‘Mould and mice’: Students launch crowdfunding campaign to take legal action against LSE halls of residence

Pissed-off postgrads instruct top London law firm

Image via CrowdJustice

Students are gearing up to take legal action against the London School of Economics (LSE) over allegations poor living conditions created major “health crises” at one of its student halls.

Postgrads at the top university claim “severe rodent infestations”, “widespread black mould”, and “non-functional ventilation systems” at Sidney Webb House (a student accommodation block near Borough Market) created “health crises, distraction and distress.”

Images of damp and mould posted on Sidney Webb House Facebook page

Over 215 students — collectively known as the ‘Sidney Webb House Group Action’ — are now preparing to bring legal action against LSE and the halls management company, Unite Students, over claims the poor conditions amounted to “breaches of tenancy contract”.

According to a recently launched CrowdJustice page, the pissed-off postgrads have instructed London law firm Edwin Coe and are initially seeking £5,000 to cover basic legal fees. Continuing, the appeal — which has already received over £2,300 in donations — says:

We came here to study law, human rights, governance and economics, and we sincerely wish that this could have remained our primary concern. Due to the health challenges provoked by substandard conditions at Sidney Webb House, not all students will graduate on time and will be forced to incur additional expenses to take missed exams next year.

David Greene, a senior partner and head of litigation at Edwin Coe, has agreed to represent the students. Speaking to Legal Cheek earlier today, he was sympathetic towards their situation and was hopeful of a positive outcome. He said:

I would like to see LSE take sensible and reasonable steps to help resolve this matter. Discussions regarding a possible settlement have not yet concluded. The university has shown a degree of arrogance in the way it has handled this matter. It thought the problem would go away, but it won’t.

Elsewhere on the CrowdJustice page, it’s claimed that back in March a “noisy construction project invaded the residence” during a busy exam period. This allegedly created further “psychological distress and physical illness”, so students began filming their experiences and posting the clips on YouTube. Several, including one embedded below, appear alongside the fundraising appeal.

A spokesperson for LSE told Legal Cheek that Sidney Webb House “is to be newly refurbished over the summer.” The Russell Group uni noted it’s aware of a number of complaints made by its students about accommodation and that these are being investigation as per its complaint procedure. Continuing, the spokesperson said:

We take student welfare issues in our halls seriously. Onsite pastoral care is provided to students by an LSE warden, who is an academic member of staff, and a team of LSE sub wardens. The building is also staffed 24 hours a day by Unite staff and night security who are able to respond to issues as they arise.

Denying that the accommodation had been the direct cause of any illness, a spokesperson for Unite Students told The Guardian:

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 poor 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.

The students aim to hit their £5,000 target by 5 August.

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27 Comments

Kuzka's Mother

“Unite Students does not accept any suggestion that the accommodation is the cause of any medical ill health poor health. ”

I like how Unite couldn’t even give a statement to the Guardian that makes any sense.

(11)(0)
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Anonymous

I’ve had an issue with unite in the past at Emily bowes court, it was completely bug infested, in one flat we had three different types of bug infestation. Their solution was to put down a glue trap in the bathroom that I watched a bug walk on and then straight back off again.

(7)(0)
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Anonymous

And when I went to complain reception asked me if I was the girl with bedbugs. Pest control advised me that they couldn’t put down any poison because it would disrupt the other poison for the other kinds of bug and that the bugs in the kitchen are attracted to dirt so we should clean the hinges in the cupboard. It was diabolical.

(1)(0)
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Anonymous

Perhaps universities should start using their extortionate tuition fees on making life easier for the students they are ripping off and not on the overinflated salaries of the fat-cat vice-chancellors?

(15)(0)
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The issues

£9000 really is not that much and does not go far. I didn’t have to pay anything when I went to university, but given the fact you can get a very favourable loan for it, £9000 a year is much of the same.

Kids expect too much these days, they forget how easy they have it with their avocado on toast and other luxuries of life. Their grandparents and great grandparents fought wars for this country and the millennials are showing great disrespect with their attitudes.

(2)(32)
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??

Hello on behalf of Millenials,

You can get a loan. A very favorable loan which has interest building on it for 3 years before you can pay it off. The interest rate can also be changed retrospectively (something which normal lenders cannot do but because it was initially run by the government before being sold on this is fine). With the majority of people never being able to pay it off.

If £9000 is much the same as nothing then I will gladly accept £9000 from you, don’t worry you can get a loan for it.

As as for the avocados on toast, I can only apologise for the more common availability of food products than 50 years ago, I mean eating different kinds of food is completely unheard of. I’ll just get the caviar out and spread that on my crackers instead.

People’s attitudes need to change from the US and THEM, we need to stop brandishing a whole generation by the views of the loud. The recent voting paterns show how disintegrated this country is, we need to stop pointing out differences and start pointing out similarities. Would you like to live in accomodation like that?

Also it is not just your post, I am not singling you out, it is a host of them throughout this comments section.

Sorry for the rant but it irritated me.

(17)(2)
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Anonymous

“£9000 really is not that much and does not go far. I didn’t have to pay anything when I went to university,” Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a high enough disposable income where £9000 is considered “not that much” or fortunate enough to not have tuition fees at all. We don’t all live in ivory towers, you know.

“but given the fact you can get a very favourable loan for it, £9000 a year is much of the same.” Favourable in terms of what? The interest rate is already quite high and it’s disgraceful that the goalposts keep getting moved for graduates with retrospective increases, which is underhanded to say the least. Let’s not even go into the scrapping of maintenance grants, which further disadvantages those who don’t consider £9000 ‘that much’ (believe it or not, not all of us are that privileged). It would be marginally justifiable if the increases actually benefited the educational experience of students but as it stands, only the vice-chancellors seem to benefit.

“Kids expect too much these days, they forget how easy they have it with their avocado on toast and other luxuries of life.” I couldn’t care less for avocado on toast but how is that related to this topic? Is it really too much to expect universities to provide decent living conditions with not only the ever-increasing tuition fees but also the rent they charge on top of that? I don’t think asking for mould-free accommodation equates to demanding luxuries.

“Their grandparents and great grandparents fought wars for this country and the millennials are showing great disrespect with their attitudes.” Sorry for being born in the modern era I guess?

(9)(0)
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The issues

What do they expect – the Ritz?

What a bunch of millennial, self-entitled nonsense. If they want to live somewhere nice they shouldn’t be staying in halls. Life lesson – if you go to McDonalds, you won’t get steak.

This country is really going downhill. The sooner we leave the EU the better so we can get things back on track and start taking control of our own future.

(2)(45)
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Septimus Rees-Mogg

That’s the views MPs take.

They recently voted down an amendment that would have made it compulsory for all rented homes to be “fit for human habitation “.

How entitled of the working class scum and students to want somewhere decent to live? The cheek of it! They should know their place!!!

(5)(0)
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The issues

This is London. There are lots of rodents in all sorts of properties – many of which attract a much higher rent than whatever they expect students to pay these days. I imagine they don’t pay much rent but think that they do because they have no real concept of reality or money. Wake up – things are expensive and your £2.50 isn’t enough for the gravadlax.

I am almost certain that the black mould (and possibly the rodents) will have been caused by the students’ slum-like living. Unfortunately, largely due to the EU, kids are not taught about practical things such as opening the window or door after taking a shower. Yet these days kids have the internet and a world of knowledge at their fingertips, but they choose to use it to play Snapchats and send lewd pictures to each other. No wonder they live in squalor, it is their own doing.

(1)(20)
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Anonymous

All due respect, I think you fail to understand the financial challenges of modern studentship.

I started university in 2011. I moved from the north to the south to study and was from a low-income background. In my first year, I received a maintenance grant and as a result I qualified for a bursary from my university to help cover my costs.

Despite being 18 and apparently, based on your earlier comments, splashing all my money on avocados, I managed to save a fair proportion of my grant to help me later on. The grant was not repayable So it seemed sensible. My plan was to do the same every year. Then, in 2012, the changes to tuition fees brought about maintenance grant changes, and despite no change in my parents’ incomes, I lost all my maintenance grant and consequently the bursary. Having already committed to new accommodation, which for second years at my university was significantly more expensive, but was the only option, my rent was barely covered by my loan. At the end of my first week, I was left £80 in the black. I had that and a small overdraft to last me an entire semester.

Despite this, I managed to avoid asking my parents for help until my third year, where slightly lower rent got me a flat infested with moths (there when I moved in) which destroyed all my stuff. I went without food to avoid asking my mum and dad for money because I knew, while they could help a little, it didn’t grown on trees for them either. I’m also exceptionally clean, and did most of my own cleaning in maintained halls of residence purely because I preferred to.

My point? Recent years have been harsh on millennials. Fact. You cannot begin to understand the experience if you got your education for free. Fact. Arguing someone is entitled because they are expecting a standard for something they pay out good money for is therefore hypocritical. Fact.

We don’t like it when anyone else is made to live in accommodation like the above. Why is it ok when it is students, who pay out what little money they have for the privilege, do?

(4)(0)
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The issues

I want to sympathise with you, but it seems like you have shot yourself in the foot a couple of times.

I am sure your parents, despite not being from a well-off background, may have been able to provide some support. It seems to me that by failing to ask for support earlier it caused you to make the decision to move in to moth-infested accommodation, which in turn led to your possessions being destroyed. Then you had to go without food for some period of time. I am sure moth-infested living and a poor diet could have affected your studies too. Yet after all that, you say you still needed to ask them for help! You had to ask in any event, you should have asked sooner rather than try (and fail) to play the hero who doesn’t need help.

Doing most of your own cleaning in maintained halls seems ridiculous. Time is money, and cleaning when there is somebody else that you are paying (through hall fees) to clean already is pure waste. That is like buying your avocado on sourdough, putting it to one side, then ordering and eating the maple and bacon waffles instead. Outrageous!

Apologies if I am wrong, but it seems like you wrote that entire essay without mentioning part time work, or trying to obtain some. Plenty of young people, including myself, spent just as much time working whilst at university as they did studying or socialising. Could you not have worked 15-20 hours per week to make it financially viable and to put some food on your plate?

It seems to me like you didn’t play your cards right and you are trying to play the sob story.

(0)(2)
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Anonymous

I’ve pledged £20. Sidney Webb drafted the Labour Party constitution with patronage from Bernard Shaw – what a legacy to tarnish !

There’s a lot of haters on here, but one of the skills of property management is booking in maintenance works at a convenient time for the occupiers.

It is a shame that the students have to put £5000 on account.

It is a shame they are not going to have a go at proceedings themselves.

But, then again, I had a shit time in halls of residence and they’ve done more than I did – so good luck to ’em.

Sue for damages guys and put Unite’s insurers under pressure. Publish the claim and defence on Legal Cheek 🙂

(3)(0)
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