Mooted 51-week lease ban unsettles housing providers in Ireland

 In News

The ban was first suggested by Taoiseach Simon Harris when he was Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

There has not been any further movement on the ban aside from an updated memo from the government, promising it is “examining options”

One accommodation provider told The PIE it believes the 51-week leases in Ireland are “in line with other cities in the UK and Europe”

The ban, which was suggested for legislation by then-minister for further and higher education Simon Harris – who is now Taoiseach – was originally proposed for legislation in February, with little follow-up after Harris was promoted to the top job in April.

The reasoning of the ban, according to the Irish government, was to ensure student lease agreements were confined to the academic year only – unless a student expressly asked for a longer lease at 51 weeks.

While there were rumours that the ban would come into force before summer recess in the Daíl, the only update since the introduction has been a memo from the Ministry of Further and Higher Education in May, a representative for the government told The PIE News.

“The updated memo cited both Departments’ intention to examine the options in responding to the divergence to 51-week only contracts by some of the private sector providers,” the representative said.

One such provider is Yugo, whose parent group said in response to a request for comment from The PIE that this is the “standard in other cities across the UK and Europe”.

“GSA is the leading provider of student accommodation in Ireland, with close to 4,000 beds across Dublin and Cork.

“Proposed changes to student-specific accommodation leases will impact the viability of any future developments, preventing the delivery of much-needed high-quality student homes in safe, secure, and central locations in Dublin and elsewhere,” a spokesperson argued.

“A 51-week lease length is standard… and is a popular option that is in line with the private rental market,” they continued.

At the time of introduction, Harris said that while 51-week leases may “suit some third-level students” – which includes international students in Ireland who don’t wish to make a long journey home over the summer holidays – it is not “desirable or affordable for the majority”.

The move by some accommodation providers even proved controversial on the Ireland subreddit, which discussed the idea at length. One user claimed that providers would in theory be able to take 51 weeks’ rent “in advance knowing a large percentage of these students will vacate at the end of term”.

“Then they can re-rent the rooms on much higher-yield, short-term rental to visiting student groups for an extra 13 weeks over the summer,” the poster claimed – although this has not been proven in practice.

GSA noted that students often want to stay in their student city for longer than their academic term, especially postgraduate students, whose schedules “typically have academic schedules that extend beyond traditional undergraduate term times”.

The company also argued that the sense of community fostered by “have all students on the same tenancy length”.

“Students have more opportunities to form lasting friendships and supportive peer groups,” the GSA spokesperson said.

Additionally, they claimed that uptake of 51-week leases since the initiative was launched for the last academic year suggests a preference for this tenancy length.

A 51-week lease length is standard… and is a popular option that is in line with the private rental market

GSA spokesperson

“High-quality student housing plays a key role in the housing mix of any city. We have seen from leading educational cities in which we operate, such as Edinburgh and London, that greater supply of student accommodation increases choice for students in the market. With students taking purpose-built accommodation, this means that more traditional properties are available in the private rented sector.”

Hines, another provider student accommodation provider, was highlighted by The Irish Times as one that would only be offering 51-week leases for the upcoming year.

The memo sent out in may by the both the Further and Higher Education ministry in Ireland and the Ministry of Housing said there was an intention to “examine the options in responding” to the divergence to 51-week lease only contracts.

“Both Departments continue to engage and work closely together so that these changes can be made as soon as possible.

“[This will be] subject to advices and agreement of the Office of the Attorney General, to avoid any unnecessary financial hardship and additional costs on students and their families,” the spokesperson for the government added. They suggested that while options have been “examined”, the intention is to go ahead with the ban.

Dublin City University declined to comment when approached for comment by The PIE, saying that it doesn’t comment on general government policies.

University College Cork told The PIE: “Cork has been a centre for significant growth in the student accommodation sector over the past few years.

“UCC supports any measures that provides available, affordable, and appropriate accommodation to the market, and our students favour both more choice and flexibility when considering their accommodation options.

“UCC Campus Accommodation provides 1,536 beds, consistently offered at affordable and below-market rates for purpose-built student housing in the city,” the spokesperson added.

The post Mooted 51-week lease ban unsettles housing providers in Ireland appeared first on The PIE News.

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