Survey: 78% of students worried about being able to pay rent

Survey: 78% of students worried about being able to pay rent

Threshold says it is aware of landlords who are asking students to pay two, three, or more month’s worth of rent as a rental deposit - on top of the standard first month. File Picture/Pexels

Seventy-Eight percent of Irish students are worried about their ability to pay for their accommodation ahead of the new academic year, new research has revealed.

National housing charity Threshold, together with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), today published their Student Housing Survey for 2020.

The survey found that 45% of students have been asked to pay more than one month’s rent as a security deposit for their accommodation, and 21% of those surveyed have been asked to pay a startling four months rent or more in advance.

The survey also found that 45% of students did not have their rental deposits refunded to them when they were forced to vacate their accommodation as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19.

"Students were badly impacted at the outbreak of Covid-19. When universities closed and exams were cancelled, many students were forced to move out of their accommodation, with little opportunity to retrieve their belongings,” said Threshold Chairperson Aideen Hayden.

"Our new survey on the impact of Covid-19 on students shows that 49% of students did not have their rental deposits refunded when they were forced to vacate their student accommodation. 

"The experience of students during the pandemic points to an urgent need for the introduction of a legal definition of rental deposits," she added. 

As there is no current definition in Irish law of how much money or how many month's rent can constitute a rental deposit, Threshold is calling on the Government to limit the amount of rent that can be required as a deposit to one month's worth and to ensure there is transparency as regards the payment and return of deposits. 

Threshold says it is aware of landlords who are seeking two, three, or more month’s worth of rent as a rental deposit - on top of the standard first month.

"This cost is of course out of reach for many, and "significantly impacts the ability of students to compete for accommodation," Threshold says.

The housing charity also says it wants the Government to implement a deposit protection scheme, whereby rental deposits could be lodged with a third party, such as the residential tenancies board. 

It says this proposal could help guarantee the return of deposits to tenants, as long as they have met the terms of their tenancy agreement.

The practice of looking for more than one month’s rent upfront can leave students in "a very difficult situation," said USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick.

She said: "This should not happen any year, but this year many students have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and are in even more trying financial positions.

“Sixty percent of students are ‘concerned,’ ‘very concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about their ability to manage financially over the next year; asking for so much money upfront is extremely unfair.

"A Deposit Protection Scheme was legislated for five years ago, but has yet to be implemented - this government must make this a priority," she added.

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