worked in a pub before the coronavirus outbreak, which was enough to cover my rent at Dinwiddy House at King’s Cross during my first year of studies in social anthropology at Soas University in London. I also received some money from my family in Poland to help me with food and other basic necessities. But I was put on leave when the coronavirus lockout started in late March, and I went home.
I rented to the student accommodation company Sanctuary Students, which requires me to pay during lockdown, even if I am not using the facilities and leave the room completely empty, and I will not return to the UK before January around next year. because my course is going to be online. This is a time when other housing providers have offered students a rental pass for this quarter, and I firmly believe that is what shrine students should also do. So, along with about 200 other students, I joined a rent strike.
The sanctuary students treat us as if we are only using the pandemic to escape without paying rent, not people who had just left their homes to be with our families and loved ones because of the virus. Many of us have lost our jobs and simply cannot pay. We have agreed that we should remain united until they release us from our contracts.
I then received a letter from a debt collection company asking me to pay the remaining debt of £ 1,735.69 in seven days, threatening that otherwise they would take more direct action against me.
When I received this letter, I spoke to the student union and they told me that they were contacting lawyers to find out how to address this issue. I also told the debt collector that I am involved in a strike and that he should not contact me directly and negotiate with the student union. We have written an open letter signed by many who live in the Sanctuary student accommodation, and we are waiting to see what happens next.
I am very worried about the evolution of this situation. I fear that if I return to London next year I will be unable to find accommodation and if I have outstanding debts my credit rating will be reduced.
It was not possible to work in Poland, so I could not collect enough money to pay the rent even if I wanted to. I can’t be sure I’ll be rehired by the pub when I get back to the UK either. My parents try to help me in every way possible, but there is little they can do. They don’t have enough money and don’t really understand the situation in London.
We are firm. If one of us starts paying the rent, the strike does not have enough power to effect change. The coronavirus is not yet finished and its effects will be felt for several months after the end of the pandemic. The company needs to understand that these are not normal circumstances.
- A spokesperson for Sanctuary Students said he would not comment on individual tenants, but said, “We did not use collection agents for the rent arrears accumulated during the Covid period. However, there are a very small number of students who may have received a letter from a collection agency. This recovery activity has been suspended during these unprecedented periods and we would like to encourage all students with financial problems to contact us as we are happy to discuss other flexible payment options.