Dublin recently had the dubious honour of surpassing London in terms of how much it costs to live here, with Dubliners spending an average of 55% of their take-home pay on rent. In a rental market fraught with fraudulentlistings, Airbnb rentals pushing residents out of the city, bunk beds piled 12 to a room and landlords evicting tenants to get around rent caps you would be mistaken for thinking that every possible avenue of ripping off renters had been thoroughly explored. Meet Hosting Power, the latest “service” used to extract money from tenants for providing almost no service at all.
From the website, it’s clear who Hosting Power are targeting. “Whether you are here for an internship or part of your Erasmus, you are guaranteed a comfortable space at an affordable price.” Hosting Power are looking for students from outside of Dublin who are unfamiliar with the Dublin rental market and unlikely to know how to go about securing accommodation for themselves. Enter the dates you will be in Dublin (or Cork) on their website and you will be presented with a list of rooms to rent from host families or individuals, vetted in advance by Hosting Power. It’s easy to see how such a service could be appealing, – a sort of Airbnb for digs – but this is not what Hosting Power is providing at all.
In a recent article for independent.ie, one of the hosts explains why she found Hosting Power so appealing. She wanted to passively earn income from renting out a room in her house to help with the mortgage but didn’t want to be bothered with pretending to like housemates or the “work” of Airbnb. She “hated it” when her mum rented rooms out to students when she was younger – “it was such an imposition” – but did not find this a problem with Hosting Power, as there is no expectation to provide meals or cleaning, and in fact you can set ground rules in the host listing and make areas of your house, such as the living room, off-limits if you want. Win-win for this lucky host!
The situation for the renting student begins to look even worse when you examine the process for renting rooms. The student can view pictures of the room and the house, a short blurb from the host with their house rules, the location and the price. If you want to view the house or meet the hosts yourself prior to moving in, you can’t. Hosting Power “vet” all of their hosts as part of the sign up process – this is one of the only discernible services they provide – and if you want to stay with them you have to pay them €500-€850 in non-refundable “service fees” and still turn up on the first day with your first week’s rent and deposit in hand. It’s highly unlikely that this company could get away with ripping people off so blatantly without the deepening housing crisis, and the fact that they can may not be surprising, but it is still repulsive.
With this in mind, you would understand why a student looking for a short-term let would decide not to use Hosting Power and to consult Daft instead. Unfortunately, Hosting Power is now all over Daft and comprise a large percentage of Daft student room ads, making them difficult to avoid. Under these circumstances, they look less like the helpful service they claim to be and more like a noxious weed, popping up all over Daft to choke €500+ out of desperate students.
Gez Butterworth is a member of the Workers’ Party in Dublin.