People seeking rental accommodation are being urged to be aware of potential scams that could leave them without their deposits and no accommodation.  

The warning comes from housing charity Threshold, the Union of Students of Ireland and property website as pressure for rented accommodation grows ahead of the new academic year.

Threshold has published advice for renters that may help to detect potential scams.

They say renters should not pay cash to potential landlords, should not agree to rent or pay for a property without seeing it, should verify the bona fides and contact details of landlords or agents and should also ensure that keys they receive actually open the rental property.

President of the Union of Students in Ireland Síona Cahill said its members are concerned that scams are very widespread, in particular for first year students and international students.

She said there is a difference between a rental scam and a bad deal.

A scam is often identifiable where the landlord is "out of the country" when you want a view the property, and asks you to wire money via online electronic transfer, not sending receipts, or when you Google a property the address does not exist.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland she said the USI, Threshold and gardaí want people to be aware of the scams, be vigilant and take steps to make sure you are not the one who loses out to scammers.

If the price of a property is too good to be true, then it probably is, she said. People need to Google the property to make sure it actually exists and never agree to rent a place without actually viewing it.

Also, renters need to get a written agreement or contract with terms and conditions, avoid paying in cash – do not use money transfer services like Western Union - and get a receipt.  Renters need to also make sure the keys they are given are real and open the property they have agreed to rent and renters need to have full contact details for the landlord.

Ms Cahill said students are in the middle of a nationwide housing crisis and despite the construction of purpose-built student accommodation, the reality is there just is not enough of it.

Because of that there is an issue with affordability and availability and many apartments being built are not for the domestic student population, she said.

Many are high-end properties designed to attract international students who have taken out significant loans in  order to come to Ireland to study.

She said there are a lot of students that are effectively homeless who may not see themselves as homeless.

She cited an example of a student in Cork last year who stayed in late-night college campus facilities, such as the library, who then went to sleep on a friend’s couch at night. There was also an student who was staying in the car park at Maynooth University, she said.

Prices vary across the country, she said, but the union has seen a lot of rogue landlords "taking the mick" when it comes to the price of student accommodation with people advertising rooms for multiple occupants with no access to facilities.