We had been sceptical from the moment we saw dubious looking flags adorning the windows; the persistent smell of mould and flaking paint didn’t help matters either. But it was the window that was held open by an empty plastic bottle that was the final nail in the coffin. Yes, we were desperate, but not that desperate. Not yet anyway.
Like so many others I had pinned my hopes on the college residences, praying I would be one of the select few second years chosen for on-campus accommodation. After letting me down in first year, surely this time around the college authorities would be kinder. Alas, as was revealed during exam time, it was not to be. Continuing students were no longer welcome; first years and international students were.
After I had gotten over my initial anger and annoyance, I could appreciate that first years did need some extra help in terms of finding accommodation. I had been in the exact same situation the year before and it had been no easy task to find somewhere to live in two weeks. However, what really got to me was how and when it announced that this would be happening. The week before the exams! We didn’t even have a chance to challenge it! To add further insult they were actually increasing the cost; talk about exploitation.
Thus began the never-ending hunt for accommodation. Weeks were spent trawling through daft.ie, rent.ie and dodgy Facebook pages where a camper bed in a room with five other people are advertised. Whoever said students have it easy has obviously never tried looking for somewhere to stay in Dublin as a student with a tight budget.
My inbox had become a steady stream of rejection emails; a constant influx of ‘sorry, the landlord isn’t interested in renting to students’ and numerous variations on that theme. Landlords don’t want students as tenants; it’s a simple as that. The minority, who will consider renting to our poor, penniless selves, usually want you to sign a 12 month lease or to pay an astronomical amount of rent. To be fair, there are some decent landlords out there who empathise somewhat with our plight and who are more accommodating towards students, but they are few and far between.
Any viewings I was offered were difficult to make. Typically we were only given two hours notice before one, and any time reasonable notice was given I was usually working. I’m lucky to still have a job with the amount of times I called in sick to try and make a viewing! The viewings themselves were morbid affairs – flaking paint, stained carpets and damp patches were commonplace. Any decent places were snapped up before we even arrived, a phone call or text on the way to Dublin to say they were already gone. It seemed like there were forces conspiring against us; landlords, employers and rising rent prices.
Eventually, on the day of the CAO offers, when all hope had been lost and I had resigned myself to the fact that it was back to digs for a second year, we found a house. If you are interested to know how I managed to achieve this near impossible feat my only explanation is luck.
Anyone looking for advice: all I can really say is to keep looking and try to not become disheartened. Positivity is essential here. Make friends with final years who may be moving out, get in touch with anybody you know who has a friend who is in a similar situation and team up. Reply to every advertisement you see within your budget. And finally: ask your Granny to light a candle. Best of luck!
– Ruth O’Hanlon