Government policy of late has been to dissuade small-scale buy-to-let investors from expanding their businesses in favour of large-scale institutional and corporate investors providing “professional” management. However, it would seem, at least from one case that has come to light recently, this is not all it would seem…
Unite Students (trading name for the Unite Group PLC) claims to be “the leading provider of student accommodation in the UK, providing homes for 50,000 students, across 28 cities.”
However, a group of postgraduate students at the London School of Economics (LSE) are currently preparing to take legal action against the university after doctors advised some students they should be rehoused to protect their health.
The students have complained that the mouldy and rat-infested living conditions at Sidney Webb House, a student accommodation block near Borough Market and provided by Unite Students, has caused their health to deteriorate.
The students are blaming their reported “intense headaches, coughing, breathing problems, dizziness, skin and eye infections” on their accommodation. One student’s GP is advising his patient to seek an “urgent room change” from the university. One student who won a Foreign Office-funded Scholarship, was admitted to hospital after developing a recurring skin infection that required surgery and left him unable to walk.
The group of students has formed the Sidney Webb House Action Group (SWHAG) and is now in the process of raising funds to sue the university via a crowdfunding website.
Students who live at Sidney Webb House say that their complaints to the LSE have not been taken seriously, though the building is owned and managed by the student accommodation provider Unite.
The company have said it is offering 450 students a payment of £100 each, as a “gesture of goodwill” in recognition of the fact that their experience of its accommodation has been “below perfect”.
However, this offer has been rejected by the students who are calling the offer “insulting” and have set a target of raising £5,000 for their legal costs.
A spokesman for LSE told the Sunday Telegraph:
“It is to be refurbished over the summer. We are, however, aware of a number of complaints about accommodation there this academic year. We are investigating each issue.”
A spokesman for Unite Students said:
“We are aware that there were a few issues during the academic year at Sidney Webb House. We are always sorry to hear that any student is experiencing poor health.
“Unite Students does not accept any suggestion that the accommodation is the cause of any medical ill health. Any class action being prepared by a student against LSE is a matter between those two parties and not for us to comment on.”