Coronavirus: Does my son still have to pay for accommodation if the college is closed?

Property Clinic: Do utilities have to be paid even if students are no longer living there?

Private accommodation has not been closed and is available to the tenants.

Private accommodation has not been closed and is available to the tenants.

 

My son has two months left to pay on his private rented accommodation in Galway. As the university is closed, does he still have to pay when not there?

Separately, my niece is a student in Athlone with a lease until the end of May. She has paid her April rent, and the landlord is looking for utilities to be paid even though she has been in Dublin since the start of March. Does she have to pay rent for May? Is she entitled to have her deposit refunded? Does she have to pay utilities for the two months she has not been in the house?

Because both of your queries relate to a similar topic I will try to answer both together. Like everyone, students and their parents have been impacted by the crisis. Some students returned home while many others remained in their accommodation either by choice or, in the case of some foreign students, because they cannot travel.

The first issue here is that the accommodation has not been closed and is available to the tenants. Some on-campus accommodation has been closed by the owning institute and, in some instances, students were given very limited time frames to remove their belongings.

However, as per Government policy, all private rental accommodation remains open and, in fact, as I highlighted last week, the Government has gone so far as to legally ban evictions for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

In both instances I assume that you have a tenancy agreement in place. This is regulated by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). In recent days it has issued guidelines to all tenants and landlords including students: iti.ms/3b0yUCc

Most of the applicable legislation was put in place over the past few years to protect tenants and give them security of tenure. Simply put, your lease agreement specifies a duration and a rental amount, among other matters. In normal circumstances, early termination of a lease by a tenant would be a matter for the RTB to adjudicate on as it involves a loss of rent. Subject to the circumstances of the termination, the landlord is generally allowed to withhold the deposit to mitigate against lost rent, if they cannot rent the property immediately.

In both these queries it appears that you are seeking to terminate the tenancy early and you are entitled to do this. While the recent legislation bans evictions, it is silent on early termination. However, it is likely that you may forfeit your deposit as a result.

I would suggest that you speak to your landlord directly on the matter. It is our experience that where landlords are unencumbered, they are in a position to be flexible in their approach. – Enda McGuane

Enda McGuane is a chartered planning and development surveyor and managing director of Winters Property Management in Galway. He is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi

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