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Here's what students need to know when looking for accommodation

Threshold’s Michael McCarthy Flynn talks about ways to protect yourself in the rental market.

Michael McCarthy Flynn

CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE who received CAO places today. As you look forward to the next year in third-level education, here are some ways to protect yourself while searching for accommodation.

Before looking for accommodation

Ask yourself what kind of place need. What can you afford to pay? Where would be convenient for your school or college? If you can’t find a place, do you have a backup option, eg digs or staying with a family member?

By asking yourself these questions now, you will save yourself a lot of trouble later.

Viewing properties

Don’t rush in and take the first place you see. Take your time when viewing a property and make sure it meets all your requirements.

You should view the property thoroughly before making a decision, checking that all electrical and gas appliances and other items supplied are in good working order.

The property must meet basic minimum standards, and the landlord must provide you with a Building Energy Rating (BER). This will help you know how energy-efficient the property is and give you an idea of the likely cost of heating the property.

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Avoiding scams

Prospective tenants can be the victims of a rental scam. Students are particularly vulnerable due to their lack of experience in the housing market and the pressure on them to find accommodation before university starts.

A rental scam is where a property is advertised to rent and the tenant hands over money, but they never get to move in. Often they are not given keys, and they will only have the first name and mobile number of the ‘landlord’ who they paid cash to.

There is an element of risk in looking for private rented accommodation, but this can be reduced by exercising caution and not rushing into a decision, particularly if you have doubts.

Here are tips to avoid getting scammed.

1. Always meet a prospective landlord in the accommodation.

2. Ask for identification, for example, a business card or an Irish Property Owner’s Association membership card.

3. If you are dealing with an agent, check that they are a member of a reputable association (for example, IAVI).

4. Get the landlord’s full contact details, including a landline telephone number, home address or place of business.

5. Only agree to take the property when you are totally satisfied. Ask the following questions before making your decision:

  • Is there a lease or rent book?
  • Who has access to the property?
  • Who do I contact if I have a problem?
  • Why did the previous tenant leave?

6. Never hand over cash. Pay the deposit and first month’s rent by cheque or bank draft and get the landlord’s bank details for future rent payments.

7. Always get a proper receipt, for example, on headed paper or a till receipt. A scrap of paper will not do.

8. Get the keys and check that they open and close the doors of the property.

9. If you are suspicious in any way, contact the Gardaí immediately.

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10. If you have questions about any of the above or if you need advice, please contact your nearest Threshold advice centre.

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If you are asked to sign a fixed term contract or lease, ensure you read it carefully and can fulfil all its terms and conditions. If necessary, get advice. You should always have a copy of your lease and/or rent book.

However, it is a good idea to get a lease as legislative rights won’t protect you from eviction within the first six months. Under a lease, you are protected as long as you abide by the terms and pay your rent.

After moving in

You will have to take out contents insurance as the landlord’s policy will not include cover for your personal possessions if they are damaged or stolen.

You should take photographs to record the condition of the property, particularly issues such as cigarette burns, stains or cracked windows. If there is an issue, these can be used to show that you did not cause damage that already existed.

You should also take an inventory. Tenants should record what furniture and fittings have been provided by the landlord and the condition of these. If there are imperfections, say an old couch, record these. The tenant should send this to the letting agent or landlord to confirm.

Of course, many landlords are very professional, and there are often no issues for tenants. However, it’s always best to exercise caution and to get into good habits when it comes to renting. Students have enough to worry about without a tenancy dispute.

For more information about landlord/tenant issues visit Threshold’s website.

Michael McCarthy Flynn is the policy officer at Threshold.

Read: People asked to rent spare rooms to students as accommodation crisis continues

Read: Poll: Would you be happy for a student to rent your spare room?

About the author:

Michael McCarthy Flynn

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