Landlord asked students to pay rent to ‘hold’ house they could not enter

Trinity student (20) says landlords are taking advantage of students’ desperation

Trinity student Saul Kenny was left sleeping on a couch following a dispute with a landlord

Trinity student Saul Kenny was left sleeping on a couch following a dispute with a landlord

 

Saul Kenny (20) is a student at Trinity College Dublin who was left without accommodation and sleeping on friends’ couches at the start of this college term following a disagreement with a landlord.

Last June the Dublin landlord Susan Kennedy offered him and three other students a lease beginning on September 1st, but required them to pay rent and electricity bills for the months of July and August to “hold” the house over the summer.*

Mr Kenny, a third-year politics and sociology student, was born and raised in Italy but is an Irish citizen. He moved back to Ireland to study, and spends his summers in Italy.

Two of the four students had already been renting the property, on the South Circular Road in Dublin 8, for more than a year. However, all four are students who moved to Ireland from abroad and travel home during the summer. The official lease ended for the other tenants in June.

Mr Kenny said that when the landlord offered the four students the contract at the end of the 2016-17 college year, “she said that we would have no access to the house during July and August.”

In emails sent to the students over the summer by Ms Kennedy’s agent, he said they “will not have access to the house until September 1st, 2017, as we are doing ongoing renovations”.

The emails have been seen by The Irish Times.

However, over the summer, before returning to Italy, Mr Kenny said he visited the house to find other individuals were staying at the property. Mr Kenny raised the issue with the landlord’s agent, that people were staying in a property the students were paying rent for. In reply the agent said “some of Susan’s family have being staying on and off due to family circumstances with their own accommodation”.

After Mr Kenny raised the issue, the landlord agreed to charge the four students rent for the month of August only, as a “holding” fee.

Refused utility bill

In late August Mr Kenny paid the landlord about €2,000 – which included rent for September and August at €700 a month, and a security deposit. However, Mr Kenny said he refused to pay an additional €44 utility bill for the months of July and August.

In an email to Susan Kennedy’s agent, he said: “I have not lived there as of yet and therefore will not be paying any such bills to the house . . . considering I have yet to turn on a light switch in the house, I shall not be paying it.”

Speaking to The Irish Times, the landlord of the property Ms Kennedy said: “I am not out there to screw anybody.”

She said she owns a number of rental properties, but does not normally rent to undergraduate students. She said previously she had similar arrangements where she held properties over the summer for international postgraduate students without any issues.

Following the disagreement between Mr Kenny and the landlord over the utility bill, he said he chose not to go ahead with the tenancy. Mr Kenny said he was fully repaid the rent and security deposit he had transferred to the landlord. The other three students are renting the property.

Mr Kenny said for the last three weeks he has been sleeping on friends’ couches and in spare rooms, and this weekend will be moving down to live with his grandparents in Co Kildare until Christmas.

He brought the issue to Threshold, a tenant rights group, which is currently reviewing his case before advising him on whether he should bring the issue to the Residential Tenancies Board.

“I don’t think landlords are inherently evil . . . but I think they are taking advantage of students,” he said.

Correction October 6th, 2017: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Ms Kennedy’s surname