The Union of Students Ireland (USI) has set out a list of six emergency measures which they believe are required to protect student renters. On Tuesday, the USI called on the Irish Government to implement these measures so as to avoid a repeat of what happened in March, when students had to leave accommodation at short notice, with many losing out on deposits and prepaid rent or being evicted on short notice. 

A number of TD’s responded to the USI’s statement on Twitter, including Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoin Ó’Broin.

Noting how he had previously strengthened protection for student renters in opposition, O’Brien expressed his interest in meeting with the USI to see how they could work together to “improve the situation”. Meanwhile, Ó’Broin invited USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick, to meet with him as soon as next week to draft an opposition Bill, in the hope that this would “keep the pressure on the new Minister to do the right thing”.

The USI announced their demands for new emergency measures in a press release issued on Tuesday, which stressed the challenges faced by student renters when the pandemic first began, leaving many “out of pocket, by hundreds, if not thousands.” It also acknowledged the pressure felt by students to secure accommodation for September, even in the face of the uncertainties of the new academic year. 

The six emergency measures focus on protecting student renters and their money in the case of a second wave or lockdown. To start, the USI demands a waiver on rent for students who cannot access their accommodation when expected due to local lockdowns or in the case of changes to their college timetable. 

Students should also be enabled to end leases or other rental contracts early in case of a second wave or lockdown, and there should be no penalty for early termination in such cases. They also demand landlords be prevented from withholding deposits and be obliged to return prepaid rents, in the event of a second wave. Their final demand is that the eviction of students during the pandemic be banned. 

The USI is worried what will happen to students in the event of another lockdown and believe these emergency measures  will “allow students to rent with some degree of confidence” and prevent another “accommodation nightmare”.

Sadhbh O’Muirí – Reporter