Can't Pay, Won't Pay: Rent Striking During the Covid-19 Crisis, a handbook

This handbook was produced by the RENT STRIKE collective in April 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis. It is designed specifically to assist students to go on rent strike as a means to win rent suspensions or cuts in response to the financial difficulties the Covid-19 crisis has caused for tenants.

Submitted by R Totale on April 7, 2020

It examines case studies of students that have already gone on rent strike due to the crisis, gives advice on how to maintain a strike and solidarity, as well as do crucial outreach, in a time of national lockdown, and more. While it is largely directed at students in university halls — whether privately-owned or university provided — much of this will be relevant to those renting in the private sector (for example, through a particular lettings agent) with minimal translation.

Clearly, this handbook is playing catch-up. Students from all across the UK are already organising rent strikes — often out of sheer necessity — due to the ongoing crisis. The aim of this handbook then, is not just to facilitate more strikes, but also to bring all the existing strikes into articulation with one another: to charge each particular strike with a significance beyond itself, a collective power. For we don’t just strike for ourselves. Buried within every rent strike is not just the hatred of a particular landlord, but the property-owning class in itself, as a whole. Exposing this part-in-the-whole and the whole-in-the-part is what unleashes class consciousness, the necessary condition for the building of class power, and ultimately the overthrow of capitalism.

What does this mean, practically? First, share this handbook with anyone you know who’s interested. Second, read it, and use its tips. Third, reach out to us or the local strikes referenced in this handbook for help. Fourth, realise you’re not striking for your “self”, but your class, for renters. Then go back to the first step.

Good luck. As the old RENT STRIKE slogan goes: The future will contain what we put into it today: see you soon.

RENT STRIKE is a national collective of student housing campaigns and activists based in the UK. The collective was formed in summer 2016 after the successful UCL rent strike which won £1.5 million in concessions. Since then, we have promoted and supported the tactics of rent strikes and other collective direct action as means to radically tackle the housing crisis, cut rents, and improve living conditions. For a full timeline of RENT STRIKE’s existence, see: