Morality clauses and disciplinary fines: student rules for living on campus

One contract states the room must not be used for any ‘immoral’ purposes

UCD, Galway, Trinity and DCU do allow overnight guests, but they must be signed in beforehand with the accommodation management. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

UCD, Galway, Trinity and DCU do allow overnight guests, but they must be signed in beforehand with the accommodation management. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Living in on-campus residences run by the university is one option for student accommodation, and nearly all of Ireland’s universities want to build more campus accommodation to meet the expected growth in demand.

Students planning to live in college housing do not sign a lease, but instead a “licence to reside” agreement written up by the college. Living in on-campus accommodation can be very different to a usual tenant-landlord relationship, with various rules to follow, and disciplinary fines if students break them.

University College Dublin’s licence states students “must not allow their room to be used for any immoral purposes”. Similarly, NUI Galway’s agreement outlines that students must not use the residences’ internet for any “improper, unlawful, or immoral purpose”. A spokeswoman from the Galway university, however, said its licensing agreement was currently under review.

Overnight guests

The agreements of all seven Irish universities include strict rules for guests staying overnight in students’ apartments.

University of Limerick forbids residents to have visitors stay past 10pm and NUI Maynooth’s agreement lets students only have guests of the same gender stay overnight.

UCD, Galway, Trinity and DCU do allow overnight guests, but they must be signed in beforehand with the accommodation management. Students who are caught sneaking people into their rooms at night can face penalties: in UCD and Maynooth, students will be fined €100. In Galway’s campus accommodation the penalty is two hours of community service cleaning up the college grounds.

Overall, UCD’s disciplinary fines are the highest among Irish colleges. On the Belfield campus residents can be fined €100 for drinking in public, or storing their bicycle in their apartment, and €50 for poor housekeeping. In comparison the fine for drinking in the residency corridors in DCU is €25, and €20 if students are found storing their bicycle in their apartment.

In Trinity Halls, TCD’s off-campus housing in Rathmines, the fines are decided on a case-by-case basis, and start at between €10 and €20. Fines relating to noise late at night are more severe if it is around exam time, or if non-residents are involved.

Niamh Cavanagh is a third-year UCD politics student from Tipperary who lived in the college residences last year. She said that while she loved living on campus that it could be overly strict.

“I have been fined so many times. I understand for serious breaches like smoking in the room,” but she added that there’s just not enough understanding or leeway given to students, she said.

Room checks

Another student, Matthew, has just finished his first year studying environmental science at NUIG. Originally from Dublin when he got his course in Galway he applied for a room in the college’s accommodation, Corrib Village.

Overall he said he finds most people “really enjoy it”. For a first year student he felt it was easy to make friends within the residences. He thought that at times security can “be a bit much”, compared to privately-run student housing his friends lived in elsewhere in Galway.

NUIG’s Corrib residence is a gated complex, with 24/7 security on the entrance. But this extra security is a selling point for the college, aimed at parents concerned about their children living away from home for the first time.

Stephen Large is the manager of Threshold in Dublin, a charity that works on housing issues and tenants’ rights. Mr Large explained the lack of regulation around college accommodation licences is “a big gap at the moment” in Ireland.

The issue, he said, continually cropped up as there is a lack of any “basic criteria laid down” by the Government on students’ right under the agreements.

The Residential Tenancies Board does not have any jurisdiction over a licensing agreement signed between a student and a college, a spokesman for the board confirmed. This means students living in campus housing don’t have an outside body to appeal to if an issue arises, apart from taking a case in court.

Flexible

Corla Mansfield is the accommodation officer who manages Maynooth’s campus residences. She said that the licensing agreements are necessary to provide the type of flexible arrangement students need.

Unlike a lease situation, students do not have to find a group of four of five people beforehand to rent an apartment with. This set-up suits first year students, and means they also have the option to transfer between apartments if the need arises.

The “licence to reside” agreements only charge students for the nine months of the college term, whereas a private landlord will in most cases insist on a minimum one-year lease, meaning students who return home for the summer are left paying rent on an empty room beside their college.

Privately-run student accommodation companies can also use licence to reside agreements, but most don’t include the disciplinary measures found in the college contracts.