Coronavirus: Bristol University students 'cannot afford' rent

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Bristol rent strike
Image caption,
Students in Bristol are withholding the rent payments which had been due at the beginning of April

University students in Bristol say they are continuing to withhold rent payments due to the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

About 140 students are in dispute with their landlords over final payments for the academic year, saying they have lost income and cannot afford to pay.

The students are calling for the payment for be reduced or waived.

Lettings agency Digs said many landlords had agreed payment plans or reduced rent, but not all were able to.

Digs sent a letter to students this week to say that payments were overdue and that landlords "reserved the right to take further action to recover the funds in future".

The payments were due on 1 April but students began a "rent strike", saying that they could not carry out the part-time jobs providing their income due to the coronavirus.

Image source, Josie Rahman
Image caption,
Josie Rahman said the best outcome would be a reduction in rent or ending tenancies early

Student Josie Rahman, 20 said "landlords should be making allowances".

"We are not living in the properties and there have been governmental aids, such as mortgage holidays that have benefitted landlords and not renters.

"They are not being understanding as they are sending letters about rent without allowing for any negotiation or conversation," she added.

Bristol Students' Union has asked private landlords to consider an 'extension of tenancy, a no-penalty contract release or a significant rent reduction or rent holiday' for students financially impacted by the virus.

Students Ruth Day and Pascal van Liempt said they were unable to afford the rent they owe.

"We are just asking for our landlords to be lenient and think about their tenants," said Ruth.

A spokesman for Digs said a number of the landlords it represents had made allowances, but for some it was not possible.

"Many of our retired landlords purchased a property as an alternative to a pension, so live on the income from rents," he said.

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