USI says landlords exploiting tax breaks

GREEDY landlords are forcing up rents in student accommodation by breaking rules on tax breaks received when they bought or built the apartments, students have claimed.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) yesterday called on the Revenue Commissioners to investigate alleged breaches of the conditions of a Section 50 tax relief scheme, which stipulate that apartments must be occupied by students during college terms.

University College Cork student union welfare officer Sarah Simkin, who raised the issue at the USI annual congress in Ennis yesterday, said it is a growing problem in the large number of student accommodation developments built under the tax relief scheme in recent years.

“The scheme’s intention was to make affordable accommodation available for students, but we fear major rent increases across the board if the apartments are opened to everybody,” she said.

Ms Simkin said there is no suggestion that most Section 50 apartments are let out to non-students, but it appears to be happening in most complexes built under the tax relief scheme.

The motion passed by USI delegates calls on union officers to force the Revenue Commissioners to investigate the matter and take any necessary action.

A Revenue Commissioners spokesperson said they monitor this and similar schemes as part of their normal activity but they would be interested to hear any specific information USI may have on the matter.

Since its introduction in 1999, the student accommodation scheme has been used to build around 5,000 houses or apartments with spaces for more than 15,000 people, while an estimated €214 million has been granted in tax relief.

Students earlier voted to campaign for academic credits for involvement in extra-curricular activities such as student unions, clubs and societies or volunteer work.

“These things give an education in life skills and are recognised in some colleges but this should be put in place at all higher education institutions,” said Dublin Institute of Technology delegate Bernadette Farrell.

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