Following from a number of issues that have come to light regarding UCD Residences, UCD Students’ Union Vice President for Welfare, Mícheál Gallagher, intends to bring a motion on the issue to the final Union Council of the 2012/13 academic year. The motion specifically addresses the UCD Residences Licence to Reside, and the appeals process for fines.
In the past two weeks, Gallagher says that he has “had an unusual peak in casework from students living in UCD residences. This casework was primarily around the area of students feeling they were fined wrongly.”
Gallagher notes that there is a “new phenomena .. that students [are] afraid to appeal [certain] decisions due to a line in the Category Two – Internal Appeal Form.” This clause states that while residents have the right to lodge an appeal if they have evidence to show they didn’t deserve the fine. This appeal must be made in 48 hours, and unsuccessful appeals, according to the clause, may result in a higher fine. This has made students “reluctant to appeal decision[s]” for fear their fines will actually be increased,” says Gallagher.
Gallagher believes it is “unacceptable that in the current economic situation that students are being asked to pay out €100 for misunderstandings with UCD residences and that if they try to appeal it they have the threat of an increased fine to deal with”.
This issue is the latest in a series which have arisen from UCD Residences this year. Earlier problems concerned the nature of the Licence to Reside as distinct from the typical lease afforded to tenants in private rented accommodation, as well as concerns over profiteering as increased numbers of deposits were being retained . There was also controversy over invasions in privacy due to the permission given to Residential Assistants to film inside apartments.
The motion to be brought to vote is for a new UCDSU Policy which will give the Union as an organisation a mandate “to call for a renegotiation of the Licence to Reside”. There will be a specific emphasis on a fair system of appeal without the threat of fines increasing is an unsuccessful appeal is made.
A formal recognised system of resident representation will also be called for a will a “demand for total transparency in where all monies from deposit retention and fines collected of residents go.”
There have been calls for UCD Residences to alter their agreements to reflect the traditional protections of a lease. Following a further incident involving the Blackrock Residences late last year, then Chairperson of the UCD Student Legal Service Patrick Fitzgerald said that: “If UCD Residences adopted a lease, students would enjoy a right of appeal to the PRTB. This would allow students to challenge a decision of UCD cheaply in an independent forum. This would ensure greater transparency than we have now and ensure students enjoy rights as tenants… The present situation where the appeal process is operated by UCD has led to an arbitrary system that truly lacks proper procedure, transparency and independence.”