Some seventy students camped out last Thursday night on the grounds of Dublin’s Custom House, where the offices of the Department of Environment are situated, as part of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) campaign for the introduction of a Deposit Retention Scheme for tenants.
USI President Gary Redmond, is calling on the Minister for Environment Phil Hogan to introduce a scheme whereby deposits paid to landlords will be held by an independent agency such as the Private Residential Tenancies Board.
This follows recent research conducted by the USI which found that some landlords are targeting students’ deposits as income rather than as insurance that the terms of a lease will be complied with.
The research found that 40% of students have had their deposit unfairly withheld and that over 60% of students have had over €200 unfairly taken off their deposit.
Mr. Redmond commented, “Each year, students’ unions across the country and USI are contacted by distraught students about their rogue landlords, who refuse to return deposits without any legitimate reason.
“With students & their families struggling to afford the basic costs of attending college this situation cannot be allowed to continue. On average, students will pay at least €3,500 on rent over the academic year and will also have to hand over a large deposit.
“Across the country many landlords and students have excellent relationships where students rent from the same landlord year after year however unfortunately some landlords see young students as an easy target for exploitation. I am calling on the Minister to implement the Deposit Protection Scheme promised in the programme for Government without delay to protect vulnerable students from rogue landlords.”
When students arrived at the Department of the Environment on Thursday evening to pitch their tents they were initially refused entry to the grounds. However the students, led by Redmond, climbed the railings of the Custom House.
The Gardaí were called, however no arrests were made and the students were subsequently allowed to camp on the Custom House lawn.
Brendan Lacey, UCD Students’ Union Campaigns and Communications Officer explained to The College Tribune, “We were originally refused entry to the grounds by security and decided to jump over the gates which prompted the Gardai to be called, though as the protest was conducted in a peaceful, well planned and safe manner an agreement was reached to allow us to stay for the night.”
He continued, “I think the camp out certainly helped get people talking about the problem and the solution USI are putting forward. It is just one part of a larger campaign though to see that a deposit protection scheme is put in place. Students need more protection.”
Earlier this month, USI released its Rent Book 2011, a student accommodation guide, which also includes a petition encouraging students and their families to support the USI Deposit Protection Scheme campaign. Student Unions across the country are expected to encourage students to sign the petition in the coming weeks as it will be presented to the Minister for Housing and Planning Mr. Willie Penrose.