That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provision in relation to certain tenants’ obligations to pay rent in respect of dwellings used for accommodation during academic term times, to make provision in relation to the maximum period of notice required by such tenants to terminate a tenancy, to oblige certain landlords to refund relevant payments in certain circumstances relating to Covid-19, for those purposes to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and to provide for related matters.
I thank the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, and my Sinn Féin colleague, Deputy Ó Broin for the work they have done on this important Bill and the 56 Opposition Deputies who have signed it.
The pandemic has exposed the severe economic injustices students face in the rental market. Thousands of students and their families have been forced to pay for accommodation they were prohibited from using. It is no longer acceptable for the Government to act as spectator while wholesale financial exploitation of students continues. The speedy and successful passing of this legislation is vital to ensure students of third level institutions are protected. It is incumbent on all Oireachtas members to right the wrong that has facilitated the fleecing of students and their families when it comes to student accommodation refunds. Time and time again the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Deputy Harris, has said that he does not have the tools to do anything. We are providing him with the tools in this legislation and now it is up to him.