Monday 29 December 2014

Tenants are victims yet again as landlords make a killing

Barbara McCarthy

Published 23/07/2014 | 02:30

Demand is sending rents for flats and houses in the capital through the roof.
Demand is sending rents for flats and houses in the capital through the roof.

Looking through property sites these days is distressing at best. It reminds me of my weeks spent flat hunting in London many years ago, where I'd go to view a 'modern studio with a mezzanine and open plan kitchen' only to despair when I was lead into a bedsit, where the sink doubled up as a shower and the bed was sandwiched between two chairs you'd normally see by the side of a road. That'll be €800 a month please.

We're not too far off that in Dublin these days. For €800 you get a flat, where you can brush your teeth and fry an egg from your bed. It's beyond depressing.

The worst part is that when you live in these places you can't even go out because €800 has taken up a sizeable chunk of your monthly income.

The poorly taken photographs on the lower end of the spectrum in the under €1,000 category are a testament to how much respect the landlord has for his would-be tenants.

"Then you arrive, and the chances are the estate agent won't have seen the place, so it could be filthy, which is not uncommon," one flat hunter informed me.

They say demand is driving up prices. I'd say greed is driving up prices.

Berlin is also experiencing a housing crisis but you can still get a fancy two-bed including bills for €700.

The Berliners voted against turning their former city airport Tempelhof, now a leisure park, into a huge apartment complex that would have supplied 5,000 apartments. Two-hundred thousand signatures put a stop to the process.

In France you sign a two-year lease and the landlord cannot change the price for the duration.

"Here a landlord can increase the price once a year to whatever he wants, even if you have signed a contract," a friend said.

"Despite my contract I had to leave my city dwelling, even though I never missed a payment and was there for seven years. I was given a month, but pleaded with my landlord to stay longer as my son's school is nearby and he has special requirements. I got two months.

"I was paying €1,050 when I lived there. He is now looking for €1,800."

Another friend Declan told me that people called to the door to view his apartment while he and his family were still living there, completely unaware that it was on the market.

They were renting it for €1,350, the new tenants are paying €1,850.

Things are bad.

A landlord recently boasted how he got €1,350 for his place despite the fact that he was only looking for €950.

Thirty-five people showed up to the viewing and a bidding war started at the door.

"It was a racket," said my friend Karl. "I had agreed with my landlord that I was going to stay in my four-bedroom house for the duration of my four-year college degree course.

"Then he called to the door unannounced and said I had to leave."

"The house is being done up now so that he can rent it out for double."

The list goes on. In not completely the landlords' fault but people are being destroyed financially to help 'buy to let' investors make the payments on a Celtic Tiger purchase, bought in their hour of greed.

After a short hiatus, the culture of being ripped off is back.

Rents have increased by 22pc in three years. According to the most recent ESRI Rent Index the average monthly amount in rent in Dublin is €1,227, while outside Dublin it's €637.

Landlords can do what they want. They don't even have to pay the deposit back straight away, as they are allowed a 'reasonable time' with no stipulation about how long that actually is.

One tenant I know of has been waiting for her deposit of €1100 since 2009.

There is no regulation here, no caps on rent. Instead renters have to pay for other people's mortgages and get nothing at the end of it.

The Government is not doing enough. I'm surprised there aren't more people on the streets. I checked to see what I could get in the whole of Dublin for €500 and there were 12 properties, mostly student rooms. Yet people on rent allowance can't officially get a place for more than that. A crisis indeed.

Irish Independent

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