Making Cents: Now, first-years must learn how to rent a room

Making Cents: Now, first-years must learn how to rent a room

The Leaving Cert points have been tallied, the CAO offers made, and now the hunt is on for student accommodation.

After the excitement of receiving their results and offers last week, incoming first-years may now feel daunted by the task ahead. 

Not a day goes by without a mention of the country’s housing crisis in the media.

But the danger is that desperation to secure a room leaves people vulnerable to scams, something the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are warning about.

“It is of the utmost importance that students take caution when viewing properties to rent for the upcoming academic year,” USI president, Lorna Fitzpatrick, said. 

“The unfortunate truth is that people are taking advantage of students’ vulnerability when it comes to the housing crisis, and profiting off their struggle to find housing.”

The union has joined up with An Garda Síochána and FraudSMART, a fraud awareness initiative developed by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, to advise students.

They are particularly concerned about rental accommodation scams: victims get conned into paying a deposit for a property that does not exist or which has already been rented, often to multiple people.

“We understand that young adults will be excited at the prospect of going to college for the first time and looking forward to their next chapter, but they need to take the time to research accommodation options, before committing to any property,” Niamh Davenport, who leads the FraudSMART programme, said.

“Know the warning signs, understand the risks, and do your homework.

“Equally, for parents and friends, we ask them to play their part in assisting young people to ensure no costly mistakes are made.

“There are many ways in which rental property scams are carried out. However, one of the most common ones we see is where the fraudster rents a holiday or short let themselves. 

"They advertise the house for rent and show it to multiple potential tenants, with the aim of collecting multiple deposits and then disappear with the money.

Another common scam is where the fraudster re-advertises listings of actual available rentals with their own email or phone number.

"They will often refuse to show you the property, but may send photos or keys, in exchange for payment of rent and a deposit. 

"In both cases, the victims only realise they’ve been scammed after the fraudster has left with their money.”

So what should students and their families do?

Be Informed: Do your homework — familiarise yourself with the average rent price in your search area. If the rent is unusually low and seems to be good to be true, it usually is.

Use online maps to confirm that the property being advertised actually exists and is at the stated address.

Check short-term rental sites to ensure the property is not being used by a fraudster for fake “viewings” and who will take your deposit money.

Be Secure: Keep copies of all correspondence between yourself and the advertiser, including bank details and the advertisement itself.

Making Cents: Now, first-years must learn how to rent a room

Use legitimate, well-known rental agencies. Don’t hand over any money until you have seen the property and are happy with its condition. Once satisfied, use a cheque or bank draft to pay the deposit.

Avoiding scams is one thing, finding a suitable place to live for the year is another. 

On-campus accommodation has obvious benefits, particularly for first-year students, but is already sold-out at many locations. 

Make contact to see if rooms have been given back or if you can be added to a waiting list. 

Incoming freshers may have to look at different options.

Housing websites daft.ie, myhome.ie, and rent.ie also list student accommodation and shared housing.

The USI has also set up a site, homes.usi.ie, matching people with spare bedrooms to rent to students, with five- or seven-day-a-week options.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Making Cents: Now, first-years must learn how to rent a room

Rent is just one of many costs students face, another is the Student Contribution Charge.

Currently €3,000 for most students, it is covered for students eligible for a full grant, but must otherwise be paid.

If paying the charge is an issue, one option to consider is the AIB Student Contribution Charge Loan.

Students can apply for a loan from €600 up to €3,000 for each year of their course (up to four).

Subject to approval, they can choose an interest-only repayment option and make minimum monthly interest repayments for the duration of the course.

They then repay the capital after the course is over, when they are (hopefully) working.

The maximum overall term is nine years.

It is important to be aware that although interest-only repayments may seem cheaper in the short term, they will be more expensive over the entire term of the loan — but they are

an option where needed.

Full details can be found at aib.ie.

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