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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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A proposed new law aims to prevent 27% student rent hikes

The Residential Tenancies (student rents, rights and protections) Bill 2018 was introduced in the Dáil yesterday.

File photo of students protesting out Shanowen Hall last month over significant rent hikes.
File photo of students protesting out Shanowen Hall last month over significant rent hikes.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

SINN FÉIN HAS put forward a proposed new law which would ensure that students living in specific accommodation would not face high yearly rent hikes and would be given the same protections as tenants.

The Residential Tenancies (student rents, rights and protections) Bill 2018 was introduced in the Dáil by Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin yesterday.

The private members’ bill seeks to amend the current law so that students living in specific student accommodation under a licensee agreement are given the full protection of the law.

Following on from a 2015 HEA report which stated that Ireland had a serious deficit in the number of places for students to live while studying, a large number of new accommodation units have popped up.

In particular, thousands of units of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) have either been built, are being built or are in the planning stages in cities across the country.

It is believed that PBSA is not covered under the Residential Tenancies Acts, and is not under the jurisdiction of the Residential Tenancies Board.

This means that students staying in this type of accommodation are not classed as tenants, and do not have many of the same protections afforded to tenants.

So, for example, students living in PBSA in Dublin are not protected by rent control laws which limit rent increases in the capital to 4%.

This issue was brought into sharp focus last month when a group of DCU students staged a number of protests over significant rent hikes.

Students living at accommodation run by Shanowen Student Residences in Santry were protesting at plans by the company to hike rents by 27% next term.

The Bill

Ó Broin referenced these students when he introduced the Bill into the Dáil yesterday.

“I commend the students of DCU on the Shanowen shakedown protest, which brought this matter to the attention of the public,” he said.

The Bill – if made into law – would ensure that students living in the above mentioned accommodation would classed as tenants and would be granted to same protections as people living in the private rental sector.

“This legislation if passed would mean that student accommodation providers would have to adhere to the rent pressure zone legislation,” said Ó Broin.

The Bill would also ensure that tenants have access to the RTB (Residential Tenancies Board) dispute resolution process in cases such as deposit retention and maintenance issues.

Ó Broin said that it was “still not clear” if students living in these licensee arrangements are protected by the current laws.

“I would urge any students in student-specific accommodation facing these rent increases to bring a case to the RTB so the law can be clarified,” he said.

In the meantime our Bill seeks to make it clear in legislation that students in student specific accommodation under license agreements can avail of the full protections offered by the Residential Tenancies Acts.

Ó Broin said he hoped that the Bill could be debated at the second stage during Private Members Time before the Dáil breaks for the summer.

He said he hopes the Bill will receive cross party support when it is debated.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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