University of Limerick has started legal action against Irish Water over a move to impose water charges on college residences, at an annual cost of some €106 per student by 2025.
UL and Plassey Trust, which manages campus student accommodation, are seeking a High Court judicial review of Irish Water’s move to classify the residences as “non-domestic” and impose charges.
“It is unfortunate that a proposal to deal with this matter by way of Irish Water’s internal complaints process, rather than by way of legal action, was not accepted,” said UL president Kerstin Mey.
The move by Irish Water comes amid efforts to standardise non-domestic water charges, breaking from a regime in which more than 500 separate tariffs were levied in different local authority areas.
“Irish Water reviewed, based on legal advice, all accounts to ensure they were categorised correctly in accordance with the applicable law, so there is consistency on a national level,” the State-owned company said.
“University-provided student accommodation was previously categorised differently nationwide across universities and college campuses with the majority of local authorities charging for water services.”
But UL argues that new water charges will apply only to campus residences, leading to inequity as they will not apply to student housing off-campus and private tenancies. Student accommodation at UL comprises 467 apartments and terraced houses.
“We are already facing a student accommodation crisis in Ireland, which will likely persist for a number of years yet, and the imposition of new utility costs on our students in their places of residence on campus is something we must object to on their behalf,” Prof Mey said.
The UL student union has called on the Government to intervene. “We would urge Irish Water to reconsider the action being proposed,” said Cillian O’Donohue, president of UL Student Life.