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'I'm sorry, we had a twenty-one year-old before'

The private rented sector in Dublin can make or break you, writes Laura Gaynor

Another day; another viewing. Another half hour writing down the things that qualify me as a good flat mate. It’s a fine art balancing between a polite cover letter without sounding too much like a personal ad.

So far mine goes a little bit like this:

“Hi, my name is Laura Gaynor. I don’t drink or smoke and I like going to bed early. I’m looking to live in your house but, in fact, I’ll barely even be there!

I will probably arrive in around seven every night and leave at nine every morning. Will take almost anything so long as it has four walls and Wi-Fi.”

Scratch that last sentence. I, like anyone else, need somewhere decent to live. Though with the challenging Irish rental sector, that sentence has gotten very close to reality.

I nervously text a number from Daft.ie. As the phone rings, I suppress my inner culchie and try to sound as sophisticated as a film student who skateboards to lectures can be.

I make it all the way to the point where I talk about going to bed early when suddenly I am asked my age. I tell him, I’m twenty-one.

“I’m sorry, we had a twenty one year old before”.

An awkward moment passes between us. I want to say, there must be over forty thousand twenty one year olds in Ireland, why are you allowed to discriminate like this?

But I don’t, because of the sheer power that landlords have in cities like Dublin. I say I am also a student, and our call ends almost immediately afterwards.

After three years in college, I have stayed in just about every imaginable student ‘accommodation’. This includes three months in a B&B and two weeks in a hostel next to a nightclub called Coppers Face Jacks. I can only say that having instability in your housing situation is one of the most stressful things I’ve faced in college.

A quiet roommate should not mean a "Professional female over 25, no students, no couples". I understand that no one wants a flat mate who causes trouble but always drawing a connection between students and chaos doesn’t cut it. Not for me, and not anymore.

The difficulty is that the private rented sector in Dublin can make or break you. Though Dublin is a modern EU city, the prejudices of a small group of people can make living as a student downright miserable – if you can even get accommodation.

There are lots of landlords in Dublin who make provisions for students and this should really be applauded. I would even go to say they should get tax breaks. Students do not have the same earning potential as someone in employment due to the demands of their studies. They may have already made financial sacrifices to cover their fees. Our recovering economy should not allow an industry that treats our next generation like second-class citizens to sit under its nose.

More than anything else, I think we need to accept that the majority of students do not fulfill this comic book persona who drinks, smokes, parties every night and has oodles of free time. Honestly, we’re usually too busy with assignments.