The Tribune’s lead piece in this issue focused on occupancy rates in the UCD Residences. It noted that the ever-increasing licence fees were not stopping students from paying up each year. Charging high fees for these is one thing, but what sort of protections do these students receive for paying such high costs? For those unaware, the Licence to Reside agreement which students have to sign to get a place in the Residences has a long and controversial history. It last caused major problems three years ago, but will surely become an active issue again.
UCD’s Licence to Reside
Clause 23 of the 2012/2013 Licence to Reside stated that “In the event of an actual or potential risk of injury to people or of damage to property, enforcement may include the use of CCTV or other recording devices which may record the activity of the occupier and any other persons attending at the premises.” This essentially allowed Residential Assistants (RAs) to enter a room and record anyone inside it.
The Tribune reported back in September 2012 on this use of cameras in residences. The issue proved to be extremely controversial as the clause itself was only a last-minute addition. Naturally, the licence reserved UCD the right to alter it any point in time, but the circumstances of the clause’s inclusion only served to fuel the controversy.
The UCDSU Campaign
UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) and the Student Legal Service (SLS) continued to object to the clause and private recordings of residents. The ResRightsNow Campaign culminated in a march from the UCDSU office in the Student Centre up to the Meville Residences Office., on Thursday, 21st November 2013.
UCDSU made four key demands:
“Reduced residences fines. Fair representation when it comes to appealing fines, Ending the use of inspection cameras on residence, and an official commitment from UCD to renegotiate the licence to reside by Summer 2014.” UCDSU Residences’ Policy was last updated on the 1st of May 2014. While the issue has been relatively quiet since then, there have been some alterations to the licence in favour of students.
Licence to Reside Contracts
Past Licence to Reside agreements are available on the UCD Residences website. Looking back over the agreements over the past four years, some changes are evident. The 17/18 Licence is similar to the 2016/17 and 2015/16 ones.
While the recording clause disappeared out of later licences, UCD required that a resident must always allowed them access to the premises. For example, section 6 of the 2014/2015 licence noted that: “The Occupier hereby acknowledges that it shall not have any right to exclusive possession of the Accommodation, Premises and Complex and shall allow The Licensor or its duly authorised agent access to the Accommodation at all times and to every part thereof and it is hereby expressly agreed that a nominee of The Licensor shall be a joint key holder of the Accommodation with the Occupier.” In effect, this empowered an RA to be able to demand immediate entry to the accommodation whenever they wanted.
Section 2 Licence to Reside for 2017/2018 sets states that a Student Occupier does not have exclusive possession of the room. UCD has the right to “a. Enter the Room at any time for any reason as referred to in this Agreement; b. Require You to move to a different room as referred to in this Agreement; c. Where your Room is of a shared type UCD requires You to share it with another person.” Section 7, Part IV, says that: “Upon giving You at least 24 hours notice UCD or its agents or work personnel may enter the Room and examine the state of repair and condition of it and may carry out repairs or renovations to the Room or any adjoining premises. UCD may enter the Room without notice in an emergency situation or where a breach of discipline is suspected under the provisions of this Licence Agreement or under the provisions of the Student Code.” This means that UCD must give residents a 24 hour notice period before entry, unless there is an emergency situation or a suspected discipline breach.
The modernisation of the Licence to Reside in the UCD Residences has been a gradual process. The negative press and legal threats from several years ago has given way to a more harmonious situation at present. While UCD now seems to understand that excessively restrictive licences are not worth the pushback, it must be aware that students will be looking for more value as the licence fee continues to go up.
Cian Carton – Editor