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Monday 24 July 2017

'You spend massive amounts of money and you get a one bedroom place without any windows' - Canadian renter on Dublin's housing crisis

Stock Photo: PA
Stock Photo: PA

Rebecca Lumley

The “power imbalance” between landlords and tenants, coupled with the “intrusive” requirements for securing a property mark Dublin as one of the worst places to rent, according to a Canadian native new to the city.

Spencer Hepburn and his girlfriend moved to Dublin last November for work, having travelled from Montreal and San Francisco.

The couple managed to secure temporary accommodation in a sublet apartment “grabbed from a friend on extended holiday.” They began to search for more permanent accommodation on arrival and received “quite a shock” when they realised the lengths tenants were forced to go to when securing rental accommodation.

Mr Hepburn told Independent.ie: “Something I noticed right away is if the ad had been up for more than 24 hours, 24-48 hours generally, if you tried to call them afterwards the viewing would be entirely booked and they wouldn’t see anyone else- which I found quite strange right off the bat.

“Something else that I’d never seen previously, either in Montreal or San Francisco, was having a crowd of sometimes ten, sometimes up to twenty people standing outside an apartment waiting for the single agent to come by to walk you through and have person after person after person.”

He continued: “In the places we went to, about 80 per cent of the people we were with said ‘yeah sure, I’ll take it’.

“It was beyond bizarre to me that the market functions this way.”

Mr Hepburn was also shocked by the amount of documentation he was being asked to supply and said having to hand over bank statements, proof of annual income and references from employers felt “intrusive.”

He said: “In Montreal, where I’d been living previously, generally it was the case of putting down a couple of months rent, maybe a letter of reference from work if it was an expensive place.

“We were asked to give statements with our annual income and all that sort of thing. I found it very intrusive and I think that sort of ability of the landlord to basically make it a contest based on criteria that aren’t very clear isn’t fair.”

He continued: “The power imbalance between the landlord and the renter here is so hugely in favour of the landlord, in terms of they have their pick of nine to ten different tenants. I don’t know what criteria they choose on but I can imagine there’s a huge potential for abuse there, where they can say “I like this person because they’re from my home county” or “I don’t like this person because I don’t like the name or whatever.

“It really was more like a variety show where you’re hoping to get chosen from a group of people and you have to prove your credentials.”

Mr Hepburn and his girlfriend consider themselves lucky that they were able to secure a small apartment in the city centre, having been turned away from the first five places they tried.

“I guess we got lucky because we did end up with a one bedroom place downtown but compared to what we were paying in other cities in Canada and the United States, it is not very much for the amount that we’re paying. I would say it is comparable to San Francisco, where it’s another situation where you end up spending massive amounts of money and you get a one bedroom place without any windows.

“It is comparable to San Francisco and San Francisco is known as the worst in North America at the moment.”

Mr Hepburn holds the opinion that the Government should convert the 183,000 vacant homes dotted around the country into viable housing, but also believes the solution to Dublin’s rental “crisis” lies in public transport.

“The beauty of living in Montreal is that because the public transport system is so good, the number of neighbourhoods you can live in and then still work downtown with a reasonable commute is actually quite high.

“It’s a huge area and you can either take a very reliable bus system or the metro. So it expands the range of living.

“The number one thing that I would say that Dublin could do to improve its living situation would be to improve public transit and make it more feasible for people who work downtown to live outside the city and commute in.”

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