Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has said that third level students and their families are still finding it extremely difficult to access refunds for unused accommodation despite being months into the Covid-19 crisis.
Deputy Nolan had previously called on the Minister for Education, Joe McHugh to consider introducing a statutory obligation that would mandate private student accommodation providers to refund any fees or costs associated with unused accommodation services.
She said: “We are now months into this situation and private accommodation providers have had ample time to provide refunds to students and their families.
“Unfortunately, this is not happening in all cases despite the introduction of some very fair policies by a number of colleges and universities.
“I am also dealing with families and students who are being offered ‘accommodation credits’ instead of actual refunds.
“This is just not acceptable as many students will have placements away from college depending on the year they are in.
“They need the money they have already handed out to pay for some of the expenses associated with these placements or simply just to put toward an alternative means of accommodation.
“One of the difficulties here is that refund or cancellation policies in student accommodation are normally set out in the license agreement signed at the beginning of the academic year.
“But these agreements may not have factored in for the occurrence of something like Covid-19. In that respect we may be seeing practices like those the insurance sector tried to engage in.
“I would encourage all students and their families to be aware that under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
“If their problems persist in terms of accessing refunds they should immediately engage with the RTB.”