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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 16 January, 2018
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Flying the nest? Here's what to do if you're a college student renting for the first time

Good Leaving Cert points? Check. Got your college course? Check. Now it’s time to find somewhere to live.

Image: Shutterstock/gnohz

IF YOU WERE lucky enough to get your first choice college course this morning, the next thing on your list of things to do is to find somewhere to live this September.

With a limited number of rental properties available on the market competition is tough.

Last month the Students Union of Ireland began urging people to rent out their spare rooms to students saying the lack of accommodation remains a huge issue.

The USI reminded homeowners they can benefit from a tax-free €12,000 ‘rent-a-room relief’ if they take in a lodger.

So how do you find suitable living accommodation?

University College Cork’s SU welfare officer Katie Quinlan told TheJournal.ie that it’s about keeping your eyes open, contacting the college’s designated accommodation service and avoiding getting caught up in that frenzy of panic.

The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) advises students, particularly those who will be looking to rent student accommodation for the first time, to check their rights and responsibilities when it comes to renting and avoid paying excessive rents by informing themselves of actual rents across the country.

The PRTB Rent Index is available online and provides students with important benchmark information on rents being charged by landlords across the country.

PRTB Director Anne Marie Caulfield said many first time students are unsure of their rights or who to contact if they find themselves in difficulty.

One of the biggest challenges this year is the cost of renting and scarcity of accommodation.  The danger is that students, in a desire to find accommodation, sign up to longer leases than they need or informing themselves of market rent in the area or of their rights.

shutterstock_300617390 Source: Shutterstock/BLUR LIFE 1975

Check out the basics 

The PRTB have teamed up with the USI and provided a check-list for students looking for a place to live. Here’s the basic things to check out:

  • Is the rental property close to college or on a convenient transport route? Is the property secure and in a safe location?
  • What is included in the rent – and what is excluded? Who pays for the heating, electricity, bin charges, internet connection, cable TV? You must consider any extras in your budget.
  • Does the accommodation meet with the minimum legal requirements? For example, in the kitchen, is there a four ring hob with grill and oven, a fridge and freezer, microwave and washing machine. Do they all work?
  • Is there a self-contained toilet with hot and cold water and a fixed bath or shower
  • Is the heating adequate? Do you have control over when the heat is on or off?  Is there any sign of dampness in the property? Are there smoke alarms? Are there fire extinguishers?

Who am I going to live with? 

The PRTB says that students should ensure they know who they are going to be living with.

The group warned that if their fellow lodgers don’t pay their rent, leave bills unpaid or damage the property, those living in the house could be held jointly responsible.

shutterstock_224928070 Source: Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

It also warned against signing a 12 month lease if students are only staying for the 9 month academic year as students could end up paying the extra three months or losing their deposit.

Students should also make sure they know their agent or landlord’s name, address and phone number

We’ve got a place, now what?

  • Take an inventory of the contents and furniture on arrival, note any damage, things that don’t work and breakages. Take photos if you can and get your landlord to sign the inventory along with you.
  • Get a receipt and make sure you have a record of your deposit and every rent payment.
  • If you have given required notice, haven’t breached a fixed term lease, haven’t damaged the property, and paid all the bills then you’re entitled to your deposit back.

What sort of accommodation is out there? 

On campus accommodation

Most universities and colleges either have some form of accommodation or living quarters nearby. With college places on offer from today, it could be a case of first-come, first-served.

Get in touch with the college accommodation offices who should be able to tell you what is available and for what price.

 Digs

Digs can be a great option for first year students and can be a lot cheaper. Many universities list dig accommodation on their websites, while there are also digs listings on Daft.ie as well as Getdigs.ie.

While there is often a perception that when you are in digs you live with a land lady and you have to say when you will be home and where you are going this is not always the case. House share arrangements where you live with someone, perhaps a family or a young couple who want to make some extra cash on their spare room can often be a good arrangement for both parties.

With the talk of a resurgence with digs, a young, Irish start-up company offers online bookings for accommodation.

Homestay accommodation has long been popular in the education travel sector, particularly among international students, but the company want Irish students to know that it is an option open to them too.

It is also a great option for home owners who want to rent out their spare room. A room price, with weekends included, starts from around €450 per month. Homestays are available all over Ireland, with plenty of supply in Dublin, close to all the major colleges.

shutterstock_69518242 Source: Shutterstock/sima

What about living with a senior citizen? 

Generation Accommodation is a social enterprise initiative that is helping to alleviate the accommodation crisis by paring socially responsible students with senior members of the community.

The initiative teams up students with members of the senior community, mainly around the UCD area. Students live with people aged between 60 to 90 years old. Students can apply for the initiative here

If you have any renting issues, the following groups can help:

Got some of your own tips? Share them in the comments section below. 

Read: Explainer: A beginner’s guide to how the CAO offer and acceptance system works>

Read: The CAO Round One offers in numbers>

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