Getting Their Digs In

at

 digs

 Are you a student?

Without a roof?

Read on.

H writes:

We are two final year university students who live in Dublin and who wish to express our profound discontent with some of the situations we found ourselves in during the housing crisis that took place this summer in the Irish Capital, and the clear discrimination against students, which is common practice in the rental market.

Between June and September, we were actively looking for private accommodation in Dublin. We sent several hundreds of emails, made hundreds of phone calls, many of which were from abroad, went to numerous viewings and spent a lot of time, money and energy looking for a place. This house hunt was long, stressful and, overall, a very unpleasant experience which resulted in us sacrificing a large part of our summer, spare time after work, family time, and the possibility to advance with college work (readings, dissertation, etc).

We finally found a place two weeks before the start of the academic year. A place that we are not entirely satisfied with, but had to take because we had no other decent offers. We are somewhat relieved that we were lucky enough to have found something, as we are very aware of the fact that many students were not as lucky and are therefore forced to commute, live in hostels or even have to take a year out of college.

One of us is a final year student in the faculty of arts and humanities, who worked the whole summer in a well-respected office in Dublin and will continue to work part-time throughout the academic year.

The other is a final year Political Science and Geography student who works during the summer months and is financially supported by her father who works in one of the European Institutions in Brussels. Both of us have letters of reference from all our previous landlords stating we are responsible tenants, that the rent and all utility bills have always been paid on time and that we left our previous flats in good condition. Furthermore, we both have good work references from well-respected institutions.

Having such documents, one must wonder how it took us three months to find a mediocre residence.

To us, the answer is very simple. The housing crisis meant that it was hard for everyone to find a place in Dublin due to the fact that this year there was a 43% drop in supply in the rental market and a 7.5% increase in rental prices, but in particular: students have a clear disadvantage and are discriminated against.

Many, many housing ads online clearly state “no students” or “young professionals only.” Many times, when we called or sent an email asking for a viewing, the agent or the advertiser simply explained to us that we have no chance of being considered as potential tenants, because we are students, and we are simply wasting our time trying. Many times, we were told that the landlord or landlady will just not accept any students.

Many times, the agent or advertiser was simply rude or condescending. We do understand that the real estate agencies were under tremendous pressure as they had to deal with this huge demand for housing, but that does not, in any way, justify being rude or their behaviour vis-à-vis students.

We can assure you that it is extremely frustrating when the whole day, phone call after phone call, you are being rejected just because of your current occupation. We knew the definition of the word “discrimination,” but during this house hunt we disconcertedly learnt new things about what being discriminated against really means.

The Equal Status Act of 2000 promotes equality and prohibits certain forms of discrimination. It also applies to lettings.

In an article that is part of a Ten Step Law series written by Roddy Tyrrell, a Board Member of the Property Registration Authority it clearly says that:

“When you are satisfied with your prospective tenant’s ability to pay their rent it is time to interview them. Be careful with the questions you ask as equality law prohibits you from refusing to offer accommodation or from terminating a tenancy on any of the following nine grounds: gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race, membership of the traveller community. You should base your decisions on the merits of the prospective tenants.”

In our experience, our mere requests for accommodation or viewings were often declined before we even had the chance to prove our ability to pay rent. All this on the grounds that we are students. We strongly believe that this is utterly unfair.

It is true that the Equal Status Act of 2000 does not state that discrimination on the bases that someone being a student is illegal. However, we believe that being a student is, in the majority of cases, closely related to age.

The Equal Status Act states that “Treating a person who has not attained the age of 18 years less favourably or more favourably than another, whatever that other person’s age, shall not be regarded as discrimination on the age ground.”

Meaning that all people over the age of 18 should be equally treated; should not be put at a disadvantage because they are younger than young professionals who are also looking for accommodation.

Having guarantors and working part-time and during the summers, we believe that we are as able as ‘young professionals’ to pay rent and all the utility bills and that we should not be discriminated just because we are slightly younger and because we are studying.

More than students who can prove they have the financial means to pay for accommodation, more than students to whose credibility a guarantor can attest, students as a whole must be treated the same as everyone else.

Tenants should be chosen based on their merits and references – and if discriminated against, discriminated against based on their illicit actions, not their occupation.

Furthermore, in our experience, some landlords were offering a place on the condition that we pay double the deposit, just because we are students. We understand that some landlords have had bad experiences when renting to students. It is true that some young adults are inconsiderate of the premises they are renting: causing damage, disturbing the neighbours or being unreliable.

However, we must insist that this is not the case with all students, and that landlords can have bad experiences with all sorts of different people. Once again: students who have, in the past, rented accommodation and can provide good references should be treated the same as everyone else.

And so we begin to see that the situation in Dublin is simply ridiculous. There are over 80,000 students here – a common knowledge number that is spoken with false surprise when referencing the serious lack of student accommodation.

Trinity College, for example, has just under 1,700 beds for a student body of 17,000, according to its accommodation office. This means that around 15,000 students either live with parents or relatives in Dublin, or must find accommodation by themselves.

With such a high demand for student accommodation, a demand that is not likely to decrease any time in the foreseeable future, it is surprising that the majority of universities and property developers do not seem interested in investing and building more student accommodation.

Even if they do have the intention of doing so, planning and building would take several years, which does not solve the present problem of students who are left to fend for themselves in the ruthless rental market.

If students are obliged to give up their studies just because of a lack of accommodation available to them, this country is clearly shooting itself in the foot. It is wasting the potential of its youth.

We are shocked that, from as early as July it was predictable that the housing crisis could so badly affect students. During the whole summer, neither the universities nor any relevant authority intervened in any meaningful way to help the students out.

There is a serious need of regulation in the rental market; universities should be more effective at assisting students in their housing hunt and the authorities should provide some kind of justice and equality.

Since 1963, the rental market in Ireland has been through cycles of booms and slumps that are due to many factors and economic pressures causing too much demand or too much supply of housing. We know that it is difficult to control these market forces, but it is about time that we see some regulation; some effort. Firstly, because the housing market is not stable in Ireland and every property bubble affects the whole economy of the country and in the long-term no one benefits from this; and secondly because there should be a better degree of equity among people living in Ireland.

We demand some kind of law, policy or scheme to protect students’ rights to decent accommodation and students’ rights to be treated on an basis to all other potential tenants: it is not because we are still studying that we are not able to afford accommodation.

We demand that the open discrimination against students in the rental market stops.

 

An Open Letter From Two Students (InCreature)

Pic: Dublin Student Rooms

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47 thoughts on “Getting Their Digs In

  1. RealCorkLanger

    “One of us is a final year student in the faculty of arts and humanities, who worked the whole summer in a well-respected office in Dublin and will continue to work part-time throughout the academic year.”

    Where did you live all summer?

    1. Arosie

      That’s your only take away? Perhaps their lease was up in September. Maybe they made a temporary arrangement for the summer months. Good god.

      1. Jess

        Thats not true. Veterinary student have to do work experience as a hamster which includes wheel etiquette and dying after 18 months

    1. Parky Mark

      People don’t want pets as pets cause a lot more wear and tear. When confronted with a reduction in deposit returned for extra wear and tear I’m sure pet owners would have a problem with that. It’s easier to just not allow pets from the offset.

      1. Jess

        Pets don’t cause more wear and tear than a human unless you’ve got some crazy dog that can’t stop chewing furniture. There are lease clauses that make allowances for any extra damage deemed to be for a pet. If its explained from the outset, which it usually is, then they should have no problem with that. If they do, well then don’t rent to them

  2. Cohen Hand

    All a legitimate grievance, no doubt, but if you are part of the workforce (as in working part- time), why not just present yourself as part of the workforce? That way you become a “ working professional who is studying part time”, as opposed to a “student”?

    Or is there some specific financial benefit to declaring yourself part of the unwanted that I’m missing? In the UK, for example, students are exempt from Council Tax, which is a good reason to be registered thus.

  3. Hank

    Just be a bit creative and say that you’re working then.
    You said you can both get references from well respected employers. If you know that the majority of prospective landlords don’t accept students, then I would suggest you stop telling them that you’re students.
    If a situation is stacked against you, do what you can to make it work in your favour..

  4. dan

    Could daddy not buy you some property in the big smoke?

    Trinity and other institutions don’t give a $hit about accommodation as long as their student numbers are high. You could’ve taken a yearly lease in your previous property, stayed in it over the summer and then renegotiated the lease with your landlady/landlord.

    1. Rarara

      I tried to find accommodation as a foreign student during the boom and it as a nightmare, but I well believe it’s worse now (we wouldn’t stand a chance of finding anything in Dublin now, being professionals and having pets). I find the manner in which some people here react to the post cynical to say the least. Everyone’s allowed to whine about there not being enough houses to buy, but a student can’t talk about being discriminated against? The whole “you should’ve cheated the system/ agents/ landlords” argument doesn’t even start to address the issue, and “daddy couldn’t buy you property” is frankly just insulting.

      1. will-billy

        agree completely. the level of commentary on this thread is sub-par and derogatory. i wish i had the erudition and legal knowledge these students appear to have when i was their age

  5. Colin

    You should have a look at any economics book and have a read of the potential serious downsides of rental market regulation. The problems don’t go away, they just get swept into the underground.
    Also, I was on the other side of the door so to speak in early March and the about of genuine head-cases I had inquiring was astounding.

    Simply put, students can cause hassle, damage, noise and a minority have a difficulty maintaining rent payments. Granted its possible in any demographic but its, in my experience as a student not so long ago, far more common in the student populous. You are entitled to decided for your own reasons who stays in your property. A property you have obviously worked hard for and maintain, and possibly share. If you don’t want students, thats fair enough and should be respected in the same way a club can refuse you entry on any grounds or a shop refuse to sell to you.

    1. SOMK

      “You should have a look at any economics book and have a read of the potential serious downsides of rental market regulation.” True, but these arguement are often build on assumptions about how demand and supply works under a neo-classical understanding which have been debunked both mathetically and in scientific expermentation (see Chapters 3-4 of Steve Keen’s ‘Debunking Economics’). I take it when they talk about these things in the textbooks they use straight demand and supply lines, when in reality those curves are about as straight as Mr. Tickle’s arms.

      One obvious benefits to renting control are the condition of the rented accomdation, if you reward upgrading and punish downgrading sufficiently, similarly if you lean in favour of tennents having fixity of tenure they are more likely to maintain the place well (Olsen 1988), some work has also shown that a a control of rent at just below the unregulating level is efficient (Igarashi and Arnott, 1992). They have rent control in Germany (coupled with a social housing policy), no one is talking about abolishing it there.

      Which isn’t to say price controls aren’t problematic (for example the effect of food price controlls in Venuzela has led to food smuggling and hording), but I’d be very dubious of any claim that “all rent controls are bad”, especially as there would certainly be a vested interest in many parties to argue against them (look at this, a formula that says we should have as much money as possible, how wonderful!). It’s ridiculous having a housing shortage in a city as sprawled as Dublin, never mind in the most sparsely populated country in Western Europe, never mind with a semi-state agency like NAMA that is in control of some 70 billion in property assets (less what has been sold off since) and never mind when as recently as 2011 we had an estimated 300,000 empty homes (according to Rob Kitchin of NUI Maynooth, granted many of these would’ve been in the middle of nowhere and since bulldozed).

      The good behaviour of students and headcases alike might be encouraged by not treating them like crap, in Utah for example they started a programme called housing first, which gives houses to the homeless, turns out this not only reduces the problem of chronic homelessness (often conflated with mental illness) by 75% it also SAVES MONEY in the long run by cutting back on the drain on services.

  6. fmong

    Rental market in Ireland needs serious regulations and pricing control, especially seeing as this 20% deposit business is going to flood the market with a lot of people who though they were going to buy a house this year… long terms leases, price controls and proper standards of basically not being a kip.. Once you see how the rental system works in France (5-10 years lease, do what you like to it, it’s your home) you realise how outdated our own is.

    Of course this won’t happen because (a) in Ireland we’re obsessed with owning “land”, renting is seen as a dirty secret you experimented with in your student days, like cheap hash, cider and Goodfellas pizzas.. until it’s treated as a respectable and viable long term option for people who simply can’t raise a mortgage, or (like me) think the bank system is an utter racket and want to have as little as possible to do with it.. (b) a vast majority of land lords are “rich farmers” or similar types of absentee landlords and investment owners, who are more then likely to associated with their local branch of FF/FG, and no one wants be upsetting them..

    on that note I’d LOVE to know how many TDs are landlords.. I’d wager the answer is A LOT

    I think that’s all my ranting done for now.. I look froward to being chastised by some FG Youth members

    : )

  7. Just sayin'

    Discrimination is rife in the rental market, from not accepting rent allowance to this. I would saw though that when I was in college a lot of my fellow students trashed their place, using the wall as a dart board, breaking furniture and turning the place into an unrentable kip. There’s a big contrast with other European countries where landlords deal with almost universally-responsible students who respect property.
    If I were a landlord I wouldn’t rent a property to students.

    1. Lee

      Yeah, when I was in college I saw windows broken, glass in doors punched in, doors sawed in half, cisterns removed, whole toilets removed, toilets smashed in half, alarms ripped off walls etc., that’s just in a few of the houses I was in parties in. All my friends and classmates had similar stories, there’s no way undergrads are a responsible bunch. Anyone who has been an undergrad in the last 10-15 years and wasn’t in digs can attest to that. If I’m tarring everyone with the same brush it’s because I’ve heard so much anecdotal evidence from students all over Ireland about their eejit friend breaking a toilet that it just is widespread. As a result of the reputation students have, I overpaid to live in shitholes, which wasn’t fair, but then we weren’t expected to keep the houses very well either.

  8. TK Ickle

    Adamstown.

    Someone has to live there, right?

    Or the mythical “Ongar” though I am not sure if that is an actual place or just some weird Dublin bus message the use on buses from time to time.

  9. Joe

    joe knows plenty of working folk who struggled to find suitable accommodation due to demand and spent lots of time and money doing so . It’s not just a student issue it’s an issue for everyone. #getoverurselfsstudents

  10. Selfie sensation

    As is always the way the authors of this piece won’t give a phlying phuque about discrimination against students after next May when they finish their studies, where will all the righteous indignation go then?

    Also students make lousy tenants, even the better ones leave properties in worse condition than other tenants. I have seen it with my own eyes and I would not let to students.

  11. Planet of the Missing Biros

    My Daddy
    Well respected
    Political Science
    European Institution
    Well respected office

    Smoke a spliff and enjoy your twenties a bit more.

  12. Ray

    “The Equal Status Act states that “Treating a person who has not attained the age of 18 years less favourably or more favourably than another, whatever that other person’s age, shall not be regarded as discrimination on the age ground.”

    Meaning that all people over the age of 18 should be equally treated; ”

    It doesn’t mean that. It means that the prohibition on age discrimination does not apply to people under 18.

    Students these days, what do they know, amirite?

  13. madouveh on the dole

    The government is 100% to blame here. Walk around town and marvel at the amount of undeveloped land in dublin 1, 2 & 8. Do they use it to build cheap student/young person’s accommodation? Nah.

    Then there’s all the derelict buildings, many of them government owned, sitting there, not being refurbished, so that some heroin addict can OD in one of them, again all around the city centre.

    The result is that the cost of renting a place has risen exponentially. I was previously paying €450 for a room in a shared house in Dublin 2. Landlord passed away and the house was sold. Similar rooms in the area, are now between €650 and €750. To live in Dublin! while the economy is still fooked!

    Cant wait to emigrate from this, dumb, overpriced, incompetent sh*thole.

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