Charlotte Kershaw, a Senior Sophister student in Dental Technology at Trinity, lost €1,450 on rental accommodation advertised through the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Facebook page.
When speaking to Trinity News, Kershaw said: “The girl advertising it was ‘the previous tenant’. She passed on the landlord’s details and we were in contact before the end of the day. I couldn’t view the apartment because he was ‘working abroad’ but we agreed that I would pay the deposit so he would send the keys and I could view the place.”
Kershaw’s suspicions were raised when the landlord requested a deposit of €550 to be paid to Western Union because he was overseas. “He wanted the deposit through Western Union, which immediately raised red flags. So I said I wouldn’t do that I would only transfer to a legitimate bank. I knew if we had bank details I had some sort of security because that could be traced. He then gave me his UK bank account details and I transferred €550 with the promise that the keys were with a courier. I did actually receive emails from the couriers asking me to confirm the address so it all seemed legit.”
Kershaw continued: “The keys didn’t arrive on time so I questioned him and he then explained that the apartment had been double let and the other person had paid 6 months rent upfront so if I wanted it I would have to match that offer. Obviously I’m a student and like most students I did not have 6 months rent at my disposal. So I agreed to pay 2 months.”
Kershaw was then put in touch with an alleged first year Trinity biochemistry student, who was to be renting the other room in the apartment. “We were chatting and talking about moving in. Turns out she doesn’t exist. I feel so foolish at the thought that this was a scam artist having a good laugh at how gullible I was.”
“I signed the contract before I paid the 2 months rent and again with the promise that the keys were with a courier I transferred a further €900 to his UK bank account. Move in day came and went, no keys. So, I tried to contact him and his UK phone number, his email had all been blocked. I tried to contact the “other tenant” and once again I couldn’t contact her. I went back to the initial advert and the woman who advertised it. They had both disappeared so it was pretty clear at this point, that I had been scammed.”
Added to this, the property is still on offer by the landlord. Details have since been passed onto the Gardaí.
Niamh Lynch, a Junior Sophister History and Political Science student, spoke to Trinity News of her experience during her Junior Freshman year: “I lived in a dig in Whitehall with three other people including the landlady and I usually went home every third week to Donegal which cost €26 or €30 a week.”
Lynch’s landlord wanted her tenants to leave the residence every weekend: “From February to April I had to go home every weekend, making revision far more difficult during exam season.” When speaking of private accommodation, Lynch said: “It is less of a headwreck provided you get a nice enough landlord, but rent in Dublin is abominable at the moment, the whole accommodation crisis is awful.”
Lynch continued by saying: “My advice would be to make sure you know what you’re getting, make sure you clearly specify what the arrangement is, does it include weekends or only a few days a week.”
Navika Mehta and Ghalya Farahat, both international students entering their Junior Sophister years in Philosophy, Political Science, Economics and Sociology (PPES) have also had difficulties in securing accommodation.
Speaking to Trinity News, Mehta said: “Finding a house or room to rent in Dublin is not an easy task. Most websites have no filter for scams and I have faced many this year. I even contacted one on Skype but she refused to video chat because of some tonsil surgery.”
For Navika, the difficulty in finding accommodation has been compounded by trying to discern actual accommodation from scams. “Most scammers tend to be out of Dublin when asked for a viewing but some seem so genuine that it’s hard to tell, creating a general mistrust in anyone renting a house.”
Ghalya told Trinity News of her experience with rental scams: “I’d say the issue has less to do with falling for the lies and more to do with the annoyance of sending out tens of e-mails and having them all turn out to be scams, it really makes you lose hope.”