The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have joined calls from housing charity Threshold for the government to implement a deposit protection scheme in the private rental sector to defend tenant’s rights.
USI and Threshold are advocating a system that would protect tenants from scams in which landlords illegally keep the deposit paid on a rental property.
The two organisations say that these scams can be avoided by deposits being held by an independent third party, and returned to the tenant if they adhere to the terms of their tenancy agreement. Such schemes already exist in Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia.
Threshold say that these protections have been promised by successive governments since 2011, but have never been implemented.
The proposals, suggested by Threshold and endorsed by USI, also include establishing a legal definition of rental deposits and limiting rental deposits to the value of one month’s rent.
Lorna Fitzpatrick, USI President, said that a shortage of student accommodation has forced students to rely on the private rental sector while attending college, and that students are particularly vulnerable to deposit fraud.
Fitzpatrick noted: “These students are already struggling to afford their college fees and rent, particularly those reliant on SUSI maintenance grants, and they are a group that is especially vulnerable to fraud and scams.”
She added that, “a Deposit Protection Scheme would minimise their exposure to rental fraud and would also be of benefit to international students who may have to return to their home country without securing a return of their deposit”.
Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, said: “We ask the Government to honour its commitment to re-examining the laws around rental deposits, which urgently need to be strengthened in order to increase protection for tenants in the private rented sector.
“There are vulnerable people in tenancies all over the country who are on the margins of homelessness and simply cannot afford to lose their deposits.”
Hayden said “A Deposit Protection Scheme, in which deposits would be guarded by an independent third party” would “inevitably” lead to fewer disputes over deposits between tenants and landlords. She added that the current system for settling disputes is “very lengthy and not fit for purpose”.