Social Democrats T.D. for Dublin Bay North, Deputy Cian O’Callaghan, has called on the Minister for Housing to engage with the University of Limerick and the owners of purpose-built student accommodation to ensure that all third-level students who have vacated their accommodation early can avail of a pro-rata rent refund where rents have been paid in advance.
Deputy Cian O’Callaghan said:
“With colleges and Universities closed, most third-level students have moved home. Six of the 7 Universities (TCD, DCU, UCD, NUIG, UCC and MU) who provide student accommodation have rightly issued pro-rata rent refunds to these students.”
“However, the University of Limerick and many private providers of purpose-built student accommodation have refused to refund students who have been forced to leave their accommodation early. We now have a situation where some students have been given refunds, and others haven’t. This isn’t fair. All third level students should be treated equally.”
“In the current crisis, students should be able to end their contracts early with no financial penalty. Many of these students are on low incomes. Many of them have lost their part-time jobs. Hardship and poverty are, unfortunately, a reality for too many young people. This rent refund will make a significant difference for these students.”
“I’ve raised this issue with the Minister for Housing, and I’m disappointed with his response. The Minister must engage with UL and the owners of private purpose-built student accommodation to ensure that there is a fair settlement for students.”
“This crisis has once again exposed the need for more University and college-owned student accommodation where the welfare of students, not private profit, is the key consideration.”
“All third level students should be entitled to a rent refund if accommodation is unused due to COVID-19.”
22nd April 2020
Note: See PQ response from the Minister below.
633 – To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government what steps he has taken or will he take to enable third level students who have moved out of their college accommodation early due to COVID-19 to terminate their contracts with privately-owned purpose-built student accommodation complexes and private landlords; will he also consider how these students can be reimbursed where rent has been paid in advance; and will he make a statement on the matter? (Cian O’Callaghan TD)
With effect from 27 March 2020, new emergency legislative measures were introduced to protect tenants during the COVID-19 emergency period, on foot of which tenants cannot be forced to leave their rental accommodation, other than in exceptional circumstances. Initially, these emergency legislative provisions will last for a period of 3 months, but they may be extended if the Government considers it necessary.
My Department recently published a Guidance Document on COVID-19 supports for landlords and tenants which sets out the emergency rental measures and income and other supports available to tenants and landlords during the emergency period. The Guidance document is available here and a list of Frequently Asked Questions has been developed and is available here.
The Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2019 do not prescribe specific terms and conditions regarding the payment of rents or deposits for inclusion in individual letting agreements in the private rental market, including the student-specific accommodation sector. Contract law governs such individual arrangements.
The specific terms associated with an individual student’s rights and obligations are likely be set out in a written contract signed by both the student and the landlord. Engagement between the parties to clarify the respective contractual obligations of the student and the landlord is key in establishing whether a breach of contract had occurred.
I understand that where State universities have closed due to COVID-19, they are generally providing refunds in respect of their directly owned student-specific accommodation. Funding and policy matters in this area are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science.
In the event of the premature termination of a fixed term lease by a student, the landlord should attempt to mitigate any losses arising for a student by finding an alternative use for accommodation to better enable refunds.
Students may wish to contact their third level education providers to seek any assistance that they might be in a position to provide. If a student cannot come to an agreement with their accommodation provider, they might wish to contact the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) regarding their concerns – www.rtb.ie.