Renting in Ireland: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

At the tail end of twenty-fours hours that included a transatlantic flight, learning to drive on the left, and a hasty (but not tasty) lunch, we knocked on two wrong doors, and finally found the first apartment on our list of possibilities.  Its drab, scuffed, 1980s linoleum, scratch & dent cabinetry, and threadbare rugs, caused Kalpana, my wife, and me to share a look that screamed, “They’re all going to be this grim, aren’t they?  We’re screwed.”

The following day, we scheduled a couple of places to look at in Harold’s Cross, an older part of town with lots of green space close to the center of town.  I’d had my eye on the area for weeks.  The apartments were almost identical, but the landlords were miles apart.   A young couple (a doctor and his wife who’d lived there while in school) owned the first of the two row houses. They were full of firsthand knowledge about getting to UCD (University College Dublin – Kalpana’s work), as well as commuting and living in the area.  They directed us to shops, bus stops etc., and actually had plans for the apartment.  The second landlord was strictly a property owner.  If you’re a good tenant, he’ll be a fine landlord.  No muss, no fuss.

There was nothing wrong with either situation.  They were simply two different styles of landlord, much as you’d find anywhere.  We could have taken either property and lived a fine life.  They were close to shops, but far from UCD (work).

Moving on, but keeping Harold’s Cross in mind, we looked at a couple of properties in Clonskeagh.   Again, these were both fine, and within minutes of UCD.  However, they were hell and gone from any kind of shops.  So living without a car would be tough.

The following day, I called a real estate agent I’d spoken to days before we flew to Dublin.  He had a property that looked nice, and was getting lots of showings.  Naturally, I assumed it would be gone, baby, gone by the time we arrived (as did he).  Alas, the folks who were interested in it couldn’t get their daughter into the school they wanted, so they passed.  We went right over.

Driving into the neighborhood, we immediately noticed a pub a block away, a big, modern grocery, restaurants, and other amenities right across the street. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and it just clicks?  Everything feels right.  That’s how this row house felt. It had the right number of bedrooms, an extra half bath, a fenced back garden, a nice-sized kitchen, and was on a direct bus line to UCD.  After dutifully checking a few other places, we sealed the deal

Adding to the good feeling we had about our new place in Churchtown/Dundrum, our landlord was/is incredibly helpful.  Over the next few days he fielded our questions about banks, utilities, and our repeated inquiries about the Irish hot water system.  “Does it really work like that?”  “That’s crazy.  Did I hear you correctly?  Show us one more time.”

For our landlord, our “credit” was mainly a matter of talking and getting to know us.  We offered a few letters of recommendation.  He explained, in that patient, common sense way of the Irish, that nobody ever hands you a bad letter of recommendation, so the things are all but useless.  It’s his job to take the measure of us, and, based on that, he decides whether or not to offer us a lease

We’d cleanly vaulted the housing, lease, and landlord hurdles. But the worst, was yet to come.  We had to deal with banks and utilities

In classic ISB (international standard bureaucrat-ese), to qualify for an account, the Irish banks require you to supply evidence of your credit and trustworthiness, in the form of bills and receipts in your name from local (Irish) utilities. To establish an account, the Irish utilities (also ISB members in good standing) likewise want proof of your “non-dirt bag” status.  They want you to pay electronically from a local Irish bank account.  Hmmm.  What to do?  Yossarian? Yossarian?

We finally got the banks to concede that bank statements and utility bills from the U.S. would work to get our account open.  From there we can establish basic service with the local cable provider, and that will give us the toehold we need to establish credit in Ireland.  It should be noted that our queries and pleas about credit scores and stellar credit reports were met with blank stares, and the polite, tactful suggestion that “We don’t do that here. Please don’t forget that it’s YOU who are moving HERE”.

All in all, renting in Ireland proved to be not awful.  It was filled with properties that were by turns frightful, and quite nice.  There were a few royal pains in the ass, and some byzantine regulations and requirements.  That is to say it was/is not that dissimilar from renting in, say, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tallahassee, or Bloomington. Believe me, I know from experience.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

  • Specific advice on Dublin rental boards
  • Wire Transfers: And why you shouldn’t be your bank’s test case.

Emigration Day: July 12, 2011 (32 Days)

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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10 Responses to Renting in Ireland: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  1. Kevin Boylan says:

    Hi Glenn,
    I found your wonderfully informative blog after Googling for information about moving pets to Ireland (my wife, four cats and I are planning a move to Cork in October 2015). I was wondering while reading the post above: where did your pets stay while you searched for housing? Hotel? B&B? With a friend?


    • Hi Kevin,

      Welcome to Dublin (in advance).

      Actually we took a scouting trip to Dublin a month before our arrival and found a place to live tn. So when we move, we and the pets moved right in.

      That would bre my advice.
      But you have to time it right as most apartments don’t get listed more than a month before they come on the market, so there really is no point in looking for a place more than four weeks ahead. and truthfully 2-3 is better.

      Be warned, the rental market is really brutal here now. There are literally lines for open houses. Though that could change by then (next summer).

      Hope that helps.


      • Kevin Boylan says:

        That’s great advice. I thought about a scouting trip a while ago but for some reason I mentally shelved the idea–probably because of the additional cost. But now that you mentioned it, I think the extra expense is worth it. I am absolutely freaking out over the prospect of entering Ireland with four cats without a signed lease.

        Your archives are a treasure trove of information for me. I’m sure I will be commenting frequently. 🙂


  2. Kevin Boylan says:

    A couple of questions for you about renting:
    1. Was it difficult finding available places that allow pets (I have cats in mind)?
    2. You described the process of opening a bank account in Dublin. Was this necessary for persuading/paying the landlord?


    • Kevin,

      Sorry, but I’m rushing to be somewhere, but didn’t want to forget this.

      Yes, it can be tough to find cat-friendly landlords, especially now that it is such a renter’s market.

      And, in our case, our property manager actually helped us secure a bank in town. But I understand that is the exception rather than the rule.


  3. Kevin Boylan says:

    Hello Glenn,

    So was acquiring and bringing letters of recommendation (or “character references”) to Dublin a waste of time? If it was, I’d prefer to not ask around for letters from colleagues, acquaintances, etc before we head over to find a place. Did the bank by any chance ask for such letters?


    • kKevin,

      We wound up not needing them. But our landlord vouched for us with the bank, so our experience may not have been typical.
      Banks are much more strict here thn in the U.S. Better to get the letters and not need them, than to not be able to get an account.

      • Kevin Boylan says:

        Good points Glenn, thanks. We will get the letters!

        How long were you in Dublin while apartment-hunting? My wife and I were planning on a 7-day trip in Cork when we find a place. Does that sound like enough time to you?


        • Kevin,

          We were in Dublin about 5 days. But, be warned, it was a very different rental climate then. It’s much more of a landlord’s market now. Rentals (at least in Dublin – not sure about Cork) are going for stupid-high prices, and often even for poor quality properties. another problem is that landlords tend not to list until the very last moment, so it can be hard to do your research and appointment setting in advance.

          Good luck.


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