Top Irish accommodation groups are gaming students. Aparto and Yugo offer 4,500 bed spaces across 16 locations in Dublin and Cork to students, whose college year generally runs for about 40 weeks. But from September, those students will be obliged to sign up to 51-week leases.
Most occupants of this accommodation, all of which has secured planning permission on the basis that it is serving the needs of students, are coming from homes outside these cities to attend college. As a rule, they move home or elsewhere between college years.
Property giant Hines, which owns Aparto, insists it is operating fully “within the remit of its statutory obligation”. It says the change in lease terms is being driven by “market trends”.
“We have seen increased inquiries regarding the option of an extended tenancy, driven by a desire for greater cost certainty over the period,” a spokesman said.
There might be some such demand. But why not offer the option of 41 weeks or 51 weeks? Those who need to stay in college for research or thesis production can do so: the rest will not be penalised to the tune of up to €3,000 for a room they do not need.
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Aparto operates just such a twin-track approach at its UK bases in Kingston-on-Thames and in Lancaster, and in Milan. Yugo, which operates a wide variety of tenancy models across its international portfolio, also does so in the UK and Spain.
So it can be done, and by these same providers. Are student market trends so different in those locations?
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A second line of defence has been to point to take-up by students of the new 51-week option. But that defence is wafer thin.
First, students wanting to return to either provider simply have no choice but to accept the new terms. And, given the notorious shortage of student accommodation and stories of students being forced to commute from the likes of Monaghan to Dublin daily, parents fear they could be left in the cold if they turn down a renewal.
[ Landlord charging extra €4,000 to rebook student accommodation from August and we have to sign up for 51 weeks ]
One would have to be forgiven for thinking that the providers are turning demand into opportunity (for themselves) with little regard for the students or their often hard-pressed families.