Third-level students have been warned not to sign up for accommodation until the plans for the 2020/21 academic year are announced.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has teamed up with housing charity Threshold to ensure students don’t end up out of pocket or stuck with a lease they don’t need.
Colleges and universities closed in mid-March. They are due to reopen in the autumn, but it is unclear what format the 2020/21 academic year will take.
Dublin City University (DCU) will run courses online, with students only required to physically attend campus for smaller tutorial or lab sessions. No other Irish university has announced plans yet but it is expected they will all adopt similar approaches.
This could mean many students do not need to move out at all as they will be learning remotely, the USI said.
USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick said they are concerned students will be pressured into signing up for leases which they don’t need.
“We are getting reports of some accommodation providers offering students two months’ free accommodation if they pay upfront for the next academic year,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.
“It is very disturbing to see students being put under this kind of pressure. We don’t even know yet what college is going to look like in 2020/21. Will students even need this accommodation? The last few months have shown that refunds are not too forthcoming.”
John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold, said students should hold off committing to a lease until they know how much time they will need to spend on campus in the coming year.
“We would also strongly advise students not to hand over a deposit until they are absolutely sure they will be renting the accommodation. If it seems like a great deal, it is probably too good to be true,” he said.
Mr McCafferty said landlords need to be flexible about living arrangements, in particular when it comes to implementing social distancing in shared accommodation.
“How can social distancing be adhered to in shared bedrooms, kitchens, or common areas? Providers of this type of accommodation will likely have to reduce the occupancy of the units according to public health advice at the time, which could result in further supply issues,” he said.