Students turn to Snapchat to highlight ‘dodgy’ rental sector

House with 15 beds and single bathroom features among properties for rent

A rambling house with 15 beds and a single bathroom. Kitchen plates and utensils stacked in a toilet to save space. A kitchen “table” which fits about two plates at a stretch.

They all feature in undercover films by students intent on exposing the poor quality of accommodation in the private rental market.

UCD Students’ Union is using Snapchat to share the videos and warn other students about what is on offer.

Barry Murphy, a UCD Students’ Union officer who features in the videos, said pictures speak louder than words in highlighting the lamentable quality of some accommodation.


“We see news articles about the student housing crisis, but it’s a different thing to be watching it on video, such as seeing landlords trying to scam you out of a deposit and the first month’s rent without word of a contract.”

The videos form part of a wider campaign to increase the availability of student “digs” on the market. Under the “rent-a-room” scheme homeowners can earn up to €14,000 tax-free by renting out spare bedrooms.

Mr Murphy said digs were generally of a higher standard than what is currently available for students in the private rental sector. “Because they’re located in the primary residence of the homeowner they generally have decent hygiene, living space and working facilities.”

Video clips

He said he hoped some of the video clips would reach Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy so he gets to see "how bad the housing situation is".

Students’ union at UCD and Trinity are promoting digs as a way of reducing pressure on students in a difficult rental market.

Katie Ascough, head of the UCD Students' Union, said there were more than 120,000 "empty-nesters" and people with spare rooms in their home. "That's a lot of vacant beds in an overcrowded housing market."

One property owner, Carol Frey, has let a room in her south Dublin home for more than 30 years, and says she has never had a problem taking in students.

Her last digs tenants were two male students from Cork and Donegal. "They were very respectful, we treated them as our own."

There are ground rules between the homeowner and the student. Ms Frey’s house rules include no loud noise after 10pm, no parties, and if the students are coming home late, or not at all, they are asked send her a text saying as much.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent