Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has blasted the government for its handling of student accommodation refunds amid the coronavirus, criticising a “very disappointing” response from Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
In recent weeks, students vacating privately owned accommodation complexes have been left wondering if they’ll receive refunds after leaving early as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a press statement today, Ó Broin said Mitchell O’Connor’s response – in which she said the government “would wish to see” pro-rata refunds issued to students in privately owned accommodation – “will do little to allay” the fears of students.
He called on Mitchell O’Connor to “make a public call to all landlords to refund students who have left their accommodation early”.
Ó Broin condemned “private accommodation providers and on campus providers alike either refusing refunds, as is the case with the University of Limerick, or being coy about refunds, in the case of Kavanagh Court”.
Mitchell O’Connor, who lost her seat in February’s general election, wrote in a letter addressed to Ó Broin that the “Department understands based on the information available to it that the majority of students in university-owned accommodation will receive pro-rata refunds if they vacate their accommodation”.
“The Minister for Education has indicated that he would wish to see this principle applied in the case of students who were residing in privately owned student accommodation”, she said.
Kavanagh Court, a luxury accommodation complex run by Uninest – part of multinational company Global Student Accommodation – has not yet confirmed publicly whether students who left their accommodation as a result of the coronavirus will receive compensation.
Trinity leases rooms in the complex, in addition to a lease it has with Binary Hub that’s set to end in May 2020.
The College, which prompted uproar last month when it instructed residents to leave Trinity-owned accommodation with just days notice, has told students who vacated Binary Hub and Kavanagh Court as a result of the virus that it will them “offer full support” if they pursue refunds from the companies.