NUIGSU lose case against student accommodation provider Cúirt na Coiribe

The case followed an 18% increase in students’ rent

National University of Ireland Galway Students’ Union (NUIGSU) have lost a case brought against private student accommodation provide, Cúirt na Coiribe. The case was filed following a decision to increase rent rates in the accommodation complex.

Speaking to Trinity News, NUIGSU President Megan Reilly stated the result was in accordance with what the SU had been expecting.

The case against Cúirt na Coiribe was filed through the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) in June, following an 18% rent increase in student accommodation for the upcoming year, imposing an additional cost of €1,000 on students.

Speaking to Trinity News, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice President for Campaigns, Michelle Byrne, explained that NUIGSU had lost their case “as it was just the wrong person to take the case in this instance”.

Byrne added that USI intends to publish the findings of the case, noting that the report therein was “quite significant”. She said that the result “confirms that licenses at that location are tenancies covered by the RTA [Residential Tenancies Act] and RTB and that rents at the location are covered by Rent Pressure Zones.”

Cúirt na Coiribe reportedly intended to contest the case on the basis that the agreements they forge with residents are license agreements as opposed to leases, thus exempting them from the 4% increase limit in surrounding rent pressure zones.

Following the announcement of the increases in May, the student accommodation provider justified the increase with a statement that the new rent would “bring Cúirt na Coiribe in line with the wider student accommodation market in Galway”.

Byrne said that USI intends to encourage “all new tenants affected by the 4% breach to take fresh cases”.

NUIGSU filed the case after the Residential Tenancies (Student Rents, Rights and Protections) Bill 2018 passed in May. The bill, introduced by Sinn Féin, has passed the second stage in Dáil Éireann and would result in 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”.

4,000 NUIG students protested the rent increase in May, with a petition supporting the campaign against Cúirt na Coiribe’s decision receiving over 5,000 signatures.

The campaign in Galway, dubbed “Cúirt Shakedown”, followed a similar protest in Dublin City University (DCU) known as the “Shanowen Shakedown”. The latter campaign was sparked by a decision by the private student accommodation complex, Shanowen Square, to increase rents by 27%.

Last week, members of activist group Take Back the City occupied a tribunal room of the Residential Tenancies Board on D’Olier Street, forcing the cancellation of a hearing between a family and Focus Ireland.

Take Back the City called for independent adjudicators, requiring that members of the tribunal with property interests be banned from deciding on disputes before it. Take Back the City member Patrick Neils outlined that, of the members who sit on the tribunal, “one is chair of the Landlords Association of Ireland”, which he called “not good enough” with regards to potential conflicts of interest.

In October, over 3,000 students from across the country marched in the “Raise the Roof” rally in protest against the housing crisis and lack of affordable student accommodation.

The government’s National Student Accommodation Strategy has recently come under criticism for failing to meet accomodation demand. Speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Housing last week, Byrne stated: “When the government’s student accommodation strategy was launched in July 2017, there was an excess demand in purpose built student accommodation of over 23,000 beds.”

“This is expected to increase to almost 26,000 by 2019. This means we are still 16,000 beds short even if all purpose built student accommodation which is projected is successfully completed,” Byrne continued.

Since the end of July, the government has created an additional 2,541 bed spaces for students. It hopes to reach its target of 21,000 additional purpose-built student accommodation beds by 2024.

Michael Gilna

Michael Gilna is the current Investigations Editor of Trinity News. He is a Senior Fresh Law student, and a former Senior Reporter.