The National University of Ireland Galway Students’ Union (NUIGSU) is taking a case against student accommodation provider Cúirt na Coiribe today over a hike in rent costs.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) offered their support to NUIGSU ahead of the hearing, highlighting its belief that student accommodation should be subject to the same rent controls as other accommodation in the surrounding area.
USI President Síona Cahill explained that the Galway case could potentially establish a new precedent for disputes over student accommodation. “We await the outcome with interest and hope that the determination favours the students who otherwise face massively inflation-busting price increases,” said Cahill.
NUIGSU filed the case against Cúirt na Coiribe in June after the Galway student accommodation provider increased rent rates by 18% for the upcoming academic year. The 18% increase would result in an additional €1,000 cost for student residents.
Cúirt na Coiribe reportedly intends to refute the case by arguing that the agreements they have with student residents are licence agreements rather than leases. This would exempt them from the increase limit of 4% in the surrounding rent pressure zone.
Cúirt na Coiribe’s decision to increase rates by 18% was made known to current student residents during NUI Galway’s summer exam period. The timing of the announcement caused distress for some students, who felt unable to respond fully to the increase at the time due to ongoing exams.
The case against Cúirt na Coiribe has been filed through the Residential Tenancies Board, which bears responsibility for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants in Ireland. The decision by NUI Galway Students’ Union to file the case came after the Residential Tenancies (Students Rents, Rights and Protections) Bill 2018 passed in May. The Bill gives students living in licensed student accommodation “the full protections of the Residential Tenancies Acts, including access to the Residential Tenancies Board and inclusion in the rent pressure zones.”
Cúirt na Coiribe released a statement in May stating that “the new rent will bring Cúirt na Coiribe in line with the wider student accommodation market in Galway.”
Former NUI Galway SU President Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh condemned the increase, saying “NUI Galway cannot become an elitist University only accessible to those who can afford to absorb the ever rising cost of rent”.
Following the announcement of the rent increases in May, 400 NUI Galway students organised a protest as part of the grassroots Cúirt Shakedown campaign. A petition supporting the campaign had over 5,000 signatures at the time.
Students in Dublin City University (DCU) protested the cost and quality of student accommodation at Shanowen Square a number of times this year in what has become known as the “Shanowen Shakedown”. Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) signed an open letter lending its “support and solidarity” to the DCU student protesters, while several Take Back Trinity members also attended the protests in support.
Trinity students are participating in the Festival of Direct Action this month, a series of direct actions protesting the housing crisis. Speaking to Trinity News, Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Oisín Vince Coulter, a member of the Take Back Trinity campaign, expressed that the housing crisis “massively affects students, as anyone who has looked for accommodation in Dublin in the last few years knows well”.
“Urgent action is required by both the government and third level institutions; public housing and student housing must be built. In both cases these must be high quality, accessible to all and distributed based on need not income,” Vince Coulter continued.
Last month, both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin introduced motions in the Dáil seeking to cap rent for purpose-built student accommodation. Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, is set to work on the legislation over the summer.