Making Cents: Students under pressure for digs but don’t rush in

Financial advice with Grainne McGuinness

IT is one of the most stressful times of year for third-level students and their parents, with the annual hunt for accommodation underway.

With housing an issue for all sectors of society, it is unsurprising students are finding it difficult, and expensive, to find somewhere to live. And with Leaving Cert results out in a fortnight, it is only going to get trickier as the month goes on. If you are in this situation, there are options available but pitfalls to avoid.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is encouraging digs-style accommodation as a solution to the room shortage. Traditionally, many students felt staying in digs offered less freedom but USI president Michael Kerrigan said: “According to our study, 66% of students living in digs are satisfied with their arrangements... Digs are becoming a real affordable and viable alternative accommodation because of the rising cost of living.”

They are also an excellent source of income for homeowners, who are allowed earn up to €14,000 tax-free through the rent-a-room relief scheme.

Mr Kerrigan suggest parents whose own children are away at college consider it, saying: “The average cost of college is €12,500 and leasing out a room to a student will greatly help with this.”

To help match students and homes, USI operates homes.usi.ie. At time of writing, there were more than 500 vacancies on the site, the vast majority for rooms in a family home. The majority are for five-day a week rentals, so suitable only for students who will return home each weekend.

If digs aren’t for you, rental sites such as daft.ie are the obvious places to look for rent. But Facebook is also useful, as many colleges have their own Facebook page dedicated to accommodation. Most students unions also have lists.

With pressure on to find a place, there is a temptation to rush in and accept the first place you find, but that could be a costly mistake. It is vital you view the place properly. In recent days, gardaí have issued warnings about fake rooms being advertised online and people paying deposits without a viewing. They strongly advise that students make sure there is personal contact and do not do the whole thing online.

Once you are satisfied it is genuine, you still need to work out if it is suitable. Look the place over thoroughly and check that all appliances are in working order. Landlords must provide a building energy rating (BER) for rental properties. Don’t ignore that, it will give you a good idea of how costly it will be to heat.

If you are pressing ahead and are asked to sign a contract or lease, take time to read it carefully. Check the term. Students are now frequently asked to pay from the time they find the property rather than the start of the college term, so check if you are expected to pay for August and when the contract ends. If you are unsure about any terms bring it to your students union or contact Threshold, the housing charity, for advice. Keep a copy of any agreement.

When it comes to the deposit, ideally do a walkthrough with your landlord to identify any existing damage or flaws in the property. Take timestamped pictures on your phone of cracks, burn marks, dents, etc. Try not to pay the deposit in cash; a cheque or bank transfer will leave a clear record. Regardless of method, get a receipt. The same goes for rent during the year. Better to do it via standing order or bank transfer, but ask for a rent book to keep track of payments as well.

If you are getting a house with friends, lay clear ground rules about when the rent has to be provided. The quickest way to fall out with roommates is hassle over money. In addition to rent, do your homework about bills. Find out exactly what you are going to have to pay for. Ask about heating, electricity, internet, TV, and bin charges. Work out roughly how much that is going to be and make sure you can afford it on top of rent. Again, talk to your housemates about how bills are going to be managed and split, make sure everyone is in agreement from the start.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

With the new Premier League season just around the corner, Eir are targeting football lovers with their latest broadband and landline deal. The deal includes calls to all Irish and UK landlines and mobile calls with an eir talk landline and unlimited superfast eir fibre broadband.

The package comes with a free modem and installation, parental controls and eir StudyHub but most temptingly, also comes with free eir Sport. Their Sport bundle includes eir Sport 1 and 2, BT Sport 1,2 and 3 plus BT Sport ESPN.

Football fans have seen increasing numbers of games available on these channels and that trend is set to continue in the coming season. For any fight fans, their package also includes Box Nation.

To qualify customers have to buy online at www.eir.ie. The cost is then €35 per month for the first six months, rising to €70 for the remainder of the 12 month contract. You can enter your address on the website before your purchase to find out what broadband speed will be available to you with this package.


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