“Heartless” Bristol lettings agency under fire

130 student tenants withhold rent payments after misjudged chase-up email causes anger among agencies' clients after missive refuses to entertain rent reductions during crisis.

Over 130 Bristol students are refusing to pay rent to Digs, a “heartless” city lettings agency that insisted the students make their rents in full, regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digs admits its email was “insensitive” and say they will speak to landlords about options, including 50% reduction in rent.

The Bristol Cable, a community-led media cooperative in Bristol, reported that students are withholding rent worth around £1,500 each from Digs Residential Lettings in Clifton, and are calling for their rents to be cancelled completely or reduced drastically in the wake of the outbreak.

The rent strike was called after Digs sent a ‘polite reminder’ to all of its tenants informing them that full payment was still due on 1st April, as per the contract, regardless of when student loans are paid or the Covid-19 situation.

“Insensitive and heartless”

Student and Digs tenant Ruth Day, from a campaign group Bristol, Cut the Rent, said, “I was angered by the email because it was so insensitive and heartless. Students are already stressing about how to pay rent because loans don’t come in until April 20 and many have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown.”

Lettings agency Digs has admitted that the email was “insensitive and sent in error, in terms of its wording” and has promised to speak to all landlords individually. However, the company was clear that they are “purely an agency” and that the final decision rests with landlords, not them.

Steven Harris, Digs’ Managing Director, told the Cable: “It’s a very tricky situation, acting for many property owners means there is no ‘one fits all’ solution and it’s not our decision.

“As an agency we will be speaking to all our landlords individually and we will encouraging them to help, we have a variety of options for them. The option of zero rent if vacant or 50% if occupied can indeed be presented.”

Ruth Day, a third year Maths and Philosophy student at the University of Bristol, said: “I don’t have much sympathy for the Digs argument. Landlords are getting a lot of help from the government around this situation. As students, we don’t own another property. We are literally just renting and most of us don’t have much money.”

Read more about Coronavirus and the property market.


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