Galway students warned to beware accommodation scammers

College students, set to begin the annual hunt for accommodation in Galway, are being warned of scammers when renting property in the city.

NUI Galway Students’ Union is urging students to be cautious before signing a lease or contract, saying housing for students has been an issue in the past.

“It is extremely important to make sure the property fits the needs of all tenants and to look out for rental scams. There are properties available, so don’t panic and make sure to keep a close eye on all the accommodation websites, especially www.nuigstudentpad.ie,” the union advises.

With the first round of CAO offers being issued today, thousands of students across the country will be looking for accommodation for the 2019/20 academic year. And NUI Galway students’ union president Clare Austick says finding accommodation can be “extremely stressful”.

“People tend to rush into it, but it is paramount they follow these guidelines to avoid scams and ensure the house will be sustainable for the students and their friends.

“Never rush into getting accommodation. Be cautious and insist on receipts and any repairs where necessary. This will be where students will stay for at least nine months, so they must make sure to have all the necessities before making any commitments.”

The students’ union is offering tips to renters, warning of scams.

“Be aware of the following rental scams - scammer claims to be out of the country, so can’t show the property, but requests a deposit. Scammer is living at the property, and shows a number of people around. They get a deposit from several people and then flee with the cash. The transaction appears to have gone smoothly until the renter finds the keys don’t work and the landlord has disappeared.

“Take time when viewing a property. Ensure all the necessities are there, eg, washing machine, furnishings etc. Check all gas and electrical appliances are in good working order.”

The union advises students to take photos of the property and make sure to highlight any damages already there, eg, cigarette burns, carpet stains, etc.

“If there are any repairs to be made in the property, be sure to get it in writing from the landlord or agency that these problems will be rectified before handing over your deposit.”

It says students should avoid paying the deposit in cash and ensure they receive a receipt for any money exchanged. It is a legal entitlement to receive a receipt, so students should insist on one.

“Request a viewing prior to the move in date to ensure all outstanding issues have been rectified. Ensure the house is well ventilated and that heating sources are identified prior to signing a contract/lease.

“Insist that a building energy rating (BER ) certificate is provided prior to signing the contract. This will help students know how cold the house is likely to get and will give them an idea of the cost for heating.

“Be clear on the duration of the tenancy. If students sign a lease and leave early, they may be liable to pay outstanding rent even though they are no longer living there.

“Make sure it is clearly outlined in the lease which utility bills must be paid. Take out contents’ insurance as the landlord’s policy will not cover personal possessions.”

Students can also receive a free rent book from the Students’ Union.

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