Tuesday 12 November 2019

Students in rent trap signing up as 'guardians'

Caretaker scheme offers huge savings to tenants but the usual rights are reduced, writes Mark O'Regan

Stock photo
Stock photo

Mark O'Regan

Rocketing rents are encouraging a newfangled option to slash accommodation costs in Ireland.

The scheme is already hugely popular in London and other major UK cities.

Under the system a tenant opts to become a 'property guardian' in return for low or even negligible rent.

Tenants range from professionals to hard-pressed students - who do not want to sacrifice on space or location - as renting costs continue to rise.

Married couples have also used the system to get a 'breather' and save a deposit for a future home.

Property sources here say that in return for being the "eyes and ears" of the owner, a tenant can slash their monthly rental rate by up to 60pc.

Utility bills are often paid by the owner.

Sources suggest the cost of renting can be as low as €35 to €100 a week, depending on the size and location of the property.

A typical married couple can amass substantial savings when they compare the rates operating in an open rental market that is seriously overcrowded.

However, guardians sign a licence rather than being protected by the standard tenancy agreement.

Only a four-week notice is required if the building is to be sold - which leaves the tenant without standard residency rights.

However, some tenants are willing to accept these conditions if the standard of accommodation is adequate and particularly if it is close to work or college.

Guardians act as live-in caretakers, aimed at deterring vandalism and in some instances squatters. They may also be required to alert a management company if problems arise which could affect the long-term letting, or resale value of a property.

A number of dwellings currently on the market are available under the "property guardian" system.

A four-storey Georgian home in the heart of Limerick city can be rented by college students for only €58 a week.

Elsewhere, a three-storey 'manor house' in Mallow Co Cork is available for €44 a week.

Complete with off-street parking and a gated entrance, the interior is stated to be in "immaculate" condition.

The majority of available properties are in Dublin, followed by Cork, Limerick and Galway.

A major benefit for property owners under this system is that an occupied building can bring about a significant reduction in their insurance costs.

Natalie Darlison, of Camelot Property Management, the company that operates the 'property guardian' scheme, says rising rental costs have encouraged growth in this kind of letting arrangement, which can benefit landlords and tenants.

To be eligible, guardians must be over 18 and in employment. A deposit of between €300 and €400 is required - and no pets or children are allowed. Students must provide a guarantor to cover any potential problems which may arise.

Latest figures show nearly one in four tenants are now paying a monthly rent of more than €1,300. And house prices are set to rise by 15pc over the next three years, according to a recent study conducted by the Central Bank.

The survey of estate agents, auctioneers, economists and surveyors indicates prices will rise by 8pc nationally this year.

Dublin prices are set to rise by 10pc, the property professionals told the surveyors.

Sunday Independent

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