Albany Park demands rent abatement over construction work

Photo: Ranald Dinsdale

Albany Park residents have submitted a formal request for rent abatement to the University of St Andrews following construction site “disruption.”

The complaint, which was signed by 30 residents, details issues residents have faced due to the Gatty Marine construction site.

The aim of the complaint is to achieve rent abatement for all residents of Albany Park to compensate for the unexpected disturbances they have suffered throughout the year.

The complaint has been submitted to the University and is currently being assessed by Residential and Business Services (RBS).

RBS manages financial operations for the Residential System and plans long-term maintenance and the development of new projects at the University.

Rent abatement is typically proposed in situations when tenants finds their property is damaged and their landlord either allows them to suspend paying until it is repaired or offers a discounted rent, among other options.

In the case of Albany Park, residents are asking for a discount in their accommodation fees.

In their formal complaint to the University, the Albany Park Hall Committee stated, “This year, the Albany Park hall of residence has effectively been turned into an extension of the Gatty Marine construction site.

“This has caused a number of problems for Albany residents, many of whom applied to this hall primarily because it is the least-expensive but who had no reason to expect when they accepted their offers of accommodation that they were securing relatively low rent at the cost of major daily disruption.”

Albany Park, the third largest residence in terms of number of residents, was initially opened in the 1970s as an “affordable” option for students, according to the University’s accommo-dation website.

This year’s fees were £3,915, a sizable difference from the next least expensive, which are shared rooms in Agnes Blackadder Hall and David Russell Apartments priced at £5,589.

The complaint lists the most significant issues faced by residents this semester so far, including disruptive noise and dangers in everyday routes.

“Starting at 8 am, the noise of heavy machinery can be heard from all areas, so that some residents find it impossible to study in their rooms.” The University has provided residents with earplugs.

The letter continues, “The main access route for site traffic runs right through the centre of Albany, which has made this area both muddy and potentially hazardous for residents. Even at night, strong winds off the North Sea often make the hoardings rattle and create a total racket.

“This year’s construction work not only causes us daily disruption; it also lends our hall of residence the unwelcome aesthetic of a building site.”

Students were informed of the planned work

Though he noted the rest of his year at Albany has been pleasant, first year student James Meredith admits the construction has been disruptive for him.

“I happen to live just outside of the unit of cabins and this has encroached into the car park, leaving less space,” Mr Meredith said. “Furthermore, there has been noise each morning as the vehicles are transported around.”

Mr Meredith agreed with the request for rent abatement, even though the University did notify students of the year’s construction in the summer.

“This construction isn’t for Albany and is instead for an aquarium,” he said, referring to the anticipated marine biology lab.

“In all fairness, we were informed of this beforehand and some effort was made to let us know. This warning did not include power cuts, however.”

The letter addresses these power cuts, revealing that, “Since the start of term, there have been several power outages in Albany due to the construction work, and the footpath into town was closed for several days.”

The power cuts have been one of the most significant disruptions for many residents, especially as they hinder on normal activities, such as making food and doing work.

“This warning did not include power cuts.”

First year student Orla Emberson said, “Because of the building works we sometimes have random power cuts, which can be quite disruptive. They’ve occurred mostly in the middle of the afternoon, maybe for a couple of hours or so, and it’s annoying if you’re trying to cook or use the internet.”

First year Kiera Obi echoed Ms Emberson’s complaints, adding that issues with the electricity had caused her inconvenience.

“I’d say the most inconvenient thing is the power outages,” Ms Obi said. “It’s not very bright inside the house so we need the lights, and it’s annoying if we come home for lunch and can’t use the oven, microwave, or wifi.”

Second year Euan Guthrie said, “The construction has been supremely disruptive, cutting out of power, noise at very early hours, [and] mess being left [around the construction site]. However, this would still not stop me from living in Albany Park next year if that were an option, as it contains the best people I have met in St Andrews to date.”

He continued, “The financials did play a role, but I would not consider living elsewhere if it were possible to stay.”

In response to the formal complaint from Albany Park residents, a spokesperson for the University emphasised the purpose of the construction and their efforts to inform students and reduce disruptions for them.

“The University is building a new centre for marine science which will place St Andrews and Scotland at the cutting edge of this very important discipline and support world-leading teaching and research.”

Construction of the centre is scheduled to conclude in November 2018. The project will cost the University £10 million and will include a 2,256 square metre research building and “smart” aquarium.

According to the University it will be “the most technologically advanced in the UK.”

The new laboratory will be the permanent base of the Scottish Oceans Institute, which includes the world’s leading Sea Mammal Research Unit, and the executive office of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS).

In regards to the disruption, a spokesperson for the University said, “Students living at Albany Park were informed of the planned work, and the likelihood of some disruption, prior to signing accommodation contracts.

“Our Estates staff are monitoring to ensure planned times of work on site are being adhered to, and the contractor assures us they are doing everything possible to reduce the impact to students and staff, as per the clear communication given to Albany residents before they signed contracts.”

Albany Park residents, however, disagree as the letter of complaint reads, “The key point, we feel, is that residents were only informed of the impending disruption after having already accepted their accommodation offers for 2017/18.”

The Saint reached out to the Albany Park committee on the ongoing process. However, they declined to comment until they had received a definitive response from the University.


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