Luxury student accommodation company LIV Student could face an investigation from the Residential Tenancies Board, amid reports that students living in the complex have been hit with rent increases of more than 10 per cent due to an “administrative incident”.
The Residential Tenancies Board is reviewing the case – which saw some students living in the complex hit by rent increases of up to €18.75 per week after what the company called “a genuine misunderstanding” – to “determine if it can be brought forward for an investigation”, after reports that the company was in breach of the four per cent rent cap on student accommodation.
If LIV Student is found to be in breach of the law, it could face a fine of up to €15,000, according to an email sent by the board and seen by The University Times.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) reported the company to the Residential Tenancies Board after the Irish Times reported that 53 students were undercharged for the month of September after they signed a contract that quoted weekly rent for single occupancy of a room, when the rooms are in fact shared by two tenants.
The students affected received an email outlining an increase of €18.75 per person per week in rooms with bunk beds and an increase of €15.62 per person per week for those that share a bed.
An email sent by a member of the Residential Tenancies Board to USI Vice-President for Campaigns Michelle Byrne stated that the information USI had provided “will be reviewed by a member of the Investigations and Sanctions Unit to determine if it can be brought forward for an investigation”.
“If an investigation takes place and the landlord is found to have breached the legislation then a caution or a fine of up to €15,000 euros may be imposed on them”, the email said.
The students were originally charged €270 per week, or €135 per student. The increases outlined in the email means occupants now face rents of between €150.62 and €153.75 per week, an increase of 11 per cent and 13.9 per cent respectively.
In an email statement to The University Times, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick wrote that the union had informed students affected “of the unjust and illegal changes that are being made in the price of their rent”.
“The Union of Students in Ireland have written to the General Manager of LIV accommodation, outlining that by raising rents by 10% they are in breach of the 4% rent pressure zone, as well as letting tenants down in what they had committed to pay for their rooms in the contracts they signed”, she said.
Fitzpatrick called the increase “unacceptable”, and added that “should any student decide to take a case against LIV they will have full support from USI”.
Speaking to the Irish Times last week about the rent increases, Simon Pollard, the general manager of LIV Student, said the error occurred as a result of “a genuine misunderstanding between a member of our team and a number of our valued students”.
He said: “After discussions and realising the obvious misunderstanding that had occurred between the students and the member of staff involved it was decided to arrive at a fair and balanced compromise that was then put to all the students involved.”
The updated rental prices, he said, reflect “a considerable saving on the published rate for the affected students”.
“My team and I are sorry that this situation has arisen and will ensure that there can be no repetition of this isolated and administrative incident occurring in the future”, Pollard added.
At the time of publication, LIV Student was not prepared to comment, but a comment will be added to this article once it is received.
One student renting in the complex told the Irish Times that the mix up affected created “huge stress” for him, and that he will not be able to afford the increase.
“I just landed here [in Ireland]”, he said. “They can’t expect me to pay that much, it’s just not possible.”
“I have exams, assignments, classes, and now I have to look for a room”, he continued. “I have college five days a week, there’s no time for me to try and view properties.”
Another resident said he will have to try and find somewhere else to live if the prices do increase as planned. “We’ve basically been told to either pay the increased rent or find somewhere else to live”, he said. “We signed a contract, we shouldn’t have to pay increased rents.”