Students urged to use caution before leasing accommodation this year

Galway Daily news Galway City Council has announced plans for a social housing development of 84 apartments and houses in Knocknacarra.

Students are being advised to exercise extreme caution before signing up to a lease for accommodation this year, as it’s still uncertain what the academic year will look like.

The Union of Students Ireland housing charity Threshold have joined forces as students have been dealing with accommodation issues present and future due to the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.

Many students are still struggling with refunds for accommodation they had to vacate early due to the pandemic.

And the two groups have also expressed concern that people could be left out of pocket and fighting to get deposits back if they book accommodation early, when it is still so uncertain when the 2020/21 academic year will start.

Universities and colleges have also signalled that they plan to deliver more of their educational content than ever in an online format for the coming year to maintain social distancing.

USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick said that dealing with concerns about accommodation due to Covid-19 was was one of the biggest topics of debate at their congress this week.

NUI Galway currently has plans to for different schools to start the 2020/21 year on a staggered basis between September and November, and with substantial modifications to calendars of semesters 1 & 2.

Start dates for the next academic year have yet to be confirmed by GMIT, which is currently working on a ‘Return to Campus’ plan for new and returning students.

However the university has also advised that these commencement dates are “likely to be revised further” as the government releases a timetable for Leaving Cert results and CAO offers.

“The USI has been contacted by students from every college and university across the country who have been affected by this situation,” Lorna Fiztpatrick said.

“We again call on companies and landlords to show some compassion to students that are in difficult circumstances.”

The USI has received reports some student accommodation providers are offering up to two months free rent if people pay for the entire academic year up front it says.

Lorna Fitzpatrick said that it’s “disturbing” to see students being put under this much pressure when it’s still uncertain what the coming year will look like.

John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold echoed the view that “We would advise students to hold off on committing to any lease arrangement until they have clarity from their college or university as to how frequently they will be required to attend on campus.

“We would also strongly advise students not to hand over a deposit until they are absolutely sure they will be renting the accommodation.”

He concluded by saying that “If it seems like a great deal, it is probably too good to be true.”