Following a Freedom of Information request by UCD’s Student Legal Service (SLS), it has been revealed that the total amount of students’ deposits being retained by UCD Residences has almost doubled between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
In 2010/11, the total figure for deposit retentions was €93,203, however as per footnote three of the request, the “actual total deduction for 2010/2011 was €56,703 as the cleaning deductions were suspended to allow for a further year’s communication on education on the requirements.” The figure for 2011/2012 marked a significant increase on that figure, totalling at €105,316.
UCD SLS Chairperson Patrick Fitzgerald commented that: “Some charges weren’t applied because they said they wanted to invest in education on their requirements. I would dispute that because students don’t know what’s in the Licence to Reside. I lived on campus for two years, and there was no education… From speaking to former RAs, there has been a shift in policy. They’ve made a decision to go out of the way in terms of additional charges, and the figures reflect that… There is deliberate profiteering out of students, and that’s why we wanted to explore this.”
Fitzgerald also pointed out that it is very difficult for students to dispute these charges, as they have no legal rights, due to signing a licence to reside for Residences, rather than a lease. If someone wants to file an appeal, they only have 48 hours to bring it to the Head of Accommodation. After that, they only have five days to bring it to the Vice President for Students. He stated: “The whole system is self-contained. The system is deliberately constructed to stop students appealing… We feel there is profiteering. There are mark ups on all of these fines or deposit retentions… A balance needs to be struck, and that balance is struck in favour of UCD Residences trying to make a profit as much as possible, in a situation where students enjoy no legal rights.”
UCD Students’ Union Welfare Officer Mícheál Gallagher stated: “I do think it’s unfair to students. Even today, I had two separate phone calls from students ringing me, terrified because of fines. They were asking about the appeals process. There doesn’t seem to be a structure in place where they’re educated on their rights of appeal and I can’t even describe the terror in their voices. I do think students are being taken advantage of.”
There have also been complaints made as UCD Residences have stopped channelling the money collected from fines to the Student Welfare Fund, a fund which helps students in financial emergencies. This was previously agreed by UCD Residences and UCDSU. Gallagher said: “It was to give back to the students, almost like corporate social responsibility, but instead it’s going into the Res Life Committee. I think the fines collected would be better off going to the students I see everyday who are struggling to afford to feed themselves. We weren’t allocated as much money as we were last year, by the European Social Fund. You kind of question then how valuable it is going into the Res Life committee.”
A spokesperson for the UCD Residences was unavailable for comment.