TENANTS in Coventry picketed a national student landlord on Saturday (September 26), demanding a refund for a Coventry University student who had to leave the city in the coronavirus lockdown.
Members of renters’ union Acorn protested outside the Trinity View student accommodation block on Friars’ Road in Coventry city centre.
The union said its socially distanced picket of Prime Student Living, who own and run the building, aimed to warn new students about the treatment of student member Rebecca Wallace.
A spokesman for ACORN said: “Ms Wallace was a tenant at Trinity View during the last academic year. When the national coronavirus lockdown occurred in March, Rebecca returned home to Northern Ireland, following government advice.
“Despite the flat being empty from March (and the keys returned in June) Prime Student Living ignored Rebecca’s pleas for a rent reduction. In the end, Prime Student Living not only demanded the full rent amount but threatened Rebecca by claiming that they’d already sent her details to a debt collection company.
“Rebecca relented and paid £2,141.33 to cover the period from April 28 to August 28, borrowing money from her parents in order to do so.
“Prime Student Living’s harsh actions make them stand out amongst other student accommodation providers. UNITE Students, the largest provider in the country, allowed all of their students to exit their contracts early, and Coventry University allowed all students in university-owned or managed accommodation to exit their contracts early.”
ACORN Coventry member Emma said: “Prime Student Living’s actions (demanding that a student pay over £2000 for an accommodation that they could not reasonably occupy) are obviously objectionable, even by the low standards of student accommodation providers.”
Prime Student Living responds
A spokesman for Prime Student Living said: “We appreciate that COVID-19 is causing concerns and difficulties across the United Kingdom student population. However, the overwhelming majority of Prime Student Living tenants in Coventry have accepted the circumstances, paid for and taken up their tenancies, and have been continuing their university studies through online distance learning from their rooms at Trinity View.
“Speaking in general terms, if a Prime Student Living contract is agreed and signed by a tenant, and the accommodation is available, then the tenant is contractually bound to pay fees regardless of whether or not the tenant occupies the property. The tenancy agreement, as agreed and signed, does not contain any clauses allowing premature termination of a contract.
“The form of contract in question is no different from hundreds of thousands of standard student accommodation contracts currently operating across the country, whether with Prime Student Living or other providers.”