I propose to take Questions Nos. 635 and 686 together.
The National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS), published in 2017, was designed to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of purpose-built student accommodation, by reducing barriers for public and private sector developers of student accommodation, and by seeking to address financing barriers for higher education institutions wishing to build student accommodation. The ongoing shortage of accommodation in the general rental sector, as well the increase in third level students over the last number of years, has placed additional emphasis on the availability and provision of student accommodation. An increase in supply in both public and private sector student accommodation has been necessary to keep pace with demand.
Refund or cancellation policies in student accommodation should be set out in the license agreement signed at the beginning of the academic year. In the first instance students should engage with their accommodation provider to see if an arrangement can be reached in regard to a refund.
If this is not possible, under the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 students have access to the Dispute Resolution Services of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
I have asked our higher education institutions, where they have accommodation, to try to show flexibility in terms of its use for the coming academic year, as well as flexibility with regard to cancellations and refunds. I would hope that that private providers will show the same flexibility, however it is not within my remit to issue instruction in relation to the private rental market.