Hosting language students can boost your family’s finances

You need to pay attention to the cost of an extra person or two around the house but rent-a-room relief means anything you earn should be tax free

Want to earn some extra cash this summer? If you have a spare room and space at the table, hosting a visiting language student can give your household finances a seasonal boost.

Homeowners in Dublin can pocket more than €400 a week for housing two teens. If you want some cash towards a family holiday, home renovations or to bolster savings, it can be a handy earner.

More than 120,000 students come to Ireland every year to learn English. The sector is worth €130 million to our economy, according to the Department of Higher Education. As we know only too well, accommodation is in short supply and the social media feeds of urban homeowners are filled with call-outs to host visiting students. If you are living within distance of one of Ireland’s 200 English language schools, the algorithm will find you.

Hosting is also chance for your family to get exposure to different cultures, to potentially forge lasting cross-cultural friendships and to become a cherished part of someone’s experience of Ireland, the ads say. The biggie for many Irish families, however, is the cash.


Being a host family can turn an spare room into immediate additional income. How much you can earn will depend on how many students you take and for how long – and how good you are at household budgeting.

Typical hosts are young families and homeowners who are retired, says Marica Killi, director of Host Family Dublin Ireland, a host family agency that works with language schools, families and visiting students.

“I started hosting myself when I was on maternity leave and it’s a great way to bump up your income,” says Killi.

The cohort of accommodation-seeking students most recognisable to Irish people are the tweens and teens to be seen in backpack-wearing murmurations on Grafton Street and the Dart every summer – mostly from Spain, Italy and France.

“They come here for three weeks on a cultural summer programme, with language lessons in the morning and day trips in the afternoon,” says Killi.

“What they are looking for is a warm welcome, a clean, tidy, well-organised house and, in return, they are getting budget accommodation value-wise.” They want a “homestay” experience, she says.

Homeowners taking one teenage student in a single room will earn €238 a week during the summer, says Killi of her company’s rates. For a three-week stay, that’s €714. When a student leaves, you may decide to continue to take others for the rest of the summer.

For that, you must provide your guest with a breakfast of something such as cereal and toast, a packed lunch similar to what you might give school-going children of the same age and a family meal at dinner time, says Killi.

Students aged under 18, visiting as part of a weeklong school trip with classmates and teachers, form another cohort, says Killi. Homeowners typically take between two and four students.

“On average, homeowners are earning €420 a week for two students in a twin room staying five nights,” says Killi. Double that if you can accommodate four students in your home. There is a higher rate for hosting teachers.

Some hosts take back-to-back bookings. “You get them in, then change the room more than , you have a couple of days to yourself and then the next ones come. It’s really popular term-time and all year-round,” says Killi.

A family hosting four students more than four weeks can earn €3,360.

“Intern bookings” come from students aged 17 to 19 years of age who spend three to four weeks on work experience in Ireland as part of the Erasmus programme. Hosts will earn about €1,700 for bed and board for two students in a twin room for four weeks.

It can be an attractive proposition for older homeowners, says Killi. “There are so many people out there with four-bed roomed houses, the kids have left and they’ve got three rooms spare. They end up saving up and visiting them in Australia,” she says.

Household budgeting

Hosting a student is not without cost but good household budgeters will know that meals cost more or less the same for five people as they do for four.

“Cook one big family meal and shop sensibly,” says one Co Wicklow homeowner of her experience of hosting primary-aged language students.

Having temporarily paused a corporate career while her three children were in primary school, hosting provided useful income while the family adjusted to living on one salary.

“It was a great top-up for us while I wasn’t working. The students are really just an extension of your family,” she says.

In a family of five, plus one visiting student, long electric showers can add up. Sometimes a family learns about budgeting from their visitor.

“To be honest, the Spanish were always very conscious of water conservation so it was never a problem with students taking long showers,” she says.

Families hosting younger students will include them on weekend family outings, so cost and transport is a consideration, she says.

“You either need two cars or a people carrier so that you can all go places together. At the time, we had a people carrier so that worked for us, but it’s a consideration.”


The big advantage of income earned for hosting a student is that it can be tax-free. Under the rent-a-room scheme, homeowners can earn €14,000 tax-free in any year. Although this relief doesn’t usually apply if the tenant is there for 28 days or less, there is an exemption for full and part-time students, including language students or disabled people.

In order for rent-a-room relief to be granted, PAYE and self-assessed taxpayers should declare the income received on an income tax return, says Revenue. So that is a Form 12 return for PAYE workers or Form 11 for those who have self-assessed income. You cannot deduct expenses when claiming rent-a-room relief.

Where earnings from hosting students exceed €14,000 in any calendar year, the full amount of the income received is taxable, but some expenses may be claimed.

If you are hosting a student and claiming rent-a-room relief, keep records of the income you receive, says Revenue.

Income eligible for rent-a-room relief is disregarded for the purposes of income tax so it won’t affect eligibility for things like the home carer’s tax credit.

But remember that you will not be able to claim rent-a-room relief if your foreign student is a short-term guest who has booked the accommodation through an online booking site like Airbnb. Make sure the student lives in your house and that it is residential accommodation you are providing, not guest or Airbnb accommodation.

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