If you’ve been unfortunate enough to be in the position of home-hunting in the last couple of years, you don’t need anybody to remind you of the stress involved in the process. If you were looking to rent, you would have joined tens, maybe hundreds of others, all desperate to secure that precious tenancy. If you were looking to buy, you would have been competing in equal numbers for the tiny quantity of properties currently for sale on the open market.
On the rental situation in particular, Aideen Hayden, Chairperson of Threshold, summed it up in five words that will certainly ring true for many listeners.
‘Current rents are actually outrageous. ‘
Aideen Hayden was speaking to Sean O’Rourke on the Today programme, where she was joined by Fintan McNamara, Director of the Residential Landlords Association. Their conversation came as the latest report from property website, Daft, showed that the average national monthly rent has risen by €134 over the last year.
“Extreme Distress” was how the author of the report, economist Ronan Lyons, describes the rental market in this country at the moment. As presenter, Sean O’Rourke pointed out, nationwide rents are now 10% higher than their peak in 2008. Is Aideen Hayden surprised? ‘Not in the slightest.’
‘There is a major issue with the availability of rental property, particularly for people at the lower end of the market. Fintan mentioned four people were sharing a two-bed. That is the lower end of what we would call overcrowding. What we are seeing in our services is eight people renting a two-bed.’
Fintan McNamara, on the other hand, feels that rents have levelled off since Christmas, and that queues for properties are coming down. On top of that, he feels, many landlords are actually leaving the market because of pressures they feel themselves. But with only 3,000 properties for rent, where in 2014 there were 7,000, the simple problem is supply. Landlords are also aware, he insists, of new legislation governing ‘rent pressure zones ‘, where annual increases in rent must not exceed 4%.
But on this specific issue, Aideen Hayden pointed out a major dysfunction in what is happening on the ground. A lot of landlords, she says, are selling properties because they are in distress, but principally because receivers are appointed over them. When this happens, tenants are asked, legitimately, to leave.
‘The law is meant to protect them against these significant rent increases from one tenant to another,’ said Aideen. ‘That law is not working, for a number of reasons. The measures that should be there to ensure it is enforceable are not there.’
‘Why don’t we have a national index of rents, for example? Why can’t I turn around and see what rent was charged for this property before I went to look at it? We have something similar in relation to house prices.’
There is no transparency in relation to rents, insists Aideen Hayden.
‘I turn up to the door. The landlord says he wants €1,500. I haven’t a notion whether the last rent was €1,500 or €850. So the bottom line of it is, people are desperate. They will take whatever they can get. The legislation needs to protect them.’
To listen to the full interview, click here.
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