USI call for student accommodation refunds

Aoife McMahon

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are teaming up with UpLift Ireland to petition for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) to refund those who were forced to return home due to Covid-19. 

They have written an open letter to ISA Accommodation Dublin, Uninest, Aparto and Athlone Student Rooms and other private PBSA providers, asking for people to offer support by signing a petition. At the time of writing, they achieved 2,494 signatures, almost halfway to their goal of 5,000.

In the letter, the USI are asking these companies to show compassion during unprecedented times and to take the students’ unique situations into account. They said, “students have had to leave accommodation for many different reasons, such as to self-isolate, care for vulnerable family members or to return home to countries that have closed their borders for the foreseeable future.”

They also added that a lot of students have been let go from their part-time jobs because of this crisis.

Due to Covid-19, most Irish colleges are agreeing to refund those who have paid for on-campus accommodation that they have now vacated; this letter is aiming to get the large-scale student accommodation to do the same.

Christine Farrell, president of the Student’s Union in DCU, is one of 19 Student Union members from colleges across Ireland to sign and support the letter.

People signing the letter are being urged to comment on why this is important to them. One girl who signed said that she is paying for full rent while she is currently unemployed. Her father is also without a job so she has to contribute money at home. She said it is a very hard situation when landlords won’t even consider reducing the rent to help students.

Another signatory commented, “Students are being charged enough rent as it is, with the financial crisis now heightened and many families unemployed, there is even further pressure on the students financially.”

“The university has closed and many of us are paying almost 3 months’ rent for a place we aren’t living in.” She continued.

While the USI acknowledged that some companies have said they will offer students a refund if they find someone else to live in their accommodation or that the companies will refund deposits and the unused cost of bills, they say that this is not sufficient and companies need to do more.

The USI ended their open letter saying, “We believe that students and their health should be a priority in this period and not the stress of how they can afford to survive.”

Aoife McMahon

Image Credit: Uninest