Bristol University set to use third-party debt collector against rent strikers


By Roya Shahidi, News Reporter

Bristol University is reportedly the first university to pursue private debt collection in response to students on rent strike.

The University of Bristol has announced that they will pass debt collection to private debt collectors in a move to retrieve unpaid rent from those on rent strike.

Rent Strike Bristol say standard debt procedure entails the University holding onto debt for 12 months before moving it to a third party. However, in an email sent to students, they said that the debt from 24 October will be passed onto STA International debt collectors, only 7 months after.

Bristol University is reportedly the first university to pursue private debt collection in response to rent-striking students.

Students who have not yet paid their instalments of rent have received emails and telephone calls from the university urging them to pay.

Alice, a Bristol student and participant in the rent strike, says: ‘Having an outside company potentially affect our finances and credit score is really scary.’

‘Financially, being a student this year has been really tough, jobs are hard to find and the University threatening this action is upsetting.’

Giovanni, another student striker, adds that the move from the University is ‘vile, bullying behaviour, lower than I’d expect to see from the scummiest of private businesses, and sends a clear message to students considering studying at Bristol.’

Rent Strike Bristol, who earlier in the academic year led what is thought to be the largest ever rent strike on a UK campus, have said that they are continuing to fight this decision.

They are asking Bristol University management to meet with them to reach a conclusion that does not involve debt collectors.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: ‘We do not make a profit from student rent and all accommodation fees are used for operating, maintaining and improving our halls of residence. This includes 24/7 pastoral and wellbeing support.

‘Recognizing the impact the pandemic has had, we have offered students rebates which are the equivalent of a 25% reduction in rent over the duration of their tenancy. We believe this to be one of the most significant rebates across the university sector and it is significantly more than students living in private rented accommodation have received.

‘The overall package of additional Covid-related support for students in halls up to the end of March will total over £16.5million.

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‘We have regularly reminded students what support is available and have encouraged them to get in touch if they’re having any financial difficulties. Payment dates and the debt collection procedure are outlined in their tenancy contract.

‘Our hardship funds are uncapped and available to all students, regardless of landlord, during this challenging period.

‘We know that this has been a difficult year for students and their wellbeing remains our top priority. Our mental health and financial services are on hand to support all students – and we continue to urge anyone in need to get in touch as soon as possible.’

Featured Image: Lucy O’Neill

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