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Unfair fines in university halls of Residence

(22 Posts)
MargoLovebutter Wed 05-Dec-18 12:16:20

DS is being repeatedly fined because the "communal areas are not clean and tidy" in his flat.

He is in a hall of residence with people from different universities and he is the youngest person in the flat of 5. Even though he prepares food and eats in the kitchen every day, he has only spoken to two other people in the flat, as the other two never emerge from their room when he is there. Only one of those has he had an actual conversation with.

The communal area comprises of a kitchen/living room and the clean and tidy bit means that some washing up hasn't been done - not that there is a scene of apocalyptic devastation!

DS is a neat freak and cannot abide dirty things, so he washes up all his dishes after use and puts them back in his cupboard, so none of the dirty dishes are his.

DS is incredibly hacked off and has repeatedly told that manager of the halls of residence that he has no ability to ensure that other members of the flat do their washing up. He has also asked to see the appeals process for fines levied (there isn't one) and has involved the accommodation officer for his university.

He is autistic spectrum and this is triggering his anxiety massively (which has also been explained to the halls manager by the university disability officer). He received a letter telling him that an additional fine would now be levied as he hasn't paid the fines so far - which nearly sent him into total anxiety melt down.

Can anyone give me any advice on how best to help him tackle this.

OP’s posts: |
IWannaSeeHowItEnds Wed 05-Dec-18 12:20:51

Write a letter to the head of his university and copy in his personal tutor and head of accommodation office? This is a very unfair system and needs addressing.
I'd get legal advice and handle this for him tbh.

Xenia Wed 05-Dec-18 16:08:50

Seems very unfair to me.
However how much it is? May be you just pay it for him if you can afford it. Next time you visit lay the law down with his fellow sharers and perhaps try to get the money out of them.

AnnieOH1 Wed 05-Dec-18 16:19:14

Engage a solicitor asap. I wouldn't stand for such ridiculousness. I've got two trains of thought, firstly that these are merely invoices not fines - similar to private parking charges. They may be contractual but then I would argue it was an unfair term.

The second train of thought for me is that certainly under standard tenancies it only matters what the property is like at the end of the tenancy.

What does the contract say about the communal areas and these "fines" ?

Figmentofmyimagination Wed 05-Dec-18 16:24:13

This sounds to me like a breach of the Equality Act - in particular, a breach of the legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled student.

www.disabilityrightsuk.org/understanding-equality-act-information-disabled-students

Whalehello2 Wed 05-Dec-18 16:27:37

Contact the students Union welfare officer and email them your post above. Their email address should be on the students Union website.

The officers of the Union are elected students on sabbatical. They sit on various university councils and in staff meetings and have the power to start a campaign to abolish ridiculous systems such as this.

Copy your email to the students Union president and disabilities officer also.

MargoLovebutter Wed 05-Dec-18 16:34:27

Thank you all.

I've gone through the tenancy agreement and whilst it says the communal areas need be maintained to the standard to which they were found on moving in and should be kept clean and in good order, there is NOTHING in the agreement about weekly inspections and fines being levied for the communal areas not being clean.

Apparently, this information was in a Welcome Pack - but I don't see how that can be binding.

Xenia, I am not paying this. They will have to take me to court first. I believe this is a money making scheme by a private halls of residence property manager. They don't use the money to get a cleaner to come in and do the washing up - so what is the fine for? DS was told by the halls manager that the purpose of the fines were for residents to learn "a life lesson".

OP’s posts: |
IWannaSeeHowItEnds Wed 05-Dec-18 18:57:45

Cheeky fuckers are trying it on. There's no way this could be legal. But it's causing your son distress, so you should definitely take your complaint further.
It's not the job of the hall's manager to teach students 'life lessons'. This is bullying behaviour.

BubblesBuddy Wed 05-Dec-18 23:46:44

You just wait until he moves out! My DD had awful flat mates and she was fined for their mess. Unless you clean up after the yucky flat mates, you are all fined. They won’t care. You are liable under the agreement. We argued through every avenue we could but, as it was £177, I paid in the end.

I assume this isn’t university accommodation and is a private hall. They are not worth the hassle. She moved out early as the flat mates were so awful and was then fined for their shit! Try and move him. It won’t get any better and the university don’t control these flats.

BackforGood Thu 06-Dec-18 00:12:47

I would challenge that all the way.
It is nobody's business but your own if you've done the washing up or not.
As long as there is not damage to the flat or fittings when you vacate, it is not the landlrd's business how often you wash up.
It is certainly not right to be holding one tenant responsible for another tenant leaving their cereal bowl out hmm
It is just a way of extracting extra rent from them.

bpisok Thu 06-Dec-18 01:13:50

From a legal perspective the 'welcome pack' isn't bound into the signed contract (unless it explicitly states it is - in which case you will have a copy of it beforehand or unless the signed something as part of the welcome pack) the requirement to have the place back to the standard 'as it was at the point of occupancy' will almost def be in the contract
So if there are no penalties built into tenancy they have zero rights unless they can demonstrate they are built into the contract.
If your DC can't get his flat mates to play ball all he can do is draw up a rota/agreement with the flatmates and then demonstrate via record that they haven't met their obligations

user1499173618 Thu 06-Dec-18 08:58:55

You need to challenge this: it is extortion.

KissedByFire Thu 06-Dec-18 09:02:35

Contact the students Union welfare officer and email them your post above. Their email address should be on the students Union website.

Good suggestion from @Whalehello2

The SU should be able to help.

Needmoresleep Thu 06-Dec-18 09:35:14

Putting random students together and then expecting them to police each other by threatening collective fines is both lazy and wrong.

DD had this last year. If there was a noise complaint (and note - campus security apparently did not have ears - they required a student to complain) the whole flat would be fined. And if drugs were found and the owners did not own up, the whole flat would be held responsible. Cue law and medical students being absolutely unable to complain unless they wanted to destroy their careers before they started.

The on-going assumption is that the growing MH crisis on campuses is best sorted by more centralised welfare support. No. A lot could be nipped in the bud by proper pastoral care in student accomodation. OPs son should not have to be trying to fight his way through University bureaucracy.He has done nothing wrong. He should have a sypmpathetic first port of all close to home.

Universities need to be careful. We certainly know one overseas student, from a big international school in SE Asia who traditionally send students to the UK, who left because of similar problems in her accomodation. If Birmingham find a sudden drop in their applicants from that country they will realise that good customer word-of-mouth is the best marketing. Asian friends, investing huge chunks of family savings in overseas education and aware, and concerned about the reputations some campuses have picked up. Its enough travelling half way round the world and a different culture, without having to cope with the chaos that even British students struggle with.

JustRichmal Thu 06-Dec-18 09:50:16

Wow, as a landlord I had no idea I could do this. I shall go round to the families in my properties and see if they have done their washing up. I could do with some more Christmas money. If they complain I shall tell them it is a life lesson.

Seriously, I agree that the welcome pack is probably not contractual. Are they giving 24 hours notice before inspections? Also under human rights, you have the right to not to be hassled by your landlord. If there is an inspection every week, this is not hassle free living.

Get clued up on where you stand. There is a whole raft of information on the internet on rules governing landlords.

Though I agree in general with letting dc make their own way in the world, I would step in. It is his first year away from home, he is trying to do a degree and this is obviously stressful.

user1499173618 Thu 06-Dec-18 09:57:19

I suspect that this extortion racket is relying on age old advice to let students deal with things on their own. That was fine and dandy when universities were responsible institutions that took duty of care seriously. They have now morphed into businesses set to extract maximum cash from the young. Hence parents desperately need to play a role in assisting their children when they come up against unethical practice.

BubblesBuddy Thu 06-Dec-18 15:07:13

I bet it’s not university accommodation though. Almost certainly a private building.

Needmoresleep Thu 06-Dec-18 15:13:26

Why?

The same rules often apply in University owned flats. Sometimes private operators can be better than University ones.

user1499173618 Thu 06-Dec-18 15:34:28

It doesn’t really matter whether this hall of residence is university owned or outsourced to a private operator. The students concerned are members of a university and the university ought to abide by an ethos of duty of care across all its operations.

MargoLovebutter Thu 06-Dec-18 20:49:00

Thank you all for the input. These are definitely private halls not related to any of the institutes of higher education that sign post students to it.

I’ve checked the signed agreement again and there is nothing about weekly inspections and fines. They weren’t giving 24hrs notice initially but DS complained and they do now give 24 hours notice. DS finds it incredibly stressful every week and gets massively anxious. His uni disability officer has taken up his case with the halls manager but they literally don’t give a shit.

OP’s posts: |
JustRichmal Thu 06-Dec-18 22:55:11

The 1985 housing act says

In a lease in which the lessor’s repairing covenant is implied there is also implied a covenant by the lessee that the lessor, or any person authorised by him in writing, may at reasonable times of the day and on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing to the occupier, enter the premises comprised in the lease for the purpose of viewing their condition and state of repair.

So it has to be in writing.

3 monthly inspections are considered a little over zealous, so once a week, especially given being on the autistic spectrum, would be building to a case of harassment. The human rights act does give the right to peaceful enjoyment of a property without harassment, as far as I know. However, I am not a lawyer so do not know for sure. The Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter would be good to contact.

I would make sure any deposit has been legally lodged. A friend had a landlord who just tried to stop their deposit for repairs, not having lodged it. (Except quietly in his own bank account).

Bezalelle Mon 10-Dec-18 06:33:59

Capitalism is slowly destroying us.

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