Students and homeowners renting out rooms both feel more secure and comfortable when there is a written agreement between the parties, according to the findings of Student Digs: National Survey 2023, published today by the Union of Students in Ireland.

The research carried out among students that currently, or recently, lived in digs found that 66 per cent of the respondents have a written contract with the homeowner and that in 68 per cent of those cases, the homeowner suggested they have such an agreement.

USI has been lobbying for legislation that would make it a requirement to have a written agreement which sets out minimum protections for both parties in order to benefit from the rent-a-room tax breaks, but Government repeatedly says that such legislation would put homeowners off renting out rooms in their homes.

However, this research shows that most homeowners feel more secure having an agreement, and the lack of legislation simply allows more malign homeowners a free reign to do whatever they when renting out a room to students or others.

With the ability to make €14,000 on offer, there should be some basic rules and requirements, to stop people being evicted or having their rent increased without any notice or discussion.

Digs should also be brought into the scope of Rent Pressure Zone Legislation, which USI worked on in the past.

The survey showed that respondents are paying an average of €660 across the country to live in digs, with just 43 per cent of them having use of the room for the full seven days a week – this shows that digs is not a very cheap or low-cost option.

On the publication of the report today, USI President, Chris Clifford said: “The scarcity of student housing has plagued students for over a decade and is one of the symptoms of the wider flawed housing policy in Ireland. USI, local Students’ Unions, and others have outlined these issues repeatedly and have laid-out what we think needs to be done to address this crisis and provide proper accommodation for students now and into the future. But the necessary action has not been taken and we have seen no urgency from Government to properly address the issue. Instead, we see short-term, quick fix methods that do nothing to address the root cause of the problem. Included in these quick-fix, so-called ‘solutions’ is the reliance on digs accommodation.

“Every year we hear details of students left in really difficult situations because those living in digs have no legal rights or protections. With this in mind, USI undertook a Digs Survey at the end of the last academic year to see what is really going on for students that live in, or have lived in, digs. And this report puts forward the results of that research.

“One of the key takeaways for us from this survey is that all parties, homeowners and students, feel better and more protected when they have an agreement in writing. Most people want the arrangements to be set out in advance, so everyone knows where they stand.”

The report also sets out USI’s recommendations for dealing with the issues face by the students living in digs, who took this survey, and to deal with the on-going student accommodation crisis in general.

USI attended the launch of Sinn Féin’s legislation to protect student renters in digs accommodation and is eagerly awaiting that Bill coming before the Oireachtas and calls on all TDs to support this legislation when it is voted on.

A PDF of the report is here: Student Digs: National Survey 2023