Residents of purpose built student accommodations complexes should provide refunds to students who had to move out due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have said.
Some purpose built student accommodation complexes are not providing refunds to students that are no longer living in the privately-operated buildings, “many of whom have lost part-time jobs due to closures as a result of the pandemic,” USI said in a press statement.
USI Vice President for Welfare Roisin O’Donovan said that the national students’ union is “calling on these companies to show some compassion to students that are in very difficult circumstances” and provide refunds.
O’Donovan explained that some companies are telling students they will be refunded only if they find someone else to take the place, which is “very unlikely” in a pandemic. “There is no doubt a solution can be found here, and we are calling on these firms to step up and play their part,” she said.
The USI is also “very concerned” about the prevalence of students being asked to leave digs-style accommodation without any notice. O’Donovan said that many students living in digs do not have alternative accommodation options “and are scrambling to find somewhere else to stay to avoid becoming homeless”.
“It’s a very concerning situation,” she said, “and there needs to be provision made for them. They need to be afforded similar rights and protections as other tenants, whereby they get notice of being asked to leave and get their deposits back.” She said that these students need to be “given priority” to take places in purpose built student accommodation that has been freed up.
The USI has expressed concern for the welfare of students during the coronavirus pandemic. O’Donovan stated: “Students are out of college, they’ve lost jobs, had to move home and are trying to keep up their study online and keep themselves healthy while supporting family and friends who are more vulnerable.”
College initially ordered residents of private complexes Kavanagh Court and Binary Hub to vacate last week, along with all residents in Trinity accommodation except when students meet certain criteria.
Trinity then reversed the decision, saying on the Trinity website that “we recognise that these properties are not owned or managed by Trinity College but by private providers. Therefore we are not in a position to manage the situation for students residing in Binary Hub or in Kavanagh Court.” Trinity said that they were “strongly advising” students leaving in these complexes to leave but were not requiring them to do so.
The provost said in an email statement that Trinity would refund students who leave campus or Trinity Hall early but could not guarantee that Binary Hub or Kavanagh Court would provide refunds. “We believe that private-providers should also do this but of course that is ultimately a matter for the accommodation providers,” he said.
Binary Hub and Kavanagh court are operated by private companies Aparto and Uninest respectively but Trinity leases the student accommodation complexes to make them available for Trinity students.