Update: Balance needed between rights for landlords and tenants, says Taoiseach




Update 4.15pm: There needs to be a balance between rights for landlords and tenants, according to the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar says it is wrong to demonise landlords for the problems in the housing sector.

Update: Balance needed between rights for landlords and tenants, says Taoiseach

It is after a new report from Threshold showed a rise in the number of people worried about rent increases.

The government is considering fines for landlords who break rent caps, but Leo Varadkar said it is not all their fault.

"We have to find an appropriate balance between the rights and protections that we afford tenants and the rights and protections that we afford landlords as well," said Mr Varadkar.

"Say for example someone who had to emigrate during the recession - went to England, went to Australia - they are now coming back to Ireland, taking up a job in our public service and they want to move back into the house that they bought before they emigrated.

"Should they not be allowed to do so?"

- Digital Desk

Update - 11.44am: Landlords hit back at unfair eviction claims; Ireland facing unprecedented crisis say Threshold

The director of the Residential Landlords Association has accused Threshold of exaggerating the situation facing tenants, writes Vivienne Clarke.

Fintan McNamara told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that he worries the public “might get the wrong end of things”. He said that “by and large” landlords do not issue notices of termination unless they genuinely intend to sell.

Last year 1,000 landlords exited the private rental sector which meant there were now 6,000 fewer properties available to rent, he said.

Mr McNamara pointed out that recently Threshold had to withdraw a press release they issued claiming that landlords were charging potential tenants a fee to view properties.

He rejected calls for more regulation of the sector such as a rent register, saying that Ireland has the most highly regulated private rental sector in Western Europe.

The rent cap of 4% is already causing problems for landlords who, even if they take in new tenants, cannot increase rent by more than the 4% limit even if what they are charging is half the market rate, he added.

Potential investors are reluctant to invest in a property with sitting tenants which means even fewer properties for rent as they will sell them on rather than rent.

He said it was not good for the housing charity to “come out in the media, causing fear”. He called on them “not to scare” the public all the time.

He also rejected a claim that retention of deposits is a major problem, saying that it used to be the main problem dealt with by the Residential Tenancy Board, but now the main issue was rent arrears.

He said: "There were many cases where properties were in negative equity and repossessed by the bank with tenants caught in the middle.

“You never hear about rent arrears which amounted to €1.5m last year. That’s lost, you never hear about that.”

Earlier: Ireland facing an unprecedented crisis in housing as tenants being unfairly evicted: Threshold

Housing charity Threshold has seen a dramatic rise in the number of calls it received from tenants in danger of losing their home because their landlords claimed they were going to sell the property.

The charity’s annual report which will be published today says that 32% of calls in 2017 were from renters who had been told their tenancies were coming to an end, that figure was up 18% from 2016.

She also said that, to date in 2018, 40% of calls were in relation to notices of termination.

The agency’s chairperson, Aideen Hayden, told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “We received 73,526 calls from the public last year. There is an increased vulnerability in this sector.”

Threshold has helped 209 tenants in determining that they have received a valid notice of termination by bringing their cases to the Rental Tenancy Board. Ms Hayden gave the example of one case where a landlord issued such a notice, but for the tenants to subsequently see the property on the rental market again.

Ms Hayden said: “It is being used as an excuse.”

She called on the Government to immediately address two issues – unaffordable rent increases and the sale of rental properties. She said that unless there is an open, transparent rent register then the current rent protection legislation in rent pressure zones cannot work.

She pointed out that despite a cap of 4%, rents in Dublin increased by more than 10% last year.

Ms Hayden also said that in other countries tenants do not have to leave when a property is being sold. “People are being evicted into homelessness. In other jurisdictions, the sale of a property is not a valid reason for ending tenancy.

“Where a property is being sold on into the rental market, we’re asking that there be no end to the tenancy.”

Properties are being left vacant for months, and in some cases, years, she said. “We would welcome any improvement in the current situation.

“If the Minister wants to stem the tide, he needs to address unaffordable rent increases and the sale of rental properties.”

Ms Hayden said that in 40 years Threshold has assisted half a million people and while there have been some improvements, the agency has “never seen a crisis like this.”

This is a very vulnerable sector, she said, with one in five people in the country in rented accommodation, one in three in Dublin and one in three in Galway.

Ms Hayden said: “The Government cannot ignore the fact that people are facing homelessness in the private rental sector.”

Aideen Hayden.
Aideen Hayden.

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