UL take legal action against Irish Water

Muiris O'Cearbhaill

The University of Limerick has taken legal action against Irish Water due to water charges being placed on student accommodation. This comes as Irish Water plans to add an additional €106 to the rental costs.

Irish Water plans to the additional cost by 2025, as the utility company has classified the campus accommodation as ‘non-domestic’. This has led to the university and Plassey Trust, its accommodation manager, to seek judicial council from the High Courts on the decision.

Kirstin Mey, the university’s new president, said that it was “unfortunate” that legal action had to be taken rather than the case being settled within the Irish Water complaints system. 

Mey told Live95 news, “we are reluctantly seeking a judicial review of this decision by Irish Water to reclassify our student accommodation and impose further and higher living costs on our students,”

The decision from Irish Water to classify the accommodation as non-domestic was made to standardise the charges and believes that the company was correct in its decision, based on their legal advice.

UL argues that the decision will create inequity as these additional water charges will not be extended to off-campus accommodation, only to the university’s 467 apartments and houses. 

Irish Water told The College View that a “new non-domestic tariff framework” came into effect on 1 October 2021 which standardised charges while still recovering operating costs. Irish Water says it sent its business customers an outline of this new framework to communicate what the changes meant for them.

Brendan English, Irish Water’s communications specialist, said, “the vast majority of customers will see either a decrease or an increase of less than €250 per annum, in their annual bills.”

Irish Water told The College View that the company reviewed all accounts to categorise or re-categorise in accordance with applicable legislation to ensure standardisation, and that accounts were being charged to the correct amount. 

English added, “university-provided student accommodation was previously categorised differently nationwide across universities and college campuses with the majority of local authorities charging for water services.”

Adding, “Irish Water has engaged with all universities and college campuses as part of this process and, where there are changes to a customer’s account, has highlighted the measures that are in place to reduce the impact of the changes.”

The UL Students’ Union has called on the Government to intervene. Cillian O’Donohue, president of UL Student Life told the Irish Times, “we would urge Irish Water to reconsider the action being proposed.”

Mey highlighted that the proposal to apply these additional utility costs to students comes as many students nationwide face an accommodation shortage or rent increase, adding that the decision is “something [the university] must object to on their behalf.”

The College View contacted the University of Limerick on this issue who declined to comment on the matter as it is currently before the courts.

Muiris O’Cearbhaill

Image Credit: University Of Limerick