Hi-tech bid to get homeowners to rent rooms

Efforts to get more home- owners to rent spare rooms to college students are going hi-tech with a campaign targeting internet users in Dublin.

In a project mostly funded by student unions at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, adverts promoting the tax relief available for renting out rooms in owner-occupied houses are being placed on a number of property and commercial websites.

But using codes that recognise the location of browsers on property sites Daft.ie, Rent.ie and Let.ie through their internet protocol (IP) address, the banner ads will only be visible to those viewing the sites near the campuses of the two universities. The €15,000 campaign, partly funded by Daft.ie, will also see banner ads placed on its other sister sites, DoneDeal.ie and Adverts.ie.

Under Revenue Commissioners rules, a homeowner can earn up to €14,000 a year from letting empty rooms, as long as they also live there themselves, without being liable for tax on the income. This includes income for digs, where a homeowner may offer meals and other services such as laundry, in addition to renting one or more spare bedrooms.

The figure that can be earned tax-free has been gradually increased in recent budgets, from €7,620 between 2002 and 2007, to €10,000 up to 2014. It was further hiked to €12,000 for 2015 and 2016 and increased to €14,000 this year.

Revenue Commissioners data show declarations of income from sharing a room to qualify for the tax relief more than doubled in the decade up to 2014, from 2,300 to more than 5,700.

But despite construction and planning permission for a number of new dedicated student accommodation complexes in the capital, and the increased promotion of the rent-a-room scheme to homeowners, continuing rental inflation means affordable accommodation for students is in short supply.

The latest Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Student Cost of Living Guide suggests average monthly rents for a single room in Dublin are just over €500, nearly €80 higher than national averages. But it also flags the range of costs in the capital from less than €300 a month for a shared room to over €1,600 for a one-bedroom unit in the inner city.

UCD students’ union president Katie Ascough said the fact there are 120,000 empty-nesters in Ireland, and even more people who simply have an empty room in their property, means there are a lot of vacant beds in an overcrowded housing market.

“Some homeowners might be apprehensive at the thought of letting to students, but the type of people who go for digs beds are inclined to be good tenants. They’re happier in a home setting than they would be in the typical student bedsit.”


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