Call for rights for domestic renters

Domestic renters should be given similar rights to commercial tenants due to the number of people losing their tenancy due to properties being put on the market.

That is according to national housing charity Threshold, which has released figures for the first three months of this year showing that it helped some 3,640 clients facing tenancy insecurity and handled more than 19,000 calls.

More than 30% of cases it dealt with were related to tenancy terminations, with 704 related to tenancy termination by a landlord. This is a 4% increase on the number of people contacting Threshold over the issue for the same period last year.

The top three reasons for terminations by a landlord were: Sale of property (36%); landlord/family member moving in (16%), and renovation (10%). Commenting on the figures, Threshold chief executive John-Mark McCafferty said some landlords were abusing the law to evict tenants so they can hike rents.

“Every day, Threshold receives hundreds of calls from concerned tenants, many of whom are facing the real prospect of losing their home,” he said.

“While there are many legitimate terminations of tenancies, we are aware that some landlords are abusing the legislation to hike up their rental yields: using a fake sale, falsely claiming they need the property for a family member, or falsely saying they are planning to carry out substantial renovation as grounds for termination.”

Mr McCafferty said that, even though this behaviour is illegal under the Residential Tenancies Act, the charity regularly receive complaints from tenants who have been told to leave their homes on these grounds, only for the property to be then re-advertised at a higher rate of rent. 

The charity is calling for changes in the law to enable tenants to remain in the property until the sale has been finalised.

“This is common practice for commercial properties and would give tenants more time to find a suitable new home,” said Mr McCafferty. “Where a property is being sold as a buy-to-let, existing tenants should be allowed to remain in the property, allowing the new owner to become the new landlord.”

Threshold has also reiterated its call for housing legislation to be properly enforced but said the onus is on the tenant to make a complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board before it can act.

“Threshold regularly represents clients at the Residential Tenancies Board,” said Mr McCafferty. “Where a complaint is upheld, wronged tenants can receive damages of up to €20,000. In our experience, tenants typically receive in the region of €4,000 to €5,000.

“While we hope that successful cases set an example for other landlords who abuse the law, like many parts of the present system, the responsibility rests on the tenant to bring a case. Until there is proactive policing by the RTB to ensure that landlords comply with the law, some landlords will continue to evade it, with no fear of the consequences.”

At an Oireachtas committee earlier this week, Threshold also said single people are being discriminated against in the provision of social housing as the supply of local authority housing does not reflect the type of people currently sitting on waiting lists all around the country. 

It pointed out that local authorities build and acquire three and four-bedroom houses in the main, when single-person households make up a large proportion of those on the waiting lists.

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