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'One-fifth of students asked to provide four months' rent upfront'

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Aideen Hayden, chairperson of housing charity Threshold

Aideen Hayden, chairperson of housing charity Threshold

Aideen Hayden, chairperson of housing charity Threshold

Half of students did not get their rental deposits back after they were forced to vacate their accommodation at the beginning of lockdown in March, a new survey revealed.

The survey, carried out by housing charity Threshold, highlighted how students were negatively impacted when universities had to close, forcing many to return home to live with their parents.

The survey also reported that 49pc of students did not get their deposit back.

It also said students have serious concerns about the year ahead, with three-quarters worried about being able to pay for accommodation ahead of the new academic year.

Nearly half (45pc) of students have been asked to pay more than one month's rent in security deposits, while one-fifth have been asked to pay four months' rent in advance.

Chairperson of Threshold, Aideen Hayden, said the experience of students during the pandemic exposed the urgent need for legislative action.

"Our new survey on the impact of Covid-19 on students shows that 49pc of students did not have their rental deposits refunded when they were forced to vacate their student accommodation," she said.

"The experience of students during the pandemic points to an urgent need for the introduction of a legal definition of rental deposits, to limit rental deposits to the value of one month's rent and to implement a deposit protection scheme, which would see deposits lodged with an independent third party."

Difficult

Lorna Fitzpatrick, president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), is urging the Government to introduce legislation to ensure student renters are not hit by a repeat of what happened in March.

"This is an extremely difficult time for students and their families. Many students are getting information about timetables in dribs and drabs from their institutions, which leaves them in very uncertain positions over their accommodation needs," she said.

"The practice of looking for more than one month's rent upfront leaves students in a very difficult situation. It should not happen any year, but this year many students have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and are in even more trying financial positions.

"Research in relation to Covid-19 carried out by the USI earlier this summer shows that 60pc of students are either 'concerned', 'very concerned', or 'extremely concerned' about their ability to manage financially over the next year; asking for so much money upfront is extremely unfair."

There are currently no legal guidelines as to how much a landlord may request for a deposit.

Threshold said it is aware of the practice of landlords seeking deposits to the value of two or more months' rent, along with the payment of the first month's rent, from new tenants.

This is causing students to enter into debt or leave their bills go unpaid in order to secure accommodation.