“I’m scared” – Students struggle to find accommodation

“Do you have a picture of yourself in a bra?”

This is a message that Alma Yasbeth Correa received from his potential future owner in Dublin.

The Mexican student thought she had booked a room in April and had even paid a deposit of €480. The hire was due to start in September before the end of the term – she is studying for a master’s degree in entrepreneurship.

“The accommodation looked okay, normal. I decided to move in. Then the landlord asked me for photos in my underwear. I was shocked,” Alma told Prime Time.

She immediately made the decision not to take the room but, despite repeated attempts to contact the owner since, he has not returned his deposit.

“I paid €480 and didn’t get my money back. It was just me alone and I was very upset.”

Alma contacted the gardaí after her experience, but was told that unless there was a signed contract between the landlord and tenant, there was nothing they could do to help. They advised him to contact the Residential Tenancies Commission.

Alma has since secured alternative accommodation in Dublin, but feels shaken by the whole experience.

It’s a problem that Laura Harmon, executive director of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS), sees increasingly in 2022, particularly in relation to international students coming to Dublin.

Georgia O’Gorman from Charleville, Co Cork, spends two hours driving to MTU

“The landlords take advantage of these vulnerable students who come to study here. Many of them whose first language is not English,” Ms Harmon said.

“Many of them end up homeless, out of pocket, losing their deposits.”

Cheap accommodation in Dublin can be hard to find on popular property websites, which means international students often turn to social media sites like Facebook.

Property groups based here have been described as the ‘Wild West’, with photos of overcrowded rooms common and inadequate storage facilities.

“It is extremely difficult for international students at the moment to find accommodation, particularly because there is a lack of accommodation. There are also exorbitant rents in urban areas such as Dublin. It would not be uncommon to see four bunk beds in one room. We see a lot of overcrowding,” Ms. Harmon told Prime Time.

For Irish students, availability is also a challenge – and the problem is not limited to the capital.

Atlanta McElvaney, from Monaghan, recently completed her Leaving Cert and hopes to attend Maynooth University.

But, last Friday, his attempts to find accommodation on the Maynooth campus failed, as demand there far exceeded supply. There are 1,140 beds on campus and all are full.

She now spends most of her days and evenings on a laptop in her room looking for rooms in or around Maynooth.

“This is what my life has been for the past two weeks and it will be for the next 10 days. Excavations, houses, rooms to rent from €900 a month that I really can’t afford – and I’m really crushed.” she says.

Atlanta McElvaney, from Monaghan, was unable to find accommodation near Maynooth

For Sam O’Hara from Portlaw, Waterford, his goal of studying business at the University of Limerick and living close to campus is now a reality.

He thinks he was lucky after getting a room about 2 km from the university. One of the landlords he contacted knew someone else in Limerick who was renting.

“Mom was on the phone, dad was on the phone – we were all on the phone calling people. I phoned a lady who owned a house and she didn’t have a room, but her friend had a spare room.”

When he was offered the room, he jumped in the car almost immediately and drove to Limerick that evening to secure the rental, before it was offered to someone else.

“All the searches we rang during the day were like ‘yeah, the room is going to be gone within the next hour’. There seemed to be several people trying to get the accommodation.”

Sam believes the demand is partly driven by people who deferred last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, preferring to avoid distance learning and wait for the full college experience.

Georgia O’Gorman in Charleville, Co Cork, however, will not get the full college experience – despite returning to normality.

Sam O’Hara from Portlaw, Waterford, secured accommodation near the University of Limerick

She attends Munster University of Technology (MTU), but has found no accommodation in Cork.

Instead, she commutes early every morning from Charleville. It requires two bus journeys, one to Cork City and another to the MTU Bishopstown campus. One way, the drive to the university takes two hours, and she is often late for her first class at 9 a.m.

Georgia has attended college virtually throughout Covid, but fears this entire year could be affected for different reasons.

“In total, I travel four hours a day by bus,” she said.

“I missed my university experience enormously. I couldn’t go out on spontaneous parties or stick around to do social activities in which I was heavily involved in my first year when I had a place in the city of Cork.”

Her attempts to find a room on Daft.ie, Rent.ie and several Facebook pages have met with no success – and she has now resigned herself to traveling from home for the whole year.

“There’s nothing unless you get lucky and know someone. It’s really, really hopeless out there.”

Comments are closed.