Margaret O’Gorman has fond memories of renting a room – but she was the tenant rather than the landlord, having rented with a family when she moved to Dublin for work over 30 years ago.
She really enjoyed the experience and thinks it’s “the best idea for young people leaving home”. But now, as her daughter prepares to leave the nest for the first time, it’s “almost impossible” to find anything similar.
“I moved to Dublin when I was 22 after getting a job in banking,” she says. “Coming from a small place in the west of Ireland, I wasn’t used to being alone in the city so my parents found me accommodation with a family. It was absolutely ideal as I had a lot of freedom and independence but also had the security and comfort of a family home, as well as company, if I needed it.
I don’t know if it’s outdated, but it seems there’s no one renting rooms
“I am now in the situation where my daughter is going to Cork for a course in September and we cannot find anywhere she can stay. It seems there is nothing available at all and at first when I suggested the idea of ’digging’ she almost had a seizure She said she would hate to live with anyone else because [she] would have neither independence nor privacy. But as the weeks passed and her departure date got closer, she started to panic a bit and agreed to look into the idea of staying somewhere – but we can’t quite figure it out. find anything.
“I don’t know if it’s outdated or if people think more like my daughter, but it seems there’s no one renting rooms. We’ll keep watching because if I’m being honest that would be my preference as I wouldn’t be happy with her living in student accommodation. But in the meantime, I’ve rented a house in a small town out of town and will be moving myself for the first month or two, so I can drive her to college in the mornings. Hopefully, once she’s settled in, she’ll have met people who might know someone who’s renting a room.
Yes, despite the much-publicized housing shortage and cost-of-living crisis, landlords seem reluctant to welcome students this fall.
In the past, renting a room for months or even years was commonplace. Finding accommodation or “digging” these days isn’t as easy as it used to be.
This is despite the fact that it is possible to earn up to €14,000 a year tax-free through the room rental system (earnings in excess of those taxed at normal income tax rates ).
In Limerick, as in other university towns across the country, the decline in dig/homestay type accommodation has further exacerbated the shortage of student accommodation.
Sheena Doyle, head of external communications at the University of Limerick, explains that the decline in this type of accommodation is due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To make up for this, the college is working with its HEI partners, Mary Immaculate College and Shannon, Midlands and Midwest University of Technology, on an advertising campaign to encourage local landlords in the Limerick area to rent rooms in their homes at the Limerick higher education. students.
After all, there are obvious benefits – financial and otherwise – to doing so.
Living in Dublin 16, Jennifer Swaine, group and marketing manager for Oslo shows, has been renting a room in her house for some years. She says it’s a great way to earn some extra cash and she really enjoys meeting new people.
“I started renting rooms to college students in the summer of 2019 because I had neighbors who did and they highly recommended it,” she says. “At first I had to give students breakfast and dinner, but now I have a 30-year-old man [staying in the house] who does all her cooking and takes care of herself, which is great.
“Just before Covid hit I had an Italian student that my 12 year old son loved and [although he is no longer with us] we still keep in touch – and my current student is a gorgeous Japanese girl who is also great with my son. So I think it’s really great for kids to meet people from different cultures.
The mother-of-one says people can earn up to €150 a week per student and many host more than one in order to supplement their income. But since she works full time and many of the students are still young, she is unable to open her house to them.
She has had only positive experiences and says others may find it beneficial as well.
However, she would advise anyone considering renting a room to let their tenants know exactly what is expected of them upfront.
“I think so [renting a room] is on the decline because people just don’t like the idea of strangers in their home – I think there’s a stigma around that for some reason,” she says. “Plus there’s a commitment if you have to cook or do anything for them. But I walked away from that type of [more dependent] students because I just don’t have time as a working single mom.
I have neighbors who have students all the time and use the money for vacations or home renovations
“However, for people who are at home full time, I think it’s a great way to earn extra money from your home. But I would advise them to go through a school or college because they will have support if something goes wrong. Also, you need to establish the house rules early on so there are no problems – and it’s a good idea to take a break between students to don’t get tired of it.
“Notice, I have neighbors who have students all the time and use the money for vacations or renovations. So if you have a spare bedroom I think it’s a great way to earn some extra cash – and you get used to it [the whole set up] quite fast.
Someone else with a positive experience of renting a room is Phil Quinlan.
With his wife Helena, he has been hosting paying guests for several years, hosting foreign students to make ends meet. The couple, who have two children, say that while the financial reward is the main reason for hosting tenants, it’s also a great way to meet new people.
“We started taking in students from 2008,” he says. “At first it was because we wanted some extra income – we were given a fixed rate for students which was around €100 per week. But I’m also very outgoing so I’d love to get into a foreign language – and I really wanted my children to experience it too.
“Also, in reality, there was very little involvement other than preparing lunches and putting a few extra potatoes in the pot for dinner. We have a three bedroom house [in Navan] so we installed our eldest in the small storage room and she loved being on an inflatable bed next to her brother’s bed.
“Our first [lodger] was an older, more responsible student leader, so we could give her a key and let her do her own thing. Her English was brilliant and being in her 30’s she was one of the best – we only needed to pick her up at night.
“I work as an SNA, so take the summer, and Helena worked in Drogheda in fund administration, so she was usually home by 6 p.m. [so there were no issues with us not being at home] – but, to be fair, students generally preferred to spend hours texting their fellow students in their rooms than talking to us.
The father-of-two says they made the decision to stop hosting students about three or four years ago when their daughter needed her room back as she got older. But they have long-term plans to build a downstairs bedroom as he has mobility issues and that he says could free up another upstairs bedroom which could see them reopen to students .
“We’ve had some brilliant students over the years, many of whom really loved our children and played with them every night with the goal of learning English,” he says. “Our favorite student invited us to stay with her parents the summer after she left, and we were all treated like royalty.
“I would definitely do it again if we could ever build on our downstairs bedroom as I think it’s been a very positive experience for our children – I’ve always loved new cultures, having grown up abroad and hope that once we build it, when they are both teenagers, we will welcome the next footballing legend Xabi Alonso.
“It was a positive experience in every way.”
Rooms for sale
· Double room near DCU; Monday Friday; 210€/week
· Double room in Glasheen, Cork; Monday Friday; breakfast only; 125€/week
· Double room in Dundrum, Dublin; Monday Friday; breakfast and dinner; 750€/month
· Single bedroom in Renmore, Galway City; breakfast and dinner; 160€/week
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