College students still flock to €750-a-month room... where six months' rent must be paid upfront
Just days before the latest bunch of first years arrive at third-level campuses across the country, there is a steady flow of teenagers and parents to Michael Hogan's house.
The landlord has two rental properties in Limerick. One is already let for the upcoming academic year and Mr Hogan was busy when the Sunday Independent visited him last Thursday during an open viewing at his second house.
A bedroom in this five-bed semi-detached property is advertised at €750 per month. Pent-up demand has brought price hikes to the area but this is more than double what was being charged in comparable homes two years ago.
A minimum lease term at his house is nine months. Six months' rent must be paid upfront, followed by a top-up in November and a final payment in January.
His advert stated the total due was €6,500 for a single room or €7,500 for an en suite. It includes most utility bills at a fair usage rate of €1,500 for the academic year. A TV package and TV licence is not included.
Housing charity Threshold said the advertised payment structure was unethical and prevented families, social welfare recipients and low earners from seeing the property as a housing option.
"No low-income family can afford to cough up six months' rent when moving into a property," said Threshold chief executive John-Mark McCafferty.
Mr Hogan disagrees he is being unethical and said he would adjust the payment plan for a family. All of his dealings over the past 15 years have been with students.
He says dealing with students is tricky but denies he is setting rates based on previous experiences.
"I have found holes in the walls that have been filled with rubbish, cigarette burns on carpets and I have replaced the internal doors in one of the properties three times in 15 years," he said.
He said his prices were set against those charged by purpose-built student residences nearby.
"It is in line with UL's on-campus charging and my experience in the past of not being paid for the damage that has been done to my property."
UL charges between €4,488 and €6,451.50 for on-campus accommodation for the academic year, plus a €50 booking fee and a €300 deposit.
A spokeswoman said this also was paid in three instalments and included utilities and bills, security, access to organised events and gym and pool membership.
The university lists landlords with available properties online. It recently removed Mr Hogan from this list. He believes this is because of his pricing structure and accused UL of a double standard.
"Students are the priority and in the event where UL accommodation office receives negative feedback from students regarding listed accommodation options, it is policy to withdraw the listing to prevent further negative experiences. In this case, landlords are free to continue to advertise through the usual commercial property letting channels," said UL's spokeswoman.
As the parents and their freshman teens filed in and out of Mr Hogan's property last Thursday, one mother told a tale of woe.
They have been searching through houses with broken windows, fire hazards, utility rooms converted into bedrooms and no escape routes from the home if the path to the front door is blocked. "This place is much better," she said, "but at this price, if my daughter gets offered a place on campus we'll take that."