Tenants in a Tubbercurry housing estate say they have been presented with a massive rise in their monthly rent from €800 to €1,400. Stephen Holland spoke with two tenants about their shock at the rise which has come about as a result of a rent review after two years which the landlord can do
A landlord has shocked his Tubbercurry tenants with a 75% rent increase.
Anna Gallagher has been renting a three-bedroom semi-detached property at Cnoc Na Si in Tubbercurry with her husband and small child for a rate of €800 for the last two years when last week her landlord told her it was time for a rent review and informed her the rent was being increased to €1,400.
“We got a knock on the door the other night and the landlord said can I speak to you, it’s time for a rent review.
“He said he thinks he mentioned it the other night, but he hadn’t although I had a missed call from him,” she said.
“My husband saw what was on the paper and he got quite upset, when he said a €600 increase I was in shock. That’s 75% on what we are currently paying and it’s way above the market rates for the area.”
As of Monday May 17, there are just two properties for rent in the Tubbercurry area on Daft.ie, a two-bedroom apartment for €800 per month and a four-bedroom house for €900.
Ms Gallagher, a finance manager who grew up in Sligo town, said she is a landlord herself and rents a property in Dublin but that she would never dream of presenting a tenant with such an increase.
“My father is from Tubbercurry, so I am familiar with the area. My grandparents are from there.”
“I moved back to the North-West from Dublin two years ago, own property in Dublin but didn’t want to jump straight into buying a house, we didn’t know about job security or if we’d settle in the area,” she said.
“I was looking for somewhere to rent and there wasn’t much to be honest, we had a big dog and a small baby so it wasn’t just anywhere we could move.
“Then we found this property for €800 which was above the market average for the area which was around €650 but we took it because we had to.
“We were already paying too much when you look around at other places but it was hard to find somewhere that would take a dog and the house was grand, so we said we’ll go for it.
“Initially we thought we’d move close to itself but Tubbercurry worked well because the company I work for are based in Wexford and I can work remotely, my husband is in transport and works in Collooney.
Ms Gallagher believes that in their two years at the property they have been exceptional tenants who have always paid their rent on time and even get the house cleaned twice a week and the windows cleaned once every month.
After Ms Gallagher was informed of the rent increase she told her landlord she was aware of the legislation and any increases would have to be in line with the current market rate of similar properties.
Current legislation from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) states that outside of rent pressure zones a landlord can only review the rent 24 months after the tenancy commencement date or 24 months from the last valid rent review.
This review must be based on current market rent and three comparable properties must be provided by the landlord to show evidence as to how the new rent amount was arrived at.
“I told him what I believe the market rate is and he said the RTB requires him to give three comparisons and he did saying they are in a folder there.”
The landlord is believed to be renting out several houses in the area.
“I said to be honest you are going to be putting people into homelessness.
“I am in a position to pay it but it’s the principle of it and I think it’s unethical to charge anyone these increases,” she said.
“I myself am a landlord but would not dream in a million years of giving that to somebody, somebody who has put their roots down, settled in a house, has been a good tenant.
“To come and try and give someone a €600 increase is absolutely outrageous.”
Ms Gallagher said she would be bringing this issue to the RTB as although he had provided her with comparable properties it didn’t seem fair.
“I told him I am not looking for my deposit back and we’ll take it through the RTB and there’s no point trying to discuss it.
“I just think that although we are not in a rent pressure zone there has to be something to stop people from doing this.
“I am speaking about this so the next person doesn’t have to go through this.
“I am in a much better position than a lot of people, I am going to be buying my own home but I just feel for everyone else coming along.”
A neighbour of Ms Gallagher, Aleksandra Dabrowska has also been affected stating that the same landlord has also informed her of a 75% rent increase from €800 to €1,400.
Ms Dabrowska, an assistant psychologist who moved to Ireland from Poland 12 years ago, has been living with her partner in Cnoc Na Si for just over two years and said they are not in a position to pay the hike and described it as ‘unreasonable’.
For work both Ms Dabrowska and her partner commute outside of Tubbercurry and she said one of the reasons they chose to live in the area was because it would be more affordable, adding there are very few amenities in the town and they have to account for rising fuel costs in their budget.
“You pay extra costs in the commuting. I am easily spending €150 on fuel travelling to Sligo five days a week for work.
“Similarly my partner is a chef and commutes to Castlebar, there’s extra costs which might not be included in your rent agreement but they were something I was aware of when I signed it,” she said.
“If you look at it over a year he is demanding we pay an additional €7,200 on what we are paying now for the house.
“I am not getting any increase from my work. I said ‘listen this is almost 100% increase on our current rent’ and he just told me these are house prices in Ireland he has plenty of people who are interested in these houses at the price he has them now, so more or less you agree to pay or you move out.”
The RTB outlines that landlords must provide 90 days’ notice before any rent increases take place and Ms Dabrowska said that is what he did.
“I think it is outrageous and just from an ethical point of view, I wouldn’t do that to anybody, not for that amount.
“It’s quite disconcerting, we are not in position to look for our own house, our salary would be way below the national average so this type of increase really impacts our ability to have our needs met or even the possibility to save for a future deposit in order to get a mortgage.”
Ms Dabrowska said after receiving this rent increase she was shocked to find there is not more regulation around rent increases outside of rent pressure zones.
“I will definitely be filing a complaint to the RTB, but on the other side there are issues you find yourself in, we tried to reach RTB last week and I called four times.
“I was on hold for 40 minutes and nobody answered, then I was redirected to online chats which don’t work because they are overrun. There needs to be some guidance on what the next steps are and what we can do about it.”
Ms Dabrowska said they have spoken to the national housing charity Threshold and although they have been quite helpful they do not have the legislative powers of a body like the RTB.
People Before Profit Councillor Gino O’Boyle has spoken about on social media about the renting issue in Tubbercurry where people are sharing their stories. Both Ms Gallagher and Ms Dabrowska say there are other tenants in the area who are being faced with similar increases.
“The less we speak about this the more landlords feel they can keep doing it, we have to stop it because if we don’t speak up nobody else will,” Ms Dabrowska said.
Coupled with cost of living increases many tenants may well find themselves struggling to make ends meeting in the coming weeks.
Unfortunately, the renting crisis in Ireland is not showing any signs of easing with rents across the country an average of almost 12% higher than they were this time last year.
In Sligo, as of Tuesday, May 17, there are just 13 properties available to rent in the entire county ranging in prices from €440 to €1,500.
Currently there are just two properties available for rent in the Tubbercurry area on Daft.ie
One is a 2 bed-room apartment priced at €850 per month and the second is a four-bedroom house priced at €900 per month far below the €1,400 rental fee a Tubbercurry landlord has asked tenants to pay in a recent rent review.
Greg Kelly, an auctioneer from Sligo Estates, said that currently the landlord is leading the market across Sligo and the entire country with very few new houses coming onto the rental market and lack of supply being the main causes of this issue.
“We’ve found over the last 10 years that all the houses coming up for sale that would have been suitable for rental are going from landlords to owner-occupiers, people are buying houses to live in them,” he said.
“This takes the rental properties off the market, which is exacerbating the problem. Whatever supply was there is slowly dwindling and we are now seeing few landlords willing to enter the market.”
Mr Kelly said that until recently most tenants have been receiving fair rental prices but that over the last two years property prices have jumped 20% and with this rent prices have also increased.
“It’s only really since the pandemic hit that things have really shot up, there are still lots of tenants that are on rent that was negotiated before the pandemic, it is only some houses outside of rent pressure zones that are coming up,” he said.
“The landlord is entitled to the market rent.
“Now, the market at the minute is going up because you have such little supply and they can literally ask whatever they want and they’ll get it, whether or not that is sustainable long-term is another question.”
Mr Kelly said it is important that landlords can raise rents in line with inflation but that massive rental increases will not be sustainable long-term.
However, he stated that those renting within the rent pressure zone of the Sligo/Strandhill Local Electoral Area are only entitled to raise rent by 4% every two years and that comes with its own issues.
“If inflation is running at say 8% and they can only raise rent by 4% every two years then in a few years that rent will not be enough,” he said.
“It’s not all from the tenants point of view. We are finding all the rules and regulations are coming to protect the tenant but that is actually driving the landlord out of the market, it’s counterproductive but you see it happening.”
While there are no easy answers Mr Kelly said it all comes down to a lack of supply and there is very little fluidity in the market as once tenants find an appropriate property they do not want to leave as it will be near impossible to find an alternative.
He said this an issue across the entire country and that Sligo is no different, that as long as there is a shortage of available housing in the region problems like this are likely to continue.
The latest report issued by Daft.ie for the first quarter of 2022 demonstrates that rent has increased nationally by 11.7% in one year with the average market rent rising from €1,400 a year ago to €1,567.
This is more than 50% higher than the Celtic Tiger peak of €1,030 per month, seen in the first quarter of 2008.