Video by ITV Granada reporter Emma Sweeney
Students in halls of residence at the University of Manchester are withholding their rent payments, claiming their accommodation is 'too expensive and substandard.'
Around 150 students say they have cancelled their direct debits, pointing to mould, leaks, cracks in the walls and issues with mice and rats, which they claim the university has failed to take seriously.
The students are seeking a 30% cut on monthly rent payments, including a rebate for fees already paid, because of the state of the properties.
Johnny Jones says he is withholding his rent because 'almost every student I know has a problem with water, electricity or mice.'
He says, "My flatmate is striking because mice keep coming through his cupboard, it eats his bread and his cereal. We've asked the university to fix it and they haven't."
Eden, another student is withholding rent after reporting a crack on the wall which was leaking rainwater but claims nothing was done, although on the system it said the repair had been 'completed'.
The students say it is not just about the damp, mould and the mice in the cost of living crisis, they say the 'sky high rents' are not affordable, with the current level of student grants.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics in November found half of all students in England were facing financial difficulties, with a quarter taking on additional debts and three in 10 skipping lectures and tutorials to cut costs.
Some students say they are forced to rely on food banks and to ask for help from family and friends.
Manchester students are also asking for no further increases in rent over the next three years, and for 40% of halls to meet the National Union of Students’ definition of affordability, which is 50% of the highest student maintenance loan.
They argue this should be funded through Manchester’s record £119.7 million surplus.
Students at Manchester University went on strike two years ago over the university's handling of the Covid pandemic. In that action they secured a 30% rebate worth £4 million.
In response to the latest strike action, Manchester University said: "We have provided special Cost of Living payments to students recently in recognition of the pressures many are facing.
"Every full-time student has received a special £170 payment and can apply for grants of up to £2000. This totals £9m.
“We also share concerns with students that the recent increase in maintenance loans falls far short of keeping pace with inflation and we are advocating strongly on behalf of our students to see this position change.
"We would not let an unsuitable property to any student.
"When we become aware of accommodation issues we always respond. We work with the maintenance teams and our pest contractor to identify and resolve any issues.
"All residences are cleaned twice a week by cleaning services. This is a partnership to supplement the cleaning that residents would do themselves.
"Regular condition checks in our residences are in place. Any reported issues are dealt with immediately.
"Health and safety inspections took place over Christmas with no significant issues reported.”
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