Home truths: Rental market making thugs out of lovelies
This week I learned that a long time female friend of mine, and one of the politest, gentlest and unassuming people you could ever meet, was preparing to "call in the heavies" as she put it, to deal with someone who was vexing her.
This is a person who is very professionally capable but also so focused on others and their concerns that I have warned her more than once over the years about being so selfless that sometimes people take advantage.
So I was taken aback to learn that this decent soul was plotting to import two very large gentlemen, friends of friends, and known for their physical prowess ("they're both big lads alright", she quipped) to intervene on her behalf with a tenant who just wouldn't move out.
Like many among us today, she has been a reluctant landlady. She bought her small north Dublin home at the height of the boom in order to get that much mooted first step on the property ladder. Like a lot of us since then, her financial and working circumstances changed while the massive mortgage remained stubbornly steadfast. Some years ago she moved out of Dublin to pursue working opportunities and cheaper accommodation. She has rented a home in another part of the country.
To keep up with the stubbornly large mortgage, she has rented out her Dublin home, most latterly to a studious foreign gentleman who is here to work for a foreign multinational. Recently, having made it out of negative equity, she decided it was time to sell and gave the tenant his legal due notice. The tenant, who hadn't given her any trouble at all, accepted the notice without a kerfuffle. But he didn't move on. So she sent letters, she called into him and the time went by. He agreed to everything she said, but he stayed quietly and resolutely put.
Recently matters came to a head as vendors of the property she is buying want to know where the money is at. She has been in danger of losing that property because of our steadfast tenant in Dublin. Those closest to her observed that she was being way too lenient and that the studious one was by now "taking the royal". That it was time to take a different approach.
And that's how she had it organised that on an appointed date, two very large gentlemen would pay the chap a visit and make it abundantly clear, (albeit indirectly), that the consequences for not moving on would be somewhat more than additional tickings off by letter. Thankfully shortly before they were due to call, the tenant suddenly packed his bags and left.
But nonetheless, one of the nicest people I know has become a Capone and an Escobar. And the rental market, as it stands, is responsible for turning nice people into gangsters, both landlords who need to get people to adhere to vacancy notices and tenants who find themselves unable to find or afford another residence and on the threshold of homelessness.
By coincidence I was also tapped for advice in the same week by another reluctant landlady. She and a friend bought a city apartment, also back in the boom, and initially they lived together there sharing..
Over the years she went to work abroad and her friend moved to another city and the apartment ended up being rented out to a couple so the mortgage payments could be covered. Over most of a decade the couple have lived here and started a family and they work hard, albeit in low paid jobs. By all accounts they are very nice people and have not been troublesome in any way. The rent was always paid on time and in response, the reluctant landlords always repaired or replaced failing domestic infrastructure at the apartment straight away and without delay. Both landlords and tenants seemed to feel lucky to be dealing with one another - the way it should be. And the rents were not raised to market levels.
But again, they decided a year ago to sell up and issued the family with notice. The family, now looking at a market in which the rent is double for what they have, have also remained stubbornly put. Not out of badness but out of necessity. They can't find another affordable place and they have children. They property owners are now concerned that their nice tenant family is about to "dig in" with all claws and that if this happens, it could take more than a year to move them on.
Finally a third friend who had to move to Australia to get work after the crash returned home to find the tenants he'd rented his heavily mortgaged home to had ceased paying their rent. They sub let the house, sold his furniture and smashed it up before he got the keys back 14 months later, after taking his case through the courts. Landlords are leaving the market because tenants won't leave and their departure is now seldom guaranteed.
Of all of the characters mentioned above, only the last set of tenants are truly nasty people. Everyone else mentioned here are salt of the earth decent skins who usually care about people. Even the studious one isn't that bad. But from hiring heavies, to refusing to leave on agreed terms, the monster that is the Irish rental market, with fear of homelessness versus fear of inability to sell, is universally turning nice people into nasties.