A group of students are preparing to take legal action against a top university after alleging they became unwell by living in mouldy and rat-infested accommodation.
Postgraduates at the London School of Economics claim widespread black mould, rodent infestations and periods without ventilation at Sidney Webb House, a block of halls near Borough Market, resulted in a “health crises, distraction and distress”.
The students have launched a crowdfunding page to raise money to sue LSE for what they claim is a “breach of tenancy contract”.
The page, which has so far raised £1,951 of its £5,000 target, was put together by the Sidney Webb House Group Action, a group of more than 200 postgraduates. It urges people to help “students seek justice and redress grievances”.
It reads: “Entire blocks of en-suite rooms had non-functional ventilation systems for 10 months, while bathrooms were severely contaminated with mould. Because of the extremely poor living conditions, many students fell ill. Some were diagnosed with upper respiratory tract infections and one resident underwent an open surgical procedure due to skin infection. Many had allergic reactions from the poor ventilation and mould exposure, in line with those detailed by the WHO and UK building regulations.”
The Russell Group University has a licence contract with the students, but the crowdfunding page claims that the building is owned by and managed by property company Unite Students. Those at the halls claimed repair of basic utilities, including heating and hot water, were often delayed.
Students, who lived in the halls between September 2016 and June 2017, also complained of disruptive construction work, which took place over a seven-week period, and affected students’ ability to prepare for their exams.
One student took to social media to express his frustration, tweeting Unite Students in April 2017 to say: “Can’t believe you started a noisy construction at Sidney Webb House three weeks before LSE exams. Impossible to study here.”
The Guardian heard from another student, Jürgen, who said he had lived in the accommodation from September 2016 until June 2017.
He said: “The ventilation in the en-suite bathroom did not work during the whole time I lived there. This made the room damp as I had to dry my clothes there, the provided dryers were expensive and did not manage to dry my clothes full. Also, I had to shower in the room and as the window could hardly be opened because of security measures so the humidity was quite high at times.”
Unite Students has said it “does not accept” the accommodation had been the direct cause of any illness.
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 from Unite Students said it took over ownership of Sidney Webb House in 2015 to 2016 and was aware of issues during the academic year.
The company said: “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 reach their target of £5,000 on fundraising website CrowdJustice by 5 August.