The Green Party has begun the process for a Select Committee inquiry into student accommodation, which has been exposed during COVID-19 as an under-regulated sector that straddles students with unfair debt.
“Everyone, regardless of whether you are studying or not, deserves a secure home where there is a fair power balance between the tenant and the landlord,” Green Party Tertiary Education spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said today.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a Wild West in student accommodation where the normal protections in place for people who rent simply don’t exist. This includes a lack of access to the Tenancy Tribunal.
“During the COVID-19 lockdown, thousands of students were charged by providers for accommodation that they couldn’t stay in. Many returned home to be near families and loved ones and were stuck with paying two lots of rent. Just today, I learnt of a student who has been given 72 hours to pay debt accumulated debt over lockdown or risk their graduation.
“Any attempt to work out why this was happening revealed inconsistencies across different universities and providers. It showed an impenetrable web of contracts and confidentially that pushes blame and shifts accountability.
“It is not right and it needs fixing. I hope an inquiry by the Education and Workforce Select Committee helps to understand the root of problem and ultimately provide recommendations on how best to resolve it legislatively. This will hopefully complement development of the Ministry’s permanent pastoral code of conduct.
“As we progress negotiations across Parliament and move to finalise the terms of reference, submissions will then become open to the public.”