Students preparing for college have been urged to tread carefully in selecting their accommodation and in their financial dealings.
With CAO offers being accepted many students have begun in earnest planning for the year ahead.
Almost 50,000 students are being warned not to rush into decisions over lodgings, part-time jobs and penalty bank charges.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has published its ‘rent book’ guide, which includes tips on the process and a breakdown of tenants’ rights and obligations.
USI president John Logue said: “Our aim is to inform students of their rights when dealing with landlords and letting agencies and to give them advice on living away from home.”
The Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), which maintains a register of private tenancies and tries to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords, said students facing a first year living away from home needed to take extra care in picking where they live.
The PRTB has warned students over potential pitfalls, particularly over unfairly withheld deposits.
Research has shown 40% of students have had their deposit unfairly withheld, while 75% of cases reported to the PRTB are in relation to the deposit retention.
The PRTB said deposits can only be withheld in three scenarios: rent is owing, if damage beyond normal wear and tear has been done to the property, or if utility bills are outstanding.
It said students should be careful when picking their flatmates, as well as their accommodation, as if rent or bills go unpaid, everyone in the property could be liable. The PRTB recommended new tenants make a detailed inventory of all the contents before they move in.
Elsewhere, the National Consumer Agency warned students to compare various student bank accounts and check all charges before committing to one.
The NCA’s own comparison of student bank products showed penalty fees in particular are substantial, such as non-payment and referral fees of as much as €12.70 per transaction on some accounts.
Surcharge interest rates on unauthorised overdrafts can be as high as 12%.
NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said once students open a bank account they should keep a check on cash flow to avoid penalties and charges. The nca.ie website has tips on budgeting and student banking.
Irish student website campus.ie carried out a national survey which shows that 56% of students are working their way through college and that 35% miss lectures on a regular basis due to work commitments.
While 70% of respondents said they were dependent on their parents for financial support, around 32% said they were in debt at the end of the last college year.
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