Students cannot continue to be exploited by paying for Accommodation they are prevented from using - Rose Conway-Walsh TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has today published the results of a student accommodation survey that highlights how student renters have paid thousands of euro in advance to secure accommodation they are now prevented from using.
Teachta Conway-Walsh has said the government must take responsibility and intervene to ensure students are refunded deposits and prepaid rent for unused accommodation.
Speaking from Leinster House at the launch of ‘Telling the Real Story – Student Accommodation Survey’ document, the Mayo TD said:
“The results show that 58 percent of all student renters have paid more than a thousand euro in advance to secure accommodation based on assurances from the government and colleges that regarding the feasibility of on-campus learning during the pandemic.
“The information gathered is deeply concerning and shows we are in danger of seeing the same mistakes repeated from the first lockdown where student renters were left unprotected.
“Sinn Féin have been working with students and families since March to help them get refunds - many of whom have still not been reimbursed. One survey response said: 'I did not receive a refund for the months I couldn’t live in my accommodation from March on as I had prepaid. I don’t expect I will get a refund for my current accommodation if things go the same way'.
“It is not acceptable for the government to wash its hands of the situation when it is evident from the data collected that students and parents made the decision to secure accommodation based on assurances from the government and the guidelines they issued to third-level institutions. Another responder said: 'I paid for my accommodation when we were told we’d have 20 hours on campus, then told after we all paid that I have 2 hours per week. Landlord refusing to be in any way flexible, I’ve been blindly robbed'.
“The financial strain this has placed on individuals and families cannot be overstated. Many respondents reported having gone into debt in order to pay for accommodation. Another survey response said: 'There is so much uncertainty and having paid my accommodation I am liable for another 3 grand. I took out a loan to pay for this as I was directed by my university that we would be on campus to a large extent. I have no protection now'.
“The survey clearly demonstrates the unique position of students in the rental market as they are often asked to pay rent months in advance and that the majority of these rentals are in off-campus private market. This is why we are calling for a specific and targeted response from the government.
“Sinn Féin is calling on the government to instruct all colleges to provide full refunds for any student that request one and to take action to ensure students receive refunds for unused private accommodation. The government must also empower the Residential Tenancies Board to make sure that repayments are made and in a timely manner.
“Students and their families cannot be left carrying the can again to fund the income of landlords and accommodation providers by paying for accommodation they are now prohibited from using."