National housing charity Threshold has stated that a Bill being debated in the Dáil today will be transformative for the student accommodation sector. The Residential Tenancies (Student Rents and Other Protections) (Covid-19) Bill 2021 proposes a number of protections for students in relation to housing; the Bill:
- States that, where a student in purpose-built student accommodation has paid their rent and is unable to occupy their accommodation due to public health advice, the landlord must return the rent
- Limits rent payments on purpose-built student accommodation to one month’s rent at a time (e.g. a landlord can no longer request six months’ rent upfront)
- Allows a tenant to terminate a tenancy in student-specific accommodation by serving on the landlord a Notice of Termination, giving the required period of notice of 28 days
- Applies to all buildings in which residential accommodation is provided to students during the academic term, including on-campus accommodation.
Threshold and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) were heavily involved in giving feedback on the Bill during the final stages of drafting.
Earlier this month, Threshold’s advisors in Galway successfully assisted a student in receiving a €6,000 refund from her purpose-built student accommodation after she had paid the full fee and deposit, but was unable to travel to the accommodation because of Level 5 restrictions.
CEO of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty said: “Our advisors saw students and their families hit very hard when many accommodation providers refused to return rents at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems ludicrous that students should be out by thousands of euros, forced to pay for homes they cannot live in. This Bill rectifies this situation.
“The portion of the Bill which prevents landlords from requesting more than one month’s rent at a time will be transformative for the student accommodation sector as a whole. Many students have been put in impossible situations where it is demanded that they pay anywhere between two and six months’ rent upfront – this adds unnecessary stress during what is already a time of great upheaval and change. We are hopeful that the Bill will be passed and that these positive changes can take effect very soon.”
Chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden said: “Whilst these new developments are welcome, purpose-built student accommodation is intended to serve the student market and benefits from different planning laws than those of the wider rental market, and so should be subject to different rules. Appropriate laws are necessary to protect students and are an important part of their access to affordable education.
“It is also worth noting that a large number of students live in digs. These students continue to be outside of any protections proposed in the new Bill, due to the fact that they are under licence arrangements. Licensees urgently need to be afforded the same protections as all other tenants.”
Threshold’s helpline remains available Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm at 1800 454 454, and via its website at https://www.threshold.ie/advice/help for any renter in need of advice or support. Threshold’s webchat service also operates Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 5pm via threshold.ie.