Universities and private accommodation providers MUST
refund those forced to leave college due to Covid-19
The Minister for Education has confirmed that the University of Limerick remains the only University in the country that has refused to refund students who were forced to leave their accommodation due to Covid-19, says Denis Naughten TD.
“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 the pandemic,” explained Denis Naughten.
“There are numerous reasons given for refusing to provide refunds, but the fact is this student accommodation is shared – possibly with between three and seven other students – making it impossible to socially distance and comply with Government advice.
“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. As a result, Government should look at how it can persuade providers to do the right thing.
“While the University of Limerick is quite willing to take public funds for courses that are no longer being delivered, they wish to take a different approach when it comes to their responsibility to their own students. If UL do not reverse this decision, then the Minister for Education should withhold student tuition fees paid by the state for the three months in question until this matter is resolved.
“Some providers have argued that students were free to stay in their accommodation but why would they remain in student accommodation with six other people and be expected not to return home between March and May when colleges were shut down?” asks Denis Naughten.
See blog post for replies from accommodation providers: https://denisnaughten.ie/2020/04/22/student-accommodation-providers-must-refund-those-forced-to-leave-college-due-to-covid-19/
Department of Education & Skills
Oireachtas Members’ Questions: Covid-19
Answers Due: Monday, 11 May 2020
|5.270||To ask the Minister for Education if he will provide an update on the progress of discussions with University of Limerick and other providers of student accommodation on the refund of deposits and accommodation fees||Denis Naughten|
The majority of students in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) have vacated their accommodation. A limited number of students have opted to stay due to circumstances such as vulnerable family members in the family home, difficulties to return to their home countries, or ongoing medical placements. The universities have confirmed that these students will be able to remain in their accommodation.
The Department of Education and Skills is working with representatives from the higher education sector to address the challenges faced by students in this difficult time. The Department understands based on the information available to it that the six of the seven universities (TCD, DCU, UCD, NUIG, UCC and MU) who own student accommodation have confirmed that students who have vacated their accommodation will receive pro-rata refunds of their accommodation fees.
Universities are autonomous bodies and it is not within the remit of the Department to direct any university to offer a refund, however The Minister for Education has called on UL to join with the other universities and offer refunds to students who have left. We understand that the issue is currently under consideration by UL, and that a decision will be made shortly.
A number of reports have been received of private owners of PBSA refusing to refund accommodation fees in cases where students have vacated their accommodation. The Minister has indicted that he would like to see private providers of student accommodation provide pro-rata refunds.
At the moment, where private PBSA remains open for students, refund and cancellation policies are governed by the licences or contracts signed by the students. In other cases, the students should engage with their accommodation provider in the first instance to see if an arrangement can be reached in regard to a refund. If this is not possible, under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).