University of Leeds rent strike 2020-21

We recognise that this is an unsettling and difficult time and we want to thank you for the patience and understanding you have shown as the University has been forced to respond to the rapidly changing events that have unfolded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, a small number of students in University accommodation have started a campaign for rent refunds and other concessions because of the impact of the pandemic. We would like to share with you our response to points raised in a letter to the University from those students, who are encouraging others to withhold rent payments.

Safety

We have been accused of putting profit before people. The University is, in fact, a not-for-profit organisation. In responding to the pandemic, our overriding concern has always been, and continues to be, the safety and welfare of our students and staff. Before the start of the academic year, self-isolation and social distancing measures were carefully planned, co-ordinated, and implemented. Changes to fire drill procedures were considered in detail and communicated to all students in our residences and it is not the case that students have been required to breach social distancing guidelines during planned drills. We advised all students not to leave their rooms during planned drills.

Support and advice about how we are implementing Government guidance is available on the Working together to stay safe pages of our coronavirus website and we remain grateful for the continued vigilance of our University community in helping to keep each other safe.

Returning to campus

The Government has ruled that except for a small number of courses, including Clinical and Social Work, teaching should remain online and you should not return to any university campus until further notice – this will be 8 March at the earliest. Further details are available on the spring term arrangements section of the coronavirus website.

All universities were asked to restrict the number of students returning after the winter break to prevent large numbers of people travelling at the same time and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. We appreciate many students have changed their plans to help reduce the impact of the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, all students have had access to our broad range of support services to help those going through difficult times. If you are feeling lonely or in need of practical or emotional support, please read the advice on our support and wellbeing pages. These services are available to all students, whether studying in Leeds or remotely.

Access to facilities

We have had to limit access to some facilities to comply with Government rules, but very few have been closed to students in residences. The majority of common rooms have always been open and gyms at our residence sites were only closed from 4 January due to nationally-imposed restrictions. We will reopen our gyms when it is safe and permissible to do so.

Paying for accommodation

It has been claimed that the University has put making profit from rent before the safety and wellbeing of students in residences and this is not the case. Since March last year our residential accommodation is costing more to run than the income it generates and in any year the University’s residences operate on a not-for-profit basis. Any surplus made goes towards the upkeep of the accommodation and the services we provide to you.

We offered to refund six weeks’ rent to students prevented by the lockdown from living in their university accommodation between 11 January and 19 February 2021, and have now agreed to extend this to 8 March. Many of you have already applied for a refund. If you haven’t and are eligible, we encourage you to do so by completing this online form.

Late payments

We encourage the small number of students who are withholding rent payments to end their rent strike now and for those that do, we promise there will be no late payment penalties. This applies to anyone who brings their account up to date by the end of their contract. If, following the end of their contract, anyone continues to withhold their rent inappropriately (i.e. not in connection with any agreed refund period), we reserve the right to recover any outstanding debt to which we may (at our discretion) apply late payment penalties, as per our terms and conditions.

Leeds University Union has useful guidance on the possible consequences of withholding rent.

Financial help and advice

A wide range of advice is available on our Finance pages. The University is also making a contribution of up to £2m to its student hardship fund. The fund is open to all students, including those living in accommodation that is not University-allocated, such as private housing. Information about how to apply and eligibility details is available on the Leeds Hardship Fund page.

The global pandemic has deeply affected us all, and we will do our very best to continue to support you at this very difficult time. Don’t forget, you can reach out to our Support and Wellbeing services, and please be reassured that we will continue to prioritise your health, safety, and wellbeing above all else.