Eviction fears trigger increase in calls to legal advice line
FEARS over eviction or being faced with astronomical increases in rent are behind a stark rise in the number of calls by worried tenants to Free Legal Advice Centres.
Noeline Blackwell, executive director of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), said the non-profit agency recorded an 83pc increase in the number of calls to its information line last year concerning housing, landlord and tenant issues – with security of tenancy the main concern voiced by tenants.
The relatively recent phenomenon of rental properties being placed into receivership by mortgage providers after the property owner fell into arrears is also generating a flurry of calls to the centre by tenants, she said.
"Tenants are concerned about their security of tenure," she told the Irish Independent.
"My own experience is how shocked people who are from the European mainland are over how easy it is here for people to be put out (of their homes)," she said.
The absence of rent controls in Ireland is also proving to be a huge concern as rents have increased by 25pc or more in some areas due to the lack of rental accommodation and rising house prices, she added.
"People are getting letters saying that due to 'market conditions' we're raising the rent, but the only market condition is that they can get away it," she added.
Concerns over the rights of tenants whose accommodation has been taken into receivership is also a growing issue, she said.
While tenants still have the same legal rights whether they are paying rent to a landlord or receiver, both FLAC and the housing agency Threshold have noted a growing number of cases in which receivers are clearly abusing the rights of tenants.
For example, a former landlord who had tenants living in several rental properties that had gone into receivership was informed by his tenants that they received letters from a receiver informing them they had just 14 days to vacate the premises.
Bob Jordan, executive director of Threshold, said that there are close to 40,000 buy-to-let mortgages in arrears by the end of March, with an estimated 3,700 buy-to-let properties in receivership.
"Tenants have been caught in the crossfire between landlords and banks through no fault of their own," he said.
He added that many receivers were treating tenants as "illegal occupiers" or "seeking to remove tenants without giving appropriate notice".