RLC in the Media: 'You won’t graduate': Claims international students are being exploited by housing providers

Loopholes in the law for university-affiliated housing providers are leaving international students wide open to exploitation, says RLC International Student Solicitor, Sean Stimson. SBS speaks to a former client of RLC, whose university enrolment was put at risk because of a dispute about a fee owed to his housing provider.

Jarni Blakkarly and Leesha McKenny report for SBS News.

Farhan Chowdhury said he had “no idea what was coming” when he was told leaving his university-owned accommodation early would cost him almost 10-times his weekly rent in outstanding fees.

But the Bangladeshi engineering student said his shock turned to anger when Sydney’s University of Technology (UTS) warned him what would happen if he didn’t pay up.

“They just said the amount was $2,700 and this needs to be paid or else I won’t be able to graduate,” the 24-year-old told SBS News.

Mr Chowdhury claimed he had given the required two weeks’ notice at the university’s Yura Mudang accommodation after deciding to leave early, but said costs continued to accumulate after the university failed to properly terminate his lease. The university disputes this.

RLC's international student solicitor Sean Stimson explains that RLC is seeing a growing trend in these kinds of unlawful and exploitative housing contracts, leading to additional costs and threats of expulsion and cancellation of students’ enrolments for purported debts.

Mr Stimson said the exemption potentially opened up students to excessive fees or bonds, unfair notice periods and a narrower avenue for determining disputes.

“You can write anything into these contracts, but certainly the contracts we’ve reviewed there are not those protections in place that are in place under the Residential Tenancy Act,” Mr Stimson said.

RLC is calling for law reform to the ESOS Act that allow for university-based housing providers to link student accommodation fees as education debts.

Read the full article here (SBS News, 23 March 2018)