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Imogen O’Flaherty Falconer, Vice-President/Welfare and Equality Officer at NUIG pictured with her Students Union colleagues

Accommodation shortages and astronomical rents hit Clare students

CLARE students are facing a desperate search for accommodation this September with rents in Galway described as “astronomically priced”.

More than 1,400 Clare students are anxiously waiting to receive their Leaving Certificate exam results on Friday with many hoping to achieve enough points to go on to third level.

The city of Galway has long been a popular choice with Clare students, however, according to Imogen O’Flaherty Falconer, Vice-President/Welfare and Equality Officer at NUI Galway Students’ Union those searching for a place to stay are “finding it really, really difficult, basically there is no accommodation and any that is available is astronomically priced.”

Meanwhile gardaí are warning there has been an increase of 30% in accommodation fraud in 2022, in comparison with 2019 with those seeking accommodation urged to be wary for potential rental scams.

The lack of accommodation in Galway is resulting in students having to commute, defer or even drop out of their course, Imogen tells us. She reveals that one Ennis student had to commute from home to Galway for her recent examinations.

“A lot of people, especially working class students, are having a really, really difficult time finding somewhere to live. I’ve heard of students needing to commute from places like Dublin and Cork. I had a student commuting from Ennis for their exams.

Some people are facing either having to drop out or defer the year.

“A lot are calling for hybrid learning to return so that they can stay at home. But it doesn’t look like the university will do that so it is going to be really, really difficult, especially for first years coming in because any accommodation that is available throughout September will be snapped up by the second, third and fourth years who are all returning students. Any of the first years coming in, if they don’t have on campus accommodation already booked it’s going to be very difficult.”

She advises students to keep checking accommodation websites such as daft.ie “every single day, multiple times if possible”. The college’s studentpad.ie site also has daily listings of bedrooms.

“Join all of the student accommodation waiting lists in Galway. As the offers come out people might get accepted into different colleges and might not want their place in the student accommodation in Galway any more, or people will drop out throughout September and October so places will start to become available, join all those waiting lists.”

When it comes to searching for accommodation, gardaí are advising people to be wary of rental scams as the return to college timeframe shows a spike in accommodation fraud.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau gave the following advice.

“You should only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona fida and trusted. Websites can be cloned, check the URL to ensure it’s a real website and take note of the privacy and refund policy sections.”

He continues, “Be very wary of social media advertisements or where a person letting the location will only communicate via messenger or Whatsapp. You should push for direct answers and if responses are vague disengage immediately.

“Watch out for unsolicited contacts or where the contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions and especially if there is a sense of urgency like “a one-time offer”.”

If you have decided to take up the offer, “only use trusted money transfer systems, An Garda Síochána would recommend using a credit card. Never transfer money direct, pay cash, pay into cryptocurrency wallets.”

Be wary if a website is asking you to send money to a random PayPal address or asking you to wire it by Western Union or pay in iTunes gift cards or ask you to pay for long-term rental accommodation via a short-term letting website or only deals in cryptocurrency.

“Most of the time, those methods are done to avoid scrutiny and ensure that a transaction can not be reversed.”

Warning signs to look out for include: when the landlord is unable to meet up to show you the property in person; when communication is only through Text / WhatsApp or other social media platform; when the property is offered with no questions asked and payment demanded immediately before signing the lease and when you are asked to pay cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer (such as wire transfer).

“Never agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to view it. Do not hand over cash. Insist upon a proper receipt. Ensure that the keys work and you have proper contact details for the landlord/agent.”

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