Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne, has called on those providing private student accommodation to return prepaid rents to students who have had to go home as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Deputy Byrne said it was unfair to expect students to continue paying rents when many of them no longer have part-time jobs and have had to return home.

He said, “While many University on-campus accommodation units are doing the right thing and refunding students who have returned home as a result of COVID-19, the same cannot be said of some unscrupulous private providers.

“In recent days I have been contacted by students who have left their accommodation as a result of the closure of college campuses, or to care for vulnerable loved ones. They told me their landlords are refusing to provide them with a refund for prepaid rents. With some students paying for semesters in advance, this is taking thousands of euros out of the pockets of students for a service they are not receiving and one they can ill afford.

“It’s very frustrating that private providers are attempting to do this under the current circumstances. They are profiteering while everyone else is suffering. It flies in the face of the sense of camaraderie we have seen elsewhere.

“One cohort that I am particularly concerned about are student nurses and medical professionals. They are expected to work on the frontline in tackling this disease. Where possible any college campuses with spare capacity should make it available for student nurses and other staff. They should not be at any more of a disadvantage throughout this outbreak.

“Providers who are holding on to prepaid rents need to do the right thing. They should commit to refunding students who left their accommodation because of COVID-19 by the end of the semester at the latest,” concluded Deputy Byrne.