Finding student accommodation during COVID-19
There’s a lot of uncertainty for students when it comes to finding accommodation for the upcoming year
This article was developed in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
COVID-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty for students this year. Social distancing guidelines mean that students will be spending less time on campus, and will most likely be taking part in ‘blended learning’, combining online classes with time on campus. This means it’s more difficult for students to know if they will need to be living close to their college campus this year, or if they can do their study from home.
This has left many students feeling confused about their accommodation plans for the upcoming year. If you’re looking for a student house or on-campus accommodation this year, there are a few things to consider while you search.
Get more information on how to find student accommodation.
Things to consider when looking for student accommodation
The decision to get student accommodation isn't as straightforward this year as it might have been in other years. With the new blended learning system that will be adopted by most colleges, students will be spending significantly less time on campus this year.
Travelling to your accommodation
We are being asked to minimise travel as much as possible to help limit the spread of the virus. If you are a student due to start college next week and have secured accommodation, it’s important to consider whether you really have to travel. If you have no on-campus activities, it might be better to stay at home and avoid travelling outside of your region until restrictions have eased.
If you still want to travel to your student accommodation, or if you have already travelled, keep in mind that you may need to stay there if restrictions are tightened in that region. This means you might not be able to visit home for a while if you are asked to stay within your current county.
Ask your college how lectures will be delivered
It’s difficult to know what type of accommodation you need, or if you should be searching for student accommodation at all, without knowing how your lectures and tutorials will be delivered. Get in touch with your college and ask if they have confirmed how lectures will be delivered this year, or if they can give you an idea of what the upcoming academic year will look like. You can also reach out to your Students' Union to ask for advice around accommodation during blended learning, and if they can point you in the direction of available accommodation.
Even if your college is unable to give you a direct answer, the more students who contact them to ask, the more pressure there will be on them to make a decision.
Type of course
The type of course you're doing might determine how often you will be on campus. Some courses require students to go to labs, and you will need to be on campus for this. Others are more lecture and tutorial based. If you expect to be in labs or doing other on-campus activities, speak to your college or the course coordinator to find out how often you will need to be there.
Deciding if it's worth it
For some students, getting student accommodation may be their only option. However, if you have the choice between staying at home or getting your own accommodation, take time to consider if you feel moving out will be worth it. Accommodation can be expensive, and if you're only on campus for a few days within a month, you might not feel it's worth the cost. Weigh up the benefits of staying at home versus moving out, and make the decision that is right for you.
Look into the commute
Having a back-up plan if accommodation doesn't work out this year is a good idea. Look into the commute from your home to your college campus, and think about things like how much it will cost, how long it will take, and if it's something that could work for you. Remember that you might only need to do this for one week of the month, or even less. Exploring your commute can also help you to decide if accommodation is something you will really need, if there are not a lot of transport options available to you.
How to find student accommodation during COVID-19
Here are some things to try while searching for a place to live during college:
Ask student accommodation providers about flexible options
If you are looking for on-campus housing or private student accommodation buildings, get in touch with the provider and ask if they are offering flexible options. DCU and University of Limerick have already announced that they are introducing flexible accommodation this year, allowing students to only book the time that they need in student housing. This means they can be on-campus when they need to be, and can spend the rest of the time studying at home.
Some hotels are now offering student rates for those who need to be near their campus for a few days at a time, but who aren't planning on living in student accommodation full-time. Look into hotels near your campus to see what they might be offering, and if it's within your budget.
Look into short-term contracts
One concern for students renting during this time is having to leave their accommodation early if Ireland goes into a second lockdown. If this happens, you may not be able to get your deposit back. One way around this is to look for short-term contracts when renting a house or apartment. For example, you could look for a contract until the end of the first semester, when you can reassess the situation. However, with this option it’s a good idea to have a back up if your short-term contract ends and you want to continue renting near your college.
Always read your lease
Take the time to properly read your lease agreement with a landlord and make sure you know what you’re signing up for. If you are concerned about having to leave the accommodation early due to COVID-19, talk to your landlord about it and see if you can come up with an arrangement. If your landlord agrees to an arrangement that would allow you to leave early due to COVID-19, it is essential that this is included in your lease. If that’s not possible, then be aware of what you are signing up for, and know that you will most likely not get your deposit back if you have to leave before the lease is up.
Try not to rely on digs
Some students use digs as a more affordable option of student accommodation. Digs is when a student moves into a room in a family home and usually has dinner provided to them. Often, digs are hosted by older people whose children have left home. This is also the group that can be most vulnerable to COVID-19, so there may be fewer digs available this year if people are nervous about letting someone into their home.
If you're wondering where to look for student accommodation, CollegeCribs.ie is a website dedicated to listing student accommodation in Ireland. You can search for a room, for a house to rent with other students, or for digs.
Know your rights
Above all, make sure you know your rights as a tenant. It can already be difficult to deal with landlords and find affordable accommodation as a student. Understanding your rights will make it easier to have conversations with your landlord and make sure you’re getting the most out of your accommodation. Find out what to look for when renting a room, what you need to know about housing repairs, and what to do if you’re having trouble during your tenancy.
Threshold can advise you on your rights and assist you with any tenancy issues.
Need more information?
Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds - Monday to Friday 4pm to 8pm.
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