regular open meetings with residents, and attending monthly meetings with the Students’ Union, the Residents’ Council and SOAS, with published minutes, and to publish the minutes of any other meetings between Sanctuary and SOAS. However, Sanctuary Students had failed to meet the demand for compensation for residents, instead offering to set aside £1,500 to reinvest in the state, this works out to about £3 per resident and does not include any improvements to Paul Robeson House. The Residents’ Council called this offer “insulting” and the rent strike continued.
Following further negotiations, Sanctuary Students made an offer of £40 to each Paul Robeson resident and £90 to each Dinwiddy resident and agreed to consider individual claims for compensation. Residents taking part in the rent strike voted overwhelmingly to reject this offer. The rent strike continued, while residents also put in individual claims for compensation. Sanctuary Students have awarded compensation to residents who made individual claims, who have been awarded between £70-£360 additional compensation, on top of the £40/£90 compensation awarded to all residents. The appeals process has now been concluded with all those contesting their individual award receiving additional compensation.
What is a Rent Strike?
A rent strike is when a group of residents withhold paying at least one instalment of rent as a protest against conditions in their accommodation. The SOAS rent strike, if it goes ahead, will affect the third instalment of rent due in April 2015 in the SOAS halls. Residents taking part will not pay the third instalment of rent until our demands are met.
We pledge to withhold the third instalment of our rent until the following demands are met:
- 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.
Representatives of the Residents’ Council and SOAS Students’ Union are willing to meet with Sanctuary Management as soon as possible to agree the implementation of these demands.
Non-residents can support the rent strike by signing our petition here https://www.change.org/p/sanctuary-students-meet-soas-rent-strike-demands