Multiple complaints of security breaches and misconduct in Kavanagh Court

A number of former residents spoke to Trinity News on their experience at the luxury student accommodation complex

Trinity postgraduate students have reported multiple cases of security breaches and mismanagement in the luxury student accommodation complex, Kavanagh Court. Complaints, made to the Graduates Students’ Union (GSU), relate to numerous incidents that occurred over the past summer, including management entering students’ apartments bedrooms without notice or permission, and drunken tourists disrupting common areas used by the student residents. Widespread security issues were also raised by students throughout the summer.

Kruthika Swaminathan, a Masters student in Trinity Business School, told Trinity News of how she heard a knock at her door while in the shower after making a complaint regarding the heater in her room. After exiting her bathroom, she was met by two members of staff in her bedroom. “These guys just barged into my room, they saw me naked and then they just got out but they didn’t apologise,” she said. Upon making a verbal complaint to a member of staff at reception, Swaminathan received an apology but a written complaint made later did not receive a response from management. “My heater got fixed eight months later”, she added.

Another student experienced similar issues with staff accessing his bedroom in the absence of any notice or his prior permission. Shantanu Vermas, who was studying for an MSc in Entrepreneurship at Trinity, told Trinity News of an incident where, having left his girlfriend in his bedroom while out, staff entered the room for the purpose of an inspection, requesting that his girlfriend “pack up and leave”. She then rang Vermas and suggested that the members of staff speak to him over the phone. The two staff members refused and continued to inspect his room. “[My girlfriend] had my room key and they told her to give [it to them] so they took the room key and told her to leave. And two hours later when I came back,  my room was unlocked.” Vermas then reported to reception where he received his key back but was told that the inspectors were busy and couldn’t speak. Vermas recounted numerous other issues that arose at Kavanagh Court, describing management’s response as unsatisfactory: “The management would constantly be told these stories but they wouldn’t do shit about it.”

As well as internal problems in the complex, students complained of external access issues. Swaminathan stated that: “you can enter Kavanagh Court by yourself; you can just put your finger in through the gap in the gate and open the door and that’s what a lot of people did.” Swaminathan explained that on two separate occasions she witnessed a group of up to ten “rowdy kids” gain access from the street, who would proceed to “scream and bike around the premises”. The security staff, she said, did not appear to respond to this and that the group was there for at least an hour on each occasion.

Despite Article 12 of Kavanagh Court’s Licence to Reside stating that “the Residence is operated and managed for the sole purpose of providing bespoke student accommodation and related services on a short term basis”, numerous postgraduate students staying in the complex during the summer told Trinity News that they were forced to share communal spaces with tourists, who rented rooms in other blocks of the complex on nightly and weekly bases during the summer months from a group called Destiny Student, which provides summer accommodation for tourists in Dublin and Edinburgh. Kavanagh Court is advertised on Destiny’s website as having welcomed guests to Dublin for the first time in summer 2018. The Frequently Asked Questions section of their website further states: “We accept all guests during the summer months. Although we would like you to remember you are staying in a student building and a large number of guests will be of student age.”

Numerous students who spoke to Trinity News noted that, in light of Article 12 of the Licence to Reside that they had signed, they were under the impression that Kavanagh Court was exclusively for students. The same students asserted that they had received no official notification that the complex would be used for such purposes. Swaminathan said: “We asked the receptionist from Kavanagh, ‘What is going on? What is with all these changes?’” In response, the member of staff at reception claimed that an email was sent. However, Swaminathan stated that her and her friends “all double and triple checked their inboxes” but there was no such email.

A number of postgraduates expressed their frustration and discomfort at having to share the complex and its common areas with tourists and guests of Destiny. One student noted that these guests would come into the communal study room to look around, interrupting her and other residents who were approaching thesis and dissertation deadlines. The student, who spoke anonymously to Trinity News, also reported that drunk tourists could be heard shouting in the courtyard from the study room.

In one account given to Trinity News, Vardhha Malik, a Masters student in Entrepreneurship, witnessed “about five visibly drunk tourists” in the communal games room, one of whom was “naked and rolling around on the pool table”. Malik immediately informed an on-duty member of security staff and later made a complaint to management via email. In a response to the complaint seen by Trinity News, one of the residence managers at Kavanagh thanked Malik for bringing the incident to their attention, promising to investigate and “revert back to [her] shortly”. Despite providing them with the exact timing of the event for CCTV purposes, Malik stated that she received no further update on the matter.

Another student speaking anonymously to Trinity News explained that her apartment, located on the sixth floor of Block D, was often mistaken by tourists for their own apartments, which were located on the sixth floor of block A. This, she says, is due to the fact that the sixth floor of both blocks are connected by a common area. The resident further explained that they only learned of this as the mistaken tourists were able to access her apartment using the fobs for their own apartment. “I would be sitting on the roof terrace [located on the sixth floor of Block D] and could see people entering my apartment from there, using the keys they had for a different apartment on the sixth floor of Block A.” The student noted that she witnessed these instances herself on at least six separate occasions, despite verbally informing staff following the first time it happened.

She suggested that the confusion among guests of Destiny staying in Block A may also have been due to the fact that the front door of Block D was left open for two months during the summer period. When they questioned a member of staff on this, they were simply informed that “the door was under repair”.

One student told Trinity News of the difficulties he experienced in getting his security deposit   refunded to him upon his departure. Roland Ed Lamuel, who moved out of Kavanagh Court on May 27, did not receive his deposit until late August despite four emails and three visits to the complex over a time period ranging from June 18 to August 4. Roland indicated that the only response he received was an email to confirm that his refund had been approved on June 22 and that it was with their finance team who, he was informed, issue deposit refunds twice a month. As well as this, Roland said that on each of his visits back to the complex, he was informed by staff that he would receive his deposit.

Another student, who checked out of Kavanagh Court on August 24, has not received her security deposit at the time of publication. “I have tried contacting them through email and wanted to know the status of my security deposit but I have not heard from them yet”, she told Trinity News.

A student whose contract ended on August 24, experienced similar difficulties in receiving her deposit back. After two weeks, the student contacted Kavanagh who told her that her deposit would be back in her account within 10 working days. However, when she did receive the money, the amount was €70 less than what she was owed. She had been given no indication that her deposit had been refunded nor any reason as to why €70 had been deducted.

Article 4 of the Licence to Reside for Kavanagh Court states that, in the event of deductions being made to the amount of a student’s refunded deposit, “the Owner will inform the Resident in writing of its intention”.

Trinity has had a partnership with the luxury student accommodation complex, since its establishment in the 2017-18 academic year. Advertised on Trinity’s website as “top of the range” and housing 491 students, standard rooms at Kavanagh Court begin at €249 per week for a 38 week occupancy.

In a statement to Trinity News, Trinity’s Accommodation Office, said: “In mid 2018, in an effort to address the current shortage of student accommodation, Trinity secured accommodation in Kavanagh Court to ensure Trinity students had access to quality accommodation close to the University. It is operated by a well-established third party, with whom Trinity has a service level agreement (SLA) to ensure all standards and services are delivered to very high levels. The review of the performance of the SLA in 2018 was a very positive one and the feedback from students who live there was very complimentary during College term. Recent coverage has indicated that the quality of one of the student rooms did not meet the required standards provided. We intend to ensure the operator is aware of their responsibility both to Trinity and its students. We will not tolerate poor room quality for our students. We already have significant dialogue to ensure all matters are resolved quickly.”

The spokesperson continued: “On the specific issues concerning the interface of security and students, we have recently advertised for assistant Junior Dean roles for both Kavanagh Court and Binary Hub in which we also have secured accommodation for Trinity students. The assistant Junior Deans will have similar roles at they do in Trinity Hall and College rooms on campus. They will act as important touch points for students who reside in these locations to ensure clarity around roles, and be a key interface for Trinity students with the management team and security personnel in these locations. Trinity does understand that security provision is an important aspect in all accommodation units to ensure the safety of all Trinity students who stay in College provided rooms, both internal and external.”

GSU President Oisin Vince Coulter said: “This is another example of how purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) is not a suitable solution to the housing crisis, particularly the student housing crisis. The problems across the board with PBSA, ranging from maintenance issues, security questions and generally a lack of proper thought into what it is that students need and are looking for, particularly when paying such luxurious rates, indicates just a complete lack of engagement from these companies and from the government on proper solutions for the student housing crisis.”

A spokesperson from Uninest, the company that runs Kavanagh Court, said: “As a responsible accommodation provider, our priority is the safety and security of our customers. Our aim to provide the high standards that students want and deserve [sic] and so we take these matters very seriously and we are investigating these reports as a matter of urgency.”

The Irish Independent previously reported reports of mould in an international student’s apartment in Kavanagh Court. Two students suffered health problems before discovering the mould and were critical of the remediation methods used by the accommodation staff. Both students were temporarily housed in an another apartment while the apartment was cleaned.

Additional reporting by Niamh Lynch and Ciaran Sunderland

Michael Gilna

Michael Gilna is a former Investigations Editor of Trinity News.