Five students have been left without permanent accommodation following eviction from their house in Cowley.
The students, all third years at New College, returned home last Friday to find that their door had been broken down and that their locks had been changed.
A note had been left on the door telling the students to contact Allen Harris Estate Agents.
Claire Chambers, one of the students, spoke of her distress at finding she could not get into her house.
She said, “We came back from the library at about 11.30pm and found our door broken down: there was wood everywhere.”
She described the confusion saying, “We didn’t know what was going on, we had to stay with friends for the night as there was nowhere else for us to go.”
The students called the police, but as it was a civil matter there was nothing they could do. They had to wait until the morning, when they were able to contact the estate agents.
However Chambers dismissed the response from Allen and Harris as unhelpful. She said, “When we spoke to an estate agent, he just laughed and told us that we had to move out by five.
“We knew that we had rights, but as we didn’t know the law, we didn’t know what we could actually do. We had to call our parents to come down to Oxford and help us.”
The students rented their house from a landlord, but their only means of contact was through a letting agency, which was apparently unaware that there were tenants occupying the accommodation.
The students were told that if they did not move all their possessions out of the house then they would not be able to access their belongings.
The students all have examinations this term, and one of them, Tegan Gill, spoke of the disruption the eviction had caused.
Gill said, “It has been such a stressful week and has disrupted our revision. It also means that we have nowhere to stay over the summer.
“It is our last year here and we really wanted to enjoy it. Our parents have all had to take time off work and this has causes a lot of trouble for a lot of people.”
Whilst the students are able to appeal against their unfair eviction, any court case would likely take place in the middle of their finals.
Jonathon Bruce, PR manager for Allen Harris described the situation as the “fault of the landlord” for failing to inform the students that he was unable to pay his mortgage.
He said that the landlord had not informed anyone that there were tenants occupying the property and that Allen Harris had been acting purely on the orders of Halifax, with whom the landlord had had his mortgage.
He described the situation as “unfortunate” but added that Allen and Harris had become involved “only at the end of the process”.
He continued, “The issue now is to find the students somewhere else to stay, Allen and Harris have no lettings in the area but are doing whatever possible to help.”
The students agreed that the situation was not the fault of Allen and Harris.
She identified the landlord as the main culprit, stating that he should have informed the letting agency of his financial difficulties.
Louise Randall, OUSU VP for welfare, expressed her concern about the situation.
She said, “Most worrying is what little regard the landlord has given to the well being of his tenants in this situation.
“The landlord will have had a significant amount of notice about the possible consequences of not keeping up on mortgage repayments, and should have felt a duty of care to have informed the tenants in due time.”
Chambers said, “College [New] have been really helpful. Luckily they had rooms available so we are staying there.”
Randall added, “I am pleased that New College have acted so swiftly in order to find accommodation for the students and I hope the welfare systems in place in the College will help ease the stress on the students by this.
A spokesperson for Halifax stated, “It is important to note that repossession is a very last resort."
“The unfortunate issue is that the people living in the property are not our customers. They are the clients of our customer. As such, their contract is with the landlord, not ourselves. The repossession should not have come as any surprise to either the tenant or the occupier. It is an unfortunate circumstance.”