Athlone Institute of Technology Students’ Union have afforded their support to the Student Accommodation Bill campaign recently launched by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI ).
Additionally supported by Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, Labour Party, Solidarity-PBP/Rise and Independents for Change, the USI Bill aims to address the huge issues that have impacted student tenants during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The main points of the Bill are:
· Waiver on rent for students who cannot access their accommodation when expected due to local lockdowns or in the case of changes to college start or finish dates
· Students to be enabled to end leases and other rental contracts early in the case of a second wave or lockdown
· Landlords not allowed to withhold deposits in the case of a second wave or lockdown
· No penalties for early termination of leases and other rental contracts for COVID related reasons
· No evictions of students during the COVID-19 pandemic
· Landlords obliged to return prepaid rents in the case of a second wave or lockdown
Speaking following the launch of the Bill, Áine Daly, President AIT Students’ Union, noted the societal vulnerability of those attending the third level institution amid the continuing presence of the pandemic.
“What this pandemic showcased was the vulnerability within the pockets of our society with students left without protection or legalisation with their accommodation. Students were displaced and left behind with the ever-changing lockdown restrictions with students moving away to attend their colleges working to earn the money to pay their accommodation to attend their studies to then attend lectures from those rooms.
“We saw students paying their rent a semester in advance and having to move home two months later due to the pandemic and mental health concerns and being denied any refund on the hard-earned savings. A lot of students have lost their source of income, social interactions with peers and have had to adjust to a semester of learning online. This tangible legislation that can really protect our students going forward and will be a big win for the student population in a year of hardship and Covid-19,” Áine remarked.
Niall Naughton, AIT Students’ Union Vice-President for Welfare and Equality, noted the urgent need to protect students rent agreements amid ongoing Covid-19 concerns.
“AIT Students’ Union are delighted to support the Student Accommodation Bill campaign alongside the bill’s proposing political parties: Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, Labour Party, Solidarity-PBP/Rise, Independents for Change.
“The Union of Students in Ireland launched this Bill outside Leinster House to the media. In support of the movement, we here at AIT Students’ Union came out to support and speak up on the importance of the Bill and why now more than ever, student tenants need protection.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic students have faced many challenges and discrimination when it comes to renting arrangements. Students have very different levels of legal protection to that of an ordinary tenant as well, licensee agreements are more like staying in a hotel as opposed to living in a house.
“This Bill acts on the USI emergency provisions campaign, which the Government failed to act upon and has left students across the country out of money and unable to exit tenancy agreements on emergency basis. I am hoping this Bill will pass and help protect our student renters and the implementation of better rights in the future,” Niall stated.