Monday 27 May 2019

'We'll lose our home over 50pc rent rise... it should be illegal' - retired couple's fears over soaring rents


Fears: Greg Miller and his wife Hilari Hinnant from the US in their apartment in Ennis, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward
Fears: Greg Miller and his wife Hilari Hinnant from the US in their apartment in Ennis, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward

Allison Bray

A retired couple facing a 50pc rent increase fear they will be forced out of their home - and many other pensioners could face the same fate.

Greg Miller (71) and his wife Hilari Hinnant (65) are appealing against the increase on the rent of their home in Ennis, Co Clare.

They are pessimistic about their chances because rents in the area are escalating.

The Irish-American couple moved to Ennis from Pennsylvania in 2016.

They signed a lease for a one-bedroom apartment in October 2016 that set the rent at €400 a month.

However, when the lease came up for renewal this autumn, they were shocked to learn that the landlord intends to increase the rent to €600 a month.

Mr Miller said that because they are not living in a designated Rent Pressure Zone, where annual rent increases are limited to 4pc, they are at the mercy of the market.

"There are no price controls. The landlord can just prove that it's [rent] market value," he told the Irish Independent.

The couple are awaiting the decision of the State's Residential Tenancies Board on their appeal.

But they believe the climate of rocketing rents will not be in their favour.

Mr Miller says that just because landlords can legally hike up the rent in the area, it doesn't make it fair or just - especially for people like pensioners who are living on modest fixed incomes.

"It should be illegal," he said. "How many pensioners are going to be forced out of their homes?"

The couple have spoken out following a weekend of protests by housing activists across the country.

As part of their "nationwide action",'Take Back The City' organised rallies and protests in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Sligo, Wexford, Kildare, Limerick, Sligo, Derry, Belfast, Drogheda, Maynooth and Bray.

The group have hit headlines for occupying vacant properties in recent weeks in Dublin's north inner city.

Speaking on Saturday, protesters Teresa Phelan and Anna Smith, who were present to show their support for the movement, spoke about their personal experiences that brought them out onto the street.

“I’ve been homeless myself, I have a daughter who was homeless. People are under the misconception that it’s only students that are taking to the streets for this. It's not, look around, it's families, it's grandmothers,” said Ms Phelan, who is from Finglas in Dublin.

“There are people all over Dublin living in deplorable conditions. I have a family member and there are eight of them living in a two bedroom squalid house owned by Dublin City Council. Him and his partner have been sleeping on a mattress for the last five years. They’re forgotten people,” she said.

“My sister is homeless as well,” Ms Smith said. “My other sister is in a BnB in Clondalkin with a baby.

“All my little niece wants is a back garden with a trampoline to celebrate her birthday and bring her friends. She’s now six years old and hasn’t had that. So that’s heartbreaking for the children.”

Mother of seven Margaret Cash, who made headlines when it was revealed that her children slept at a Garda station in Tallaght overnight, talked about the homelessness she saw on her commute to the Garden, saying “nobody cares.”

“Nobody cares, nobody even stops to ask why these people are there,” she said.

“You walk through Dublin City, and nearly every second or third doorway is full of homeless people. They’re not all on drugs and they’re not all alcoholics. But even so, the ones that are, do they not deserve our help? A hand up? Do they not deserve somewhere to go?

“Everyone makes mistakes, but do they not deserve somewhere to go where they can reflect and say - what have I done with my life?” Ms Cash said.

“Eoghan Murphy needs to resign!!!” she called to a crowd of cheers, referring to the Housing Minister.

Irish Independent

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