The following is a statement from the QMUL Rent Strike Campaign from early April 2021. QMUL Rent Strike Campaign is mobilising against the eviction of twenty students, including at least one rent strike organiser. Several hundred students have been on rent strike at Queen Mary as part of student rent strikes across Britain against draconian university practices and overcharging on fees and rent during the Covid pandemic.
Queen Mary University of London is using minor infringements of fire safety rules as an excuse to evict students on rent strike. This academic year, twenty students have been served Notices to Quit by QMUL stating they must vacate their rooms within a month. Evicted students informed QMUL Rent Strike that the university has given them insufficient support since – with some waiting up to three weeks for help with applying to COVID hardship funds and others now being made homeless because of their evictions. On top of the evictions, the students are facing ‘do not re-house’ flags being added to their files, charges in admin costs and are having their academic departments notified.
QMUL Rent Strike believes that there is a double standard, whereby QMUL disproportionately evicts students, many of whom on rent strike, for breaching fire safety rules, yet continuously fails to uphold health and safety standards on their part. This is because QMUL’s Fire Risk Assessments from last year show that multiple fire safety standards have been neglected in QMUL halls – such as the presence of timber cladding going unchecked in residential buildings, and unsafe fire doors which are yet to be replaced, despite advice to do so, in student rooms.
Amongst those who have been evicted is a key rent strike organiser, 19, who said: “I believe I have been targeted by QMUL for being a vocal rent strike organiser. My meeting regarding my eviction ended abruptly, despite my evident distress. I have no family home to go to in the UK and am now forced to urgently find housing in the middle of the pandemic. QMUL is aware of these circumstances but made no concessions to reflect them, and my requests for a less extreme punishment and a review of the disciplinary procedure were denied. The lack of a formal process and ethical treatment by QMUL is questionable. It seems that the university is compensating for its own poor fire safety standards by enacting more draconian measures on students in its residences.” The evicted students have received statements of support from QMUL’s UCU and UNISON branches, who question the reason behind such a high rate of evictions and call on the university to reverse their decision, given the pandemic.
Rent Strike Now is mobilising against the evictions taking place at QMUL. We support all students who have been evicted during the pandemic and urge them to reach out to our network about this, if they have not done so already. We demand that QMUL halt all evictions that are currently taking place and rescind all Notices To Quit that have been issued within the past month. We also call on QMUL to rehouse all students that have been evicted this academic year – effective immediately. Finally, we urge QMUL and all UK universities to adopt comprehensive eviction mitigation measures which are in line with current government protections for tenants in order to make evictions a last resort for minor offences committed during the pandemic.
QMUL’s UCU branch wrote a statement of solidarity with those being evicted here, which reveals Queen Mary’s disproportionate use of evictions compared to other universities in London. You can write to Colin Bailey and Queen Mary’s management team to insist on a halt to the evictions here. Write your own or use their template email at the link.