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Renting out a room: ‘I feel safer at night having someone else in the house’

Caroline Gleeson has rented out rooms in her Whitehall home for more than 20 years

Caroline Gleeson spent most of her adult life travelling the world, seeking out new experiences, learning about other cultures and meeting new and interesting people. Since moving home to Ireland more than 20 years ago – “Fallen leaves always return to their roots,” she says – she continues to meet new people from far-flung lands by renting out rooms in her home in Whitehall, Dublin 9.

After an initial 10-year stint in Australia in her 20s, Gleeson lived in India for a year and passed through countries such as Germany, Austria, Greece, Turkey and Jordan (to name a few) before spending two years in Malta and eventually settling in Italy for about 12 years, where she became fluent in the native tongue.

When Gleeson eventually returned to Ireland, her three-bedroom family home in Whitehall needed extensive upgrading, including the installation of central heating, double-glazed windows, a new kitchen and a new bathroom, and so renting out her two spare rooms “was the perfect solution”, she says.

Initially, she continued to work as a tour guide in Italy for a few months of the year, so having tenants to look after her house in Dublin also allowed her to come and go with peace of mind.


A person can earn up to €14,000 a year, tax free, by renting out rooms in their main residence to long-term tenants (who stay for more than 28 days), and it does not affect social welfare payments the homeowner may receive. Given the housing crisis, there are plenty of students and professionals in need of rental accommodation so homeowners who do so are providing a much-needed service.

Having spent many years as an immigrant herself, Gleeson had no qualms about welcoming people from other countries into her home. “From travelling around, I’ve seen people are just the same everywhere,” she says.

“If you’re married with a family, you want the same things; you want a roof over their head, you want food on the table and you want an education no matter where in the world you live.”

One of Gleeson’s first tenants, Olga from Russia, studied at a medical college in the city, and on her departure, left Gleeson’s details with the college so students in search of accommodation could contact her. From then on, many of Gleeson’s tenants have been student doctors staying for a year or two at a time.

“Most of my tenants have been married men with children and family at home, so they are mature and responsible,” she says.

“My first tenant, who I hadn’t met in advance, was a doctor from Egypt, and the most handsome man I have ever laid eyes on,” says Gleeson. “That really gave the neighbours something to talk about.”

Olga and her husband, Alex, later bought a house just up the road from Gleeson and they are still great friends, she says, and spend Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve together.

“It’s not been rosy every time, though,” Gleeson points out. “I’ve had a few problems along the way and I have had to ask people to leave,” she says, citing issues such as people leaving the key in the front door or leaving the front door wide open.

Caroline was very kind and she was like a mother to me, she taught me everything and guided me

—  Pradeep

Other notable tenants for Gleeson were a South Korean couple, a teacher and a police officer, who took leave for a year to study English in Dublin. Gleeson developed a great rapport with them and felt comfortable enough to leave them to look after the house while she planned a dream trip to Africa to work in an elephant sanctuary.

Unfortunately, in 2020, Covid lockdowns put international travel to a halt and the couple’s language school closed for in-person classes. Luckily for them, though, they found themselves living with an experienced English teacher, and Gleeson says she was delighted with the company and for the opportunity to teach them. She fears she would have felt extremely isolated without them at that time, she says.

The couple returned to South Korea when the borders reopened, and Gleeson decided not to get new tenants as she no longer needed the income with her house upgrades paid off, and she didn’t want to risk being exposed to Covid having staved it off for so long.

It was when lockdown eventually ended that Gleeson was contacted by Pradeep, a chef from Sri Lanka, who was working at a city hotel that had Gleeson’s details on file for prospective tenants. She was still hesitant to have anyone else in the house, so along with her usual house rules, she added that the tenant would be required to entertain the house cat, Molly, for 20 minutes every evening. “I thought, that should do it. He won’t want to come here,” says Gleeson.

But Pradeep was not dissuaded and told her he’d love to take the room. “And he was the best tenant ever,” Gleeson says; they had a great laugh together, and Pradeep would whip up Sri Lankan curries that would keep them fed for days.

Pradeep says he was keen to rent a room in a house as it would have been too expensive to rent an apartment and cover the bills on his own. “It was my first time here and I didn’t know anything about Ireland,” he says. “Caroline was very kind and she was like a mother to me, she taught me everything and guided me.”

Pradeep has now moved to Clare to work as he hopes his wife and two children will join him in Ireland, and the rent would be too expensive for the family to have their own place in Dublin.

Pradeep’s brother-in law, Nalaka, who is also a chef and from Sri Lanka, is Gleeson’s current tenant and was happy to take Pradeep’s room when he moved west.

Gleeson says that technology is not her area of expertise and she often calls on Nalaka to help her with computer problems, for example. It’s also a huge benefit to have a live-in cat-sitter, she says.

As she gets older, Gleeson says it gives her comfort to know there will be someone around should she become ill. When she was briefly unwell last year, it was a “huge relief,” she says, to have someone go to the pharmacy for her and bring her cups of tea.

“I do feel safer at night having someone else in the house,” she adds.

“Over the past few years, I have lost two very good friends who died alone in their home,” she says. “This is a concern so I will continue to have a tenant. And if I do suddenly snuff it, at least I will not be eaten by the cat.”

Gleeson says she would recommend to other people with empty rooms to do as she has done. “For the most part it has been a joy meeting and knowing many lovely young people from all over the world and making lasting friendships,” she says.

Caroline’s tips for renting out a room in your home

  1. Don’t advertise on a rental or property website, you will be snowed under with responses. Instead, I suggest you contact a local college, school, hotel or hospital, or better yet, your local residents’ association Facebook page.
  2. When you meet your potential new tenant/housemate, clearly lay down the house rules. For example, some of my rules include: no overnight visitors, no showers after midnight (my bedroom is next to the bathroom) and maximum 5 minutes in the shower (I only have the one bathroom).
  3. No candles burning in rooms – I added that one from experience.
  4. Clean the bathroom and kitchen after use.
  5. Share the housework equally. For example, you vacuum upstairs and I vacuum downstairs once a week.
  6. Make sure your schedules are compatible. It’s good to have the house to yourself when your tenant is working, and if they work nights, for example, you’d have to keep quiet during the day, which could be a burden.
Jessica Doyle

Jessica Doyle

Jessica Doyle writes about property for The Irish Times