In recent weeks I have been contacted by several students raising concerns that places like UL Campus Living in Limerick and several private providers of student accommodation in Galway will not refund rent for accommodation they have been forced to leave due to Covid-19.
There are numerous reasons given for refusing to provide refunds but the fact is this student accommodation is shared – possibly with between 3 and 7 other students – making it impossible to socially distance and comply with Government advice.
It is also the case that many of these accommodation providers received public support through tax incentives, sites or other supports from the State and they should now support students by refunding rents.
Some providers are arguing that students were free to stay in their accommodation but why would they cocoon themselves in student accommodation with 6 other people and be expected not to return home between March and May when colleges were shut down?
My colleague Verona Murphy will raise this matter with Minister Joe McHugh in Dáil Eireann tomorrow on behalf of the Regional Group of TDs and I hope that this intervention will lead to students being refunded.
LETTER FROM UL:
I refer to your query in relation to the refund of accommodation fees where a student has chosen to vacate in the current difficult circumstances.
The on-campus accommodation at University of Limerick has remained open and operational and there are 600 students living in the village residences. Staff are working seven days a week to provide support and security to these students. Our residents were not at any stage asked to leave and very many remain now fully reliant on UL.
While the main University campus has physically closed and teaching in lecture theatres and classrooms have transferred online, an extended seven-day support service is in place in the residences so that we can continue to enable students to live in their homes while using high quality facilities to support remote learning.
UL is in a process of quantifying the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It seems likely at this stage, taking into account that additional Government funding has not yet been provided to the University, that a significant deficit will be incurred in both the current year and next year.
UL has and continues to receive a range of appeals for help from students negatively impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. UL has also been asked to support frontline organisations, such as the HSE, local hospitals and research bodies tackling the myriad of issues that must be addressed if the people of the Midwest are to survive this disaster. UL is very sympathetic and supportive of these appeals and has devoted significant resources and effort to respond. Indeed, we are trying to find ways to support students who actually have been directed to leave their off campus accommodation.
The University is also managing a range of challenges in its own core mission in the provision of education and research and the supports required for our students and staff and stakeholders in the delivery of this mission.
We will continue to balance our limited resources to ensure our own sustainability and to support the public health and associated challenges mindful of the legislative requirement to act within our significant but limited budget. In some cases this might mean that while we are sympathetic to certain requests now we cannot devote budget until we have sight of a funding source which may be forthcoming at a later date.
We are working with our regulator/funders to assess the financial impact of the third party and our own needs to understand what may be possible to fund in the future and until that is work is complete we cannot make a commitment to refund accommodation fees.
We are also mindful that the government directive for universities and other educational facilities is that the closure notice remains to May and we are working through the implications of that.
Deposits will be refunded 6-8 weeks from the date of the end of the licence agreement.
I hope you and your family remain safe and well during all of this.
|Campus Life Services / Seirbhísí Beatha Campais
University of Limerick / Ollscoil Luimnigh
|T +353 (0) 61 202331 studentliving.ul.ie|
LETTER FROM GLASAN VILLAGE:
Glasan Village will remain open for the use of our residents. This is the same as any residential rented property in the country. We are bound by tenancy legislation and must follow the guidelines of RTB so your lease up to 31st May 2020 remains in place. We will therefore continue to provide properties in the normal manner until the HSE alters its guidance and we are instructed to close all residential properties.
We have received some queries about rent refunds from students who prefer to leave their accommodation permanently but for the moment we have been advising our students there are no rent refunds because the properties remain open and available to them as per Government guidance re the rental market. However, this Covid-19 crisis is evolving and presenting new challenges on an almost daily basis. We understand that SUSI grants are not being refunded and that Government has also put in place various supports for people who have lost both full and part time employment. We will be examining all possible scenarios in the coming days and weeks and are fully conscious of the challenges the crisis is posing for students and property owners alike and as agents will play our role to support both groups.
Tel: 00353 91 773333