Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Letter of the Day | Nightmare at 138 Student Living

Published:Monday | April 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM


The majority of residents of 138 Student Living at the University of the West Indies, Mona, are not locals, but we are not rolling in money either.

Let me walk you through my experience with this company, from day one, up to last Wednesday night, when we the residents decided that we would be silent no longer.

My mother and I travelled to Jamaica with the hope of paying the first month's rent, and then my parents' monthly salary would take it from there. We got into the office not only to be informed that the month paid for was just a down payment, but that my mother would be forced to pay three months upfront or pay J$5,000 extra PER MONTH. This had not been previously communicated to us.

I was then asked to sign a 12-month contract stating that I would be paying US$395 per month, inclusive of the months I would be back home. All other contracts regarding student living on campus are nine-month contracts. A few weeks later, they added on another charge not previously mentioned. Every time you used your credit card to pay your living fee, you would be charged 1.5 per cent of the total payment.

Parents were in uproar! Also, when guardians sent fees through wire transfer, it was soon realised that 138 Student Living was adding its own charges to the already high transfer fees from the bank. If you missed a payment, you would be locked out of the building and your room without warning. There was no leeway.

Payments are worse for Jamaican students living here as there is no stable price. As the JMD falls and rises, so does their rent. Furthermore, for every night our parents want to stay in our room, there is a J$2,000 charge.

By the end of the first semester, there was so much wrong going on in the building: faulty electrical wiring, dirty water in the pipes, missing furniture, flooding kitchens, no hot water, leaky fridges, overly sensitive fire alarms, defective office chairs, rats, a mould infestation, and our biggest peeve as students, horrible Wi-Fi.




Last Wednesday broke us. Instead of seeing people, 138 Student Living only sees dollar bills. 138SL decided that they were going to improve our laundry facilities. This included terminating personnel and raising our laundry fees from both washing and drying for $270 (already higher than any other hall on campus, $100) to J$470. It seems so small, but for most of us who are barely surviving paying such high rent, it was a blow.

It was this final overcharge that drove the students of Leslie Robinson Hall, formally known as 138SL, to finally speak out about the injustices we face, held prisoner by necessity and that 12-month contract.

We want a bigger discount on our rent during the months we are not here but home with our parents. An alternative is a regular nine-month contract. We want 138SL to fix our facilities, not on their own time either, but quickly.

We are not begging any favours. We are paying for them. We want the laundry fees to be reduced.