Rent-a-disaster: when a landlord decides to sell
Emer McLysaght and her cat Pip were happy in their Dublin 7 abode. Then the owner sold up, leaving them unable to afford a home in a spiralling market
My landlady cried, actually cried when she told me she was selling the house. Well, I started crying first and that set her off. She told me she was sorry, that I'd been a great tenant, that she was reluctant to let the house go, but that she had to do it. I can't blame her really. The house was snapped up. "You have it lovely," the estate agent said, threatening to set me off again.
The house is in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, in that warren of red-brick terraces; the facades you've seen in that Spice Girls video and at least one Cecilia Ahern film. Every street is peppered with 'For Sale' 'Sale Agreed' and 'Sold' signs. Two separate friends renting within spitting distance have also been given their marching orders in recent months.
A rent hike is one thing to fear, but a landlord selling up is the new spectre on the horizon. There's nothing available to rent and anything that is available comes at an astronomical price. Throw a cat - my four-year-old cat Pip, to be precise - into the mix and finding somewhere to live becomes a daunting task. How the hell were we ever going to find anything? How were we going to pay for it?
When I first rented my house in 2012, it was €900 per month. Not cheap by any means, but standard at the time for a two up, two down Dublin 7 abode. Now an almost identical property on the very same street goes for €1,800. I know because it was one of the first places I saw when I found out I had to move and began the soul-destroying trawl of Daft.ie. I didn't go and view it, but plenty did.
I saw the queue of people snaking down the path for the Saturday morning open viewing, several of whom no doubt had a couple of grand in cash in their hands, hopeful that an upfront payment of a deposit and first month's rent might help them secure it.
My five-year tenancy meant I had the relative luxury of a 20-week notice period, so I could take my time finding somewhere new. Hah! All the time in the world wouldn't be much use to you the way things are at the moment.
Hopes of staying in the area soon went out the window as the prices rose and the queues got longer. A one-bed apartment up the road was €1,300 a month. There weren't any pictures of the bedroom or the bathroom. Never a good sign. Emails to agents about properties I couldn't afford in Phibsborough and Cabra went unanswered. I ignored the 'no pets allowed' warnings on the online ads, hoping to find a way to skirt around the rules. I widened my search. Nothing.
I told myself through my gritted thirtysomething teeth that I could go back to sharing with strangers. But nobody replied to my friendly and hopefully charming missives about myself and Pip.
I allowed myself to indulge in my favourite game: West Coast Daft Porn. It's not as filthy as it sounds! You search in Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo for the types of properties you can rent for a fraction of what you'd pay for a cupboard under the stairs in Ranelagh. Six bedrooms in Fanore for €1,100 a month. Five beds and a pool table in Belmullet for a cool grand. Maybe I'd leave Dublin. Maybe I'd set myself up along the Flaggy Shore and turn my back on the big city.
I jokingly asked friends and acquaintances if they wanted to come with me and set up some sort of commune, half hoping that one of them might say yes. The idea of working just to pay rent in Dublin was turning itself over in my head and I started resenting this beautiful city I love so much. Friends offered to take the cat in so I could present myself as a more attractive tenant.
I toyed with the idea of moving back in with my mother - a choice I'm lucky to have, but one I didn't fancy making at this stage in my life. I'm lucky on many fronts, I realise. I can't imagine having a family or having no supports at all and learning that your house is being sold out from under you.
For me, suddenly, an opportunity arose. A friend knew someone looking to take on a kind of house- and cat-sitting arrangement in Dublin 8. Would I be interested? Interested? I nearly took the hand off her. Two cats, a nice house not unlike my own beloved Stoneybatter home, a couple leaving the county who might want to come back and rest their heads there the odd time. All for the princely sum of… €950 a month. I clutched briefly at the imaginary string of pearls around my neck before quickly agreeing I'd take it. The €950 includes bills, I told myself. I can bring Pip, I told myself. I'm lucky, I told myself.