University threatens to use debt collectors against students over unpaid rent

The University of Leicester has threatened students with the prospect of external debt collectors to recover unpaid accommodation fees.

The move comes after Bristol became the first university to threaten students with this option to pursue the debt.

Jack Hill, a first-year History student, stated: “it’s a scaremongering tactic which has forced a lot of students into paying rent despite them not being there, myself included.”

The University’s proposed 50% rent rebate for unoccupied rooms was branded as ‘pathetic’ by the UoL Rent Strike group.

Students have held an on-campus protest over accommodation, citing: poor quality of accommodation which has led to two students being hospitalised, the lack of access to facilities, paying for unused bus tickets, and the lack of access to mental health checks.

Louise Leslie, leader of UoL Rent Strike Group, stated: “Threat of external pressure is nothing but a use of exerted force to bully students into submission.”

Concerns have been raised about the use of this tactic on the wellbeing of students, as Jack states “it’s wrong to inflict the mental pressure on students who are already going through a rough time with the threat of debt collectors.”

Munya Mwaijumba, a first-year Journalism student, stated: “all they care about is money…other unis have easily given students full refunds or a rebate of at least 80% so why can’t Leicester?”

She has not returned to her accommodation since December “I feel like I’m being punished for following government guidelines.”

The University has been accused of misleading students over the expectation of in-person teaching. Munya adds: “If they had been honest and said that my course in specific would all be online, I would have never had moved in.”

Louise stated: “We suggest all students collectivise and complain about their mistreatment.”

Martyn Riddleston, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Leicester said: “We are aware that this has been an extremely challenging time for our students. As a university, we remain committed to providing the best education and experience possible for our students.

“We have worked hard to ensure that accommodation rebates are issued to those who live in the University’s own halls of residence and who have not made use of their accommodation since the start of the Spring term due to COVID-19.

“Eligible students living in private accommodation may also claim one-off financial support to help cover living costs, including rent. Students can also access our COVID hardship fund for additional support.

“We encourage students who have issues or complaints regarding their accommodation to contact the Accommodation team on or to visit their 24/7 site reception in order to help us address all concerns as quickly as possible.”

Here is the University’s policy for non payment of accommodation fees

Toby Cray is a second-year journalism student. You can find him on Twitter here

Find Toby’s satirical work here

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