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Auckland Uni students face consequences over unpaid rent amid strike

Author
Lachlan Rennie,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 May 2024, 5:00am
Photo / NZME
Photo / NZME

Auckland Uni students face consequences over unpaid rent amid strike

Author
Lachlan Rennie,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 May 2024, 5:00am

There’s no clear end in sight for the student “rent strike” at University of Auckland, but an expert is warning students could face consequences if they continue withholding rent.

Members of the Students for Fair Rent group have been refusing to pay rent for almost a month, demanding a blanket rent reduction and safeguards against future rises.

The protest was sparked by an annual 8 per cent rise in rents at the start of this year.

Weekly rent at the country’s largest student residence, Waipārūrū Hall, have increased from $470 last year to $510 this year.

Students for Fair Rent Chair Matthew Lee said while they have had discussions with the university, they have no plans to end their strike.

“They’ve asked us to go through some alternative routes to raise this issue with the university – routes that historically have done nothing.”

Lee said some students taking part in the “rent strike” have had their key cards deactivated and had been given the choice to resume payments or have a meeting with their residential manager, where they were often pressured to withdraw from the protest.

A University of Auckland spokesperson said students know the cost of residences when they sign up for them.

They said access cards sometimes stop working but they can be reactivated at a 24/7 reception. If students were behind on rent, staff would “remind them to follow up on payment or to book a meeting”.

Organisers claimed 196 people were taking part in the strike, but the university said only 16 of the 4200 residents of university accommodation have notified they were taking part.

Citizens Advice Bureau National Advisor Sacha Green said while the university was required to act in good faith, it had several options if students refused to pay rent.

It could not only terminate a student’s tenancy, but also charge late fees, limit their course selection, withhold exam results, pursue legal action and refer a student to a debt collection agency.

“There is no legal basis for a ‘rent strike’. The university has the right to decide to terminate the agreement.

“Student accommodation is not subject to the Residential Tenancies Act so you don’t have those mechanisms that are sometimes used to balance rights.”

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