University of Manchester rent strikers removed by bailiffs after 10 week protest

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University of Manchester Management “deny the legitimacy of our demands”, say University of Manchester rent strikers.

Student rent strikers have been evicted from a University of Manchester building on 22 March, following a 10-week occupation.

The students have occupied management buildings across campus since 8 February, protesting “unaffordable” rent costs.

At 5.20am bailiffs “smashed the door down and barged their way in” to the Simon Building, according to one rent striker. The students were told by the bailiffs to gather their belongings and leave the premises immediately.

In videos published online, bailiffs are seen picking up the students one by one and forcibly carrying them out of the building.

This came a day before the end of the Manchester Student Union referendum voting period, where students decided whether they wished to support the strike.

The rent strikers were taken to High Court by the university where they were granted a Possession Order on 21 March. This allowed bailiffs from the National Eviction Team to evict the student protestors on Wednesday morning.

A statement issued by the university said: “This morning officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order on a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since 13 February.

“This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on 15 March. The Court granted the University a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers.

“We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.”

According to one anonymous striker, the university has “not been willing to engage in any form of communication or negotiation with [the strikers]”. Another rent striker claims there is “a lack of understanding from upper management”.

The occupation is part of a wider student rent strike which has seen around 250 University of Manchester students withholding rent since January.

Since 13 February, students have concentrated their occupation on the Simon Building and have claimed they received harassment online. The occupiers allege the University had attempted to cut off access to food and sanitary products and turned off the heating and Wi-Fi in one of the occupied buildings.

The occupation comes off the back of long-standing issues, according to the rent strikers. The claim, in addition to the cost-of-living crisis, is that they are facing “a real-terms maintenance loan cut, poor quality accommodation and unaffordable rent”.

Another anonymous student interviewed said: “[the] cost-of-living is driving up prices and getting a job to cover costs alongside uni is often difficult, considering university is meant to be full-time.”

According to findings published in The Telegraph, a third of student accommodation will cost more than the average maintenance loan.

The University of Manchester has been unable to guarantee student accommodation, with a shortfall of over 350 rooms. Student halls within the University have also been found to have recurring issues such as black mould, pests and faulty facilities, as described by ITV News.

The rent strikers key demands include: 

  • A 30% rent reduction on remaining payments this year for students in halls
  • A 30% refund on rent payments already made this year for students in halls
  • A commitment from the University to not increase rent in any halls for at least three years (rent freeze)
  • Make 40% of student halls meet the National Union of Students’ definition of affordability (rent being no more than 50% of maximum student maintenance loan) within three years

The University has threatened the rent strikers with disciplinary action and has issued fines of £25.

Since the eviction, the rent strike Twitter account has tweeted that they are “planning the continuing and expanding of the Rent Strike as another rent instalment approaches, and more people cancel their direct debits”.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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