Accommodation Frustration

With confusion on campus and doors closing elsewhere, Features Editor Leanne Waters investigates why letting agents are saying no to students.
I never take students. I had them once. They were very bad tenants and they set fire to the placethe fees alone to live in on-campus residencies could create a financial drought greater than that of Anglo Irish
Every year, thousands of students flood to Belfield in the hope of getting on-campus accommodation or, alternatively, off-campus digs. After tremendous confusion this year over UCD accommodation at the beginning of the semester, many were left with no choice but the latter.With some students being able to access places that should have been reserved for final-year students and many left without any places whatsoever, the UCD Accommodation Office was greatly under heat. Given that such miscarriages of administration were found within UCD itself, one would think that opting for lettings around the Dublin area would be the wiser choice. However, a pattern is appearing more and more of individuals being refused lettings based on the fact that they are students.The University Observer Spoke to Director of KMC Lettings, Ms. Karen Cummins, who was able to shed some light as to why students are facing difficulties in being taken on as tenants. “Well, to be honest with you, it’s not really the agents; it’s more to do with the landlords. And there are a number of issues.”“The most precedent one would be that, as much as students assure you that they’ll take the property for several months – which is generally what a lease is for – experience is that they don’t. They just leave before the lease expires and they usually don’t pay the last rent which means there’s no security deposit. Now I’m not generalising here, I’m just saying that that’s the experience that agents would have had, or landlords would have had.”Ms. Cummins goes on to explain how what is often seen as typical student behaviour can damage the general reputation and thus inhibit individuals’ chances of letting agents and landlords taking students on as regards properties.“I suppose the other thing is, especially first years away from home for the first time, [they] get a bit carried away at parties. [They’re] not as responsible as they might be. So I suppose they’re the primary two reasons. Students just, by their nature, may have more in the house than there should be, which we all do our first time away from home. But that’s what landlords are afraid of.”Ms Cummins explained that landlords are often reluctant to let to students as they simply cannot be trusted to keep to their lease agreements. “The worst experience I’ve had with students was that there is a twelve-month lease and they say that ‘we’re going to stay and work up here for the summer’; but they don’t. They just leave. I think the solution to that is to factor it into the rent. It’s usually their first time out of home and they do tend to party.”She also told The University Observer that landlords are willing to wait for other tenents, who will stay in a property for the full lease term, saying that “the other reluctance that landlords have is that if I rent that property to anybody else but students, they’ll sign a twelve month lease whereas students tend either not to want to do that or even if they sign a twelve month lease that they leave before the twelve months.”In adding to this, it seems that students on occasion can exhibit more than your average run-of-the-mill partying tendencies. An independent landlord in the Bray area, Ms Carmel Tude, explains her only experience with student tenants and why she states that she would never take students again.“I never take students. I had them once. They were very bad tenants and they set fire to the place. They left and had a big party, setting fire to the entire apartment. They broke everything – cooker, chairs, tables, everything.”Ms Tude explains that professionals are simply easier tenents than students. She stated that “I would normally take people that are working because people that are working are out all day and they’re past the student stage”. She also noted that, despite taking a deposit, damages are not always covered: “You do get a deposit but if you get a lot of damage, it just doesn’t cover what they do. If you’re a landlord, you just have to be very careful who you take. I don’t think there’s any other answer.”Student opinions seem mixed. In response to somewhat harsh statements such as above, second-year Commerce student Adam Benson states, “It’s just poor to be honest because students would probably need accommodation more than other people. And it’s the perfect time as well; it’s that transition period into adulthood when you want to get independence and that sort of thing.”“Also, I think it’s a very general, sweeping view of students that we’re all destructive and would potentially wreck the place. It’s not true and it’s not right to be honest. Probably very few students would actually wreck a house if they got hold of it. I know personally, if I got my own place, I’d be so delighted with it that I wouldn’t wreck it at all and certainly wouldn’t let anyone else wreck it either.”It is certainly no lie that living away from home, aside from the everyday living demands, is a very costly business. And so, it seems strange that any student should want to risk accommodation for the sake of a bit of fun.It would definitely prove to be extraordinarily pricey banter. For example, the fees alone to live in on-campus residencies could create a financial drought greater than that of Anglo Irish. For the 2010/2011 academic year, fees for the popular residencies ranked as follows: Belgrove, €4,288; Merville, €4,288; and Roebuck stood at an incredible €5,324.After investigating the price difference to be found, the temptation to seek lettings over campus accommodation became all too apparent. One example to be found was one four-bedroom letting succeeding at a rate of €1,300 monthly. Taking for granted that four people would inhabit said house and that they stayed there for an entire academic year, the total came to approximately €2,925. With a difference of over two thousand euro to be saved in comparison to the Roebuck price tag, it’s not surprising that students today are hopping on the property bandwagon.But forget about getting the rent in on time; the real question is now starting to emerge of whether or not students can even pull it together enough to prove their determination in making a home during their years of study. After all, we must take into light the root of such reluctance on the part of landlords and letting agents. Have students, in fact, dug this hole for themselves through misguided antics?Nursing student, Anna Loughlin, says she can see the argument from both sides. “Well I can understand where they’re coming from because I’m sure a lot of students don’t have respect for where they’re living or have trouble paying the rent. But at the same time, I think it’s wrong to tar all students with the same brush when a lot of students are actually very responsible and would be able to pay their rent and look after their own accommodation.”“Speaking from my own experience, I found that I had no option to stay on campus because it was just too expensive for me to afford and I know that other people have had that experience as well.”Though the opinions found in UCD seem fair, the best opinion was naturally only to be found in a student living away from home and outside the UCD arena. Second-year Social Science student, Aveen Clarke talks through the process she underwent in finding student digs and the inevitable rejections she had to first face.“A few places that we called just literally said ‘no, sorry’. They didn’t ask if we were students but they asked if we had full-time jobs. We’d tell them no, but that we had part-time jobs with our parents paying the rent. And they’d simply say ‘well, if you’re students we won’t take you’. It took us about three weeks, but we were lucky I think. Although, the place we got is fairly far away from college. I mean, we have to get two buses so it’s not that convenient.”With such difficulties, it seems curious that anyone would go to so much trouble to live away from the campus itself. When asked about her choice not to live in UCD residencies such as Roebuck, Merville and Belgrove, Aveen states: “It was way more expensive to live in UCD. Our house is €1,300 a month and we got a ten-month lease between four of us so for me, it’s only €350 a month. I didn’t even apply for on-campus because I knew it would be so expensive.”“Behaviour-wise, we’ve been okay; we had a party last week and our neighbours and everything came in. I think it is justified for [letting agents] to be nervous to have students in the house, especially if it’s a new house or a house that has been well-kept. We got this house and it is a nice house because it was so well kept.”Between the chaos to be seen of late with the UCD Accommodation Office and - for better judgement or worse - the rejection students are experiencing from letting agents, it appears that one more year with Mum and Dad may, in fact, be a blessing in disguise.