Tuesday 21 May 2019

Landlord who demanded €5,500 rent up front from mother of student to secure room says he felt 'guilty'

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Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Renters are being forced to pay more than six months' rent and thousands of euro to secure a bedroom as part of a trend emerging from the housing crisis.

The Government is now coming under increasing pressure to protect renters from landlords demanding huge up-front lump sums.

National housing charity Threshold said Dublin and Galway have been most notably hit by the practice, with landlords demanding inflated sums amid unprecedented demand.

It comes as the Sunday Independent spoke to a landlord demanding six months' rent to secure a property advertised at a rate almost three times higher than its market value two years ago.

He said he felt "guilty" after taking €5,500 from the mother of a student last week for a nine-month lease on a second rental property he lets. The landlord has advertised rooms in the first property at a rate of €750 per month. Homes in the same housing estate were being let for €280 per room per month in 2016.

An ad for the property on the Daft.ie website says the house is "set up for students" but the landlord is willing to "take professionals working in the area".

The house also features in a second ad on the website. However, the address given in this second advert is 2km away from the house at another property he owns.

The landlord is demanding an up-front payment of €4,500 for each of the four single rooms in the property and €5,500 for an en suite bedroom.

Further payments of €1,500 and €1,000 are due in November and January, meaning the full nine-month lease must be paid five months before it ends. The sum includes a €500 deposit and household utility bills for the year up to €1,500 (€300 per room).

Last week he told an undercover reporter he was not willing to accept monthly payments because he had issues with previous tenants. "This is the only way I am willing to do it this year," he said. He also offered to reserve a room without a viewing for €500. He said a parent did this for her daughter for the other house he lets last week.

"One of the mothers transferred €5,500 to my account and she never looked at it [the house]," he said.

"I felt guilty. I called her immediately but I also said to her 'how do you know I'm not [a conman] from Nigeria?'" Laughing, he added: "I think I put the wind up her sails and I thought, 'Oh, what a cruel bastard I am'."

Threshold chief executive John-Mark McCafferty said landlords looking for significant up-front payments is not illegal but described it as "unethical and discriminatory". He called on the Government to take action by enforcing legal definitions for rent and deposits.

"It has come to our attention a lot more in the past year and we have recent cases showing it is a big issue," he said.

"The behaviour happens not just with students but across the private rental sector. It excludes people on social welfare and lower income earners who cannot afford significant up-front payments."

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said it is currently considering when and how to introduce an appropriate scheme that is fit for purpose. He recommended a tenant only pays a deposit when they are happy with the property and the terms and conditions.

Sunday Independent

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