Jan 24, 2024

A Look Inside TCD Renters’ Union

Leah Downey speaks to TCDSU President Lászlo Molnárfi about the recently established Renters’ Union and its plans to organise a rent strike.

Leah DowneyDeputy News Editor
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has recently seen a new group emerge by the name TCD Renters’ Solidarity Network. The grassroots organisation was established by TCDSU President László Molnárfi, Housing Rights Officer Siubhán Stockman and Central Societies Committee (CSC) Treasurer Adam Ó Ceallaigh. According to their Instagram page, @tcdrentstrike, “TCD Renters’ Solidarity Network aims to coordinate campaigns around the collective issues we face”. 

Speaking to The University Times about the newfound body of renters, Molnárfi explained that the campaign group first formed to “create a collective of renters at Trinity to attack the issues we face”, citing the 85 per cent of students “that found campus accommodation to be unaffordable”. Alongside this, Trinity has what Molnárfi referred to as “an overly restrictive and paternalistic overnight guest policy that strips students of their autonomy and puts them in danger”.

Another large issue TCD Renters’ Union seeks to address is the cost of laundry on campus. The service has been privatised and is now owned by a UK based company called Circuit Laundry, charging students over €7 to do their laundry. The app required for this service has 4,412 reviews on the Apple Store and 3,256 votes on Google Play, averaging a 1 star rating on each platform. One review from a Trinity student noted that unless connected to Trinity WiFi, the machines cannot be used through the app. Additionally, the review mentions the helpline hanging up when called. 


Molnárfi continued on to say that the Renters’ Union “has seen the success of the likes of Community Action Tenants Union (CATU) and that they are essentially replicating the same mechanism here at Trinity”. CATU is a union for tenants and communities, encompassing renters, council tenants, mortgage holders and people in emergency accommodation or other precarious living situations. The members of the Union support each other with issues regarding landlords, illegal evictions and other housing strifes. 

When asked how TCD Renters’ Union and the partnership between TCDSU and CATU that was recently voted on by the Student Forum would interact, Molnárfi explained that the partnership would allow the TCDSU to work with CATU and have a recruitment drive, encouraging students to sign up. However, TCD Renters’ Union is directly for those who live in Trinity student accommodation, either on campus or in halls. 

Thus far, TCD Renters’ Union has successfully opened up a discussion on the overnight guest policy and has amassed over 100 members. According to Molnárfi, TCD Renters’ Union wants education to be accessible and for students to be able to afford campus and halls accommodation. He stated: “We want Trinity to keep the rates reasonable and not treat it as a for profit enterprise but rather as a simple human need.”

“We see that each year Trinity tries to increase rent. In fact, since 2015, rent has increased in some places by 25%, in others by 50%. There needs to be a force that opposes these adverse impacts on us students.”

Students who are living on campus or halls (alongside any other Trinity managed accommodation) are not considered tenants, but licensees. Molnárfi said it is shocking, as students “pay rent, but are not treated as tenants”.

“We are actually treated as if we are residents in a hotel room.”

This is one of the ways that student accommodation managers can get away with so much — they can create restrictive policies like the overnight guest policy or random room checks, like not allowed to put certain signs or flags in your windows. It’s a loophole that allows landlords to exploit their tenants so we have little rights. All major tenant advocacy organisations have all appealed to the government to seize the use of licensee agreements so we are actively fighting against this”. 

Speaking about the future plans for TCD Renters’ Union, Molnárfi mentioned the petition they are currently running regarding the overnight guest policy. They also intend to distribute flyers to tourists, sharing with them the issues student renters face on campus. Additionally, TCD Renters’ Union is partnering with TCDSU to try and establish a partnership with a local laundry service “to kill Circuit Laundry’s business”.

TCD Renters’ Union demands are “to abolish the overnight guest policy, reduce rent by 30%, ensure rent refunds for every day with severe maintenance issues, free laundry machines and making sure that staff visits are always communicated beforehand”.

However, the organisation’s primary goal takes inspiration from the student movement in the UK. In 2021, out of 140 universities in the UK, 55 took part in rent strikes. More recently, the University of Manchester withheld rent in January 2023 where over 350 students withheld rent, resulting in loss of £500,000. 

Molnárfi stated simply that TCD Renters’ Union “are trying to organise a rent strike”. 

“Many times people complain protests do nothing — well, here is your opportunity to get involved and engage in a very effective form of protest where you are withholding money from your landlord. The best part about it is that you don’t have to do anything, just not spend money.” 

“Join the fightback.”

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