In a highly competitive rental market, Emma Toolan reveals the unacceptable housing conditions that students in Ireland are forced to contend with.

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A report on the demand for and supply of student accommodation in Ireland published by the Higher Education Authority in 2015 estimated that in the previous year of 2014, there was an estimated demand of 51,104 student beds.

The amount of beds supplied that year by third-level institutions and private student accommodation was estimated to be 31,296. This means there was an estimated 25,808 beds which were still required and which therefore spills over into the private rental sector. They further estimated that in 2019, this figure would be 23,159 and 25,182 in 2024. The remaining 20,000 or so student beds must be obtained through the private rental sector.

“Upon pulling the bed from the wall she discovered a thick coat of furry mould spanning the entire length of her bed.”

However, according to a rental report published by Daft.ie in 2016, it is estimated that there were less than 3,700 properties to rent nationwide. Yet this shortage in rental properties is not the only problem that students face. They are not alone in this rental market and their competitors include young professionals and families to name but a few.

The competition is extremely tight and often students are faced with no alternative but to accept and contend with substandard accommodation. Whether it be an unresponsive landlord or the opposite; a landlord overstepping their mark in terms of privacy, inadequate and sometimes unsafe housing conditions or difficult neighbours.

Four students from across Ireland reveal their difficult experiences with student accommodation:

“Aoife” is a student living in a house in South Dublin. Upon moving in, she noticed that her wardrobe had been largely eaten by woodworm. She emailed her landlord but received no reply. Following this, she began to notice a small growth of mildew in the corners of the ceiling to which she paid little attention until she awoke one morning to discover a dark shadow directly beside her bed. Upon pulling the bed from the wall she discovered a thick coat of furry mould spanning the entire length of her bed.

“The landlord himself arrived at the house and attempted to fix the shower himself despite having no experience with electrics or plumbing of any kind.”

Again, the landlord was contacted; this time replying but only to suggest that she open her window more often in order to ventilate the room. Later on in the year, the boiler ceased to fire. The landlord was contacted once again. A phone conversation took place in which the girl was advised to take up a knife and attempt to turn a valve on the boiler to rectify the problem. This did not fix the problem and eventually the landlord sent a repairman.

“John”, a student in Limerick, has also experienced a landlord attempting to take shortcuts with regards to repairs. After the electric shower in the main bathroom of the house stopped working, the landlord was contacted and promised to send a repairman.

After two weeks of persistent reminders, the landlord himself arrived at the house and attempted to fix the shower himself despite having no experience with electrics or plumbing of any kind. In doing so, he did further damage which caused the only remaining ensuite shower to stop working.

“Security which patrol the premises tend to walk into her apartment unannounced and without prior warning”

On discovery of this, he then promised to send in a technician to fix both showers who did not arrive for a further six weeks. He installed two brand new showers due to the damage the landlord himself had inflicted. The problem lasted roughly eight weeks.

“Sarah” is a student living in an apartment block in North Dublin. Upon moving in she discovered that the kitchen had not been cleaned since the previous tenants had moved out. The countertops were filthy with old food underneath appliances. The couch in the living room was also missing a leg and was resting on one side. She then inspected her bedroom and discovered the bathroom fan was broken, with a window that did not close properly and had a broken blind.

She then emailed the residences office and within a number of weeks most issues were resolved.
She also details how security which patrol the premises tend to walk into her apartment unannounced and without prior warning. She says this makes her feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.

“Her landlady had let herself in and was doing her own washing in the houses’ washing machine”

Finally, a Maynooth students’ experience reveals a landlady invading her tenants’ privacy. Unbeknownst to the landlady, the student was staying up in her accommodation for the weekend rather than travelling home. She discovered her landlady had let herself in and was doing her own washing in the houses’ washing machine. Along with this, on occasion she would let herself in to the house in the morning time unannounced to enquire whether anybody was in. Although the student found these incidents to be harmless, they were still annoying.

Students have a limited choice of rental houses to choose from, and left with no alternative, are not in a position to challenge the inadequacy of their accommodation. Unless a large number of houses or student accommodation becomes available to rent, this is a situation which is set to continue. It is abundantly clear more must be done, both to provide more and to improve the standard of the accommodation available to students.