Calls to housing charity double

The number of calls to housing charity Threshold doubled last year and almost half its clients were families with children.

Threshold also said 29% of calls it received in 2016 related to situations where clients were at risk of losing their homes.

As it unveiled its 2016 Annual Report, Threshold said the situation had worsened further in 2017 and called on the Government to do more to protect tenancies and prevent people from becoming homeless. In the report’s foreword, Threshold chairwoman Aideen Hayden said the organisation had received 71,319 calls last year, a 100% rise over 2015.

“What we are seeing is more and more renters contacting us with increasingly complex cases,” she wrote. “Many of our 21,625 clients in 2016 needed in-depth support and advocacy, with each housing advisor making an average of six contacts with every client.”

Of those clients, 44% were families with children. A breakdown of the client base also showed that 37% were in receipt of social welfare payments, 89% were in private rented accommodation, and 23% had been in their property for four or more years.

Tenancy terminations (14% of calls) and substandard accommodation (14% of calls) ranked equally as the top two issues recorded by Threshold, ahead of queries by those seeking accommodation (13%), rent reviews (11%), and invalid notices (11% of calls).

Dr Hayden said: “We have seen examples of illegal rent reviews, landlords giving notices of termination in spurious circumstances to existing tenants to secure higher rents and failures to keep accommodation up to minimum standards.”

Regarding rent inflation, which has again soared this year, Dr Hayden wrote: “It is not unusual for clients in our services to experience rent increases of 20%, 30% or even 40%.”

To meet demand, Threshold opened a Galway office last year and also expanded its Tenancy Protection Service in Cork and in the commuter counties of Meath, Kildare, and Wicklow.

Chief executive John-Mark McCafferty said that, by the end of 2016, the organisation had prevented more than 10,000 people at immediate risk from losing their homes.

At yesterday’s report launch the lord mayor of Dublin, Micheál MacDonncha, said the figures brought into sharp focus the very real consequences of the housing crisis and Dr Hayden said the Government needed to tighten up on so-called ‘renovictions’, where tenants are evicted to allow for major renovation.

“Currently, this kind of mass eviction can be used to legally circumvent rent protection zone laws,” she said.

“The Government needs to introduce measures to discourage this. One way in which this could be done is by ensuring that vacant possession of property is actually required for works to be carried out. If this is the case, landlords should then be obliged to relocate tenants while renovations are taking place.”



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