Coronavirus: University students in Bristol staging 'rent strike'

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Rent strike Bristol
Image caption,
A 'rent strike' sign in Clifton is one of several to pop-up across Bristol

University students in Bristol are staging a "rent strike" due to the coronavirus pandemic impacting on their ability to pay for accommodation.

A total of 120 students are withholding their final rent payments and are campaigning to have them cancelled or heavily reduced.

Many have lost the part-time jobs that provided income to pay rent.

Lettings agency Digs said they were happy to speak to students experiencing difficulties.

Digs had contacted students to say a rent payment was due on 1 April, regardless of when student loan payments were due and the impact of the pandemic.

Image source, Josie Rahman
Image caption,
Josie Rahman said it was important to open up means of negotiation with Digs and individual landlords

The Bristol University and University of the West of England students said they were in a vulnerable financial position, as loan payments have not yet been released, and are unable to meet the rent demands.

Third-year medicine student Josie Rahman, 20, is currently living with her parents in Newcastle.

"Other landlords and campuses are cutting rent by half or taking a much more relaxed approach. We felt it was cold and inconsiderate," she said.

"There are a lot of us who have come together and I think the size of the group will grow."

Image source, Cecelia George
Image caption,
Cecelia George had three part-time jobs to help pay her rent

Second-year languages student Cecilia George, 19, has the added worry of recovering from the coronavirus which has left her in self-isolation for the past fortnight.

"I'm not going to be living here for the next three months so that's three months the flat isn't being used. Most students have to find additional income such as jobs and loans," she said.

"I don't think they understand how difficult it is for some students."

Digs spokesman Steve Harris said: "We act for in excess of 100 landlords so we can't give a blanket amendment to rent.

"We are certainly trying to take a personal, sensitive and careful approach towards tenants but each landlord has a completely different opinion. We will be contacting landlords on behalf of tenants."

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