By Eva Osborne-Sherlock
The Department of Further and Higher Education has today (Thursday, 21 September) announced regulatory framework for the Rent-a-Room Scheme with the aim of protecting both students and homeowners.
Currently, students who find accommodation in ‘digs’ (a room rented to them by a homeowner who also lives in the property), are not covered by the rights and protections of the Residential Tenancies Act.
This is because the Rent-a-Room Scheme, which permits homeowners to rent rooms in their home and earn up to €14,000 in rental income free from tax liability, falls outside of the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
The regulatory framework announced today has been accompanied by a sample license agreement drawn up by the department to assist both homeowners and students who wish to avail of the scheme. This can be accessed here.
The department said this will highlight to students the key issues they should consider when renting a room and what to expect when accepting an offer of accommodation.
As the Rent-a-Room Scheme falls outside the Residential Tenancy Act, a standard tenancy agreement does not apply.
The department therefore recommends that a written licence agreement is established between the homeowner and the student in advance of taking up the offer of accommodation.
A licence agreement means that a person is in the property with the homeowners’ consent or invitation. The Licensor (the homeowner or primary tenant) is the person who grants the licence (occupancy rights of the property) to the Licencee (the student).
“It is important that both the homeowner/primary tenant and the student document the terms and conditions of the offer of accommodation in writing and that both parties sign the licence agreement,” the department said.
“Both parties should retain a copy of the signed licence agreement which can then be referred to in the event of disagreement.”
Safeguarding against scams
While the regulation of the Rent-a-Room Scheme will help safeguard students from scams and fraud, the department said students themselves should also carry out their own steps to avoid this.
The department said students should, where possible, inspect the property in advance of entering into a license agreement to avoid scams or fraudulent offers of accommodation.
As well as this, students have been advised to report any cases of suspected fraud or scams to An Garda Síochána.
Accommodation in Galway
The University of Galway has its own advice for students seeking accommodation in the city and has issued reminders for them to be aware of their rights and of what to avoid in a potential rental agreement.
The University cited Studentpad as one of the most secure ways to search for private student accommodation.
International students, it said, are particularly at risk at risk of losing money when deposits are transferred to prospective landlords without seeing a property in person.
“Rental fraud is an increasingly common issue, and students are a major target for scammers,” the University of Galway wrote on its website.
“We strongly encourage all students to not transfer any money until a property has been viewed in person.
“Always meet a prospective landlord in person in the accommodation to be rented. Bring a friend and keep copies of all correspondence.”