The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has invited the Union of Students in Ireland to a meeting to discuss its proposals to strengthen protections for student renters.
Earlier, USI wrote to Darragh O'Brien calling on him to implement six emergency rental measures for students.
- A waiver on rent for students who cannot access their accommodation when expected due to local lockdowns (such as the current case in Kildare) or in the case of changes to college start or finish dates
- For students to be enabled to end leases and other rental contracts early in the case of a second wave or lockdown
- That landlords not allowed to withhold deposits in the case of a second wave or lockdown
- No penalties for early termination of leases and other rental contracts for Covid-19 related reasons
- No evictions of students during the Covid-19 pandemic
- Landlords obliged to return prepaid rents in the case of a second wave or lockdown
It also tweeted the Mr O'Brien directly, who responded on Twitter thanking the union for its message.
Thanks @TheUSI for your message. In opposition I strengthened protections for student renters. I intend to continue this work as Minister. I'd like to meet with you to discuss your proposals further & see how we can work together to improve the situation.— Darragh O'Brien (@DarraghOBrienTD) August 25, 2020
Mr O'Brien said that he had strengthened protections for renters while in opposition and that he intends to continue this work now as minister.
"I'd like to meet with you to discuss your proposals further and see how we can work together to improve the situation," he added.
Sinn Féin's spokesperson on housing, planning and local government Eoin Ó Broin also responded to the USI on Twitter proposing to "meet next week to draft an opposition bill" on the issue.
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In a statement to RTÉ News, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said that "while it would be hoped that, in the current circumstances, landlords would show flexibility to students with regard to the signing of rental agreements for the new academic year, these agreements are a private matter between students and landlords, and the terms of the lease should be clearly established before the tenancy begins".
It added that "the Programme for Government commits to improving the supply and affordability of rental accommodation and the security of tenure for renters, as well as examining the creation of a system of holding rental deposits informed by international experience and best practice".