Rental market watchdog sees spike in landlords wrongly driving up rents

The country’s rental market watchdog has seen a spike in cases of landlords wrongly trying to drive through rent hikes in anticipation of capped rates rolling out in areas under new government measures.

Rental market watchdog sees spike in landlords wrongly driving up rents

Details from the Residential Tenancies Board were released as one Government TD warned that some tenants had months of “hell” to live through as they “lived in fear” of rent hikes being imposed.

Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd was questioning why areas in Louth, such as Drogheda and Dundalk, had not been included in recent rent pressure zones (RPZs) — despite rents there spiralling in recent months.

The Louth TD said he remains “unconvinced” about statistics that contributed to a decision not to designate the county or its towns as RPZs.

A document given by Louth County Council to the Housing Agency showed that rents are “not sustainable or affordable”, said Mr O’Dowd, noting that rent for a two-bed in the county is €1,000.

Average rents in recent months are above the national average, he added, therefore the county should have qualified for RPZs alongside areas in Dublin and Cor, said Mr O’Dowd.

Housing assistance payments are also higher in the areas and this is another reason the 4% rent cap under RPZs should be adopted there, the TD argued.

Fergus O’Dowd
Fergus O’Dowd

Fianna Fáil TD Martin Casey raised concerns about Greystones in Wicklow not being designated a zone, noting that the cheapest two-bed accommodation available is for €1,500 a month.

Blessington and Kilcoole in the Wicklow constituency equally need to be designated zones, said Mr Casey.

AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger claimed that rents have gone up by 50% since Fine Gael entered government in 2011. One in three tenants in general are now struggling to pay rents, she said.

Ms Coppinger questioned why the Government is waiting for all towns and areas to reach “crisis levels” of rent rates being demanded in Dublin. She also questioned if landlords are in fact complying with the new 4% rent cap rules imposed.

Committee chairwoman Marie Bailey noted how, under the new RPZ system, 55% of tenancies, or 178,000 tenants, would see rent caps introduced, after the current freeze period for rates ends.

However Residential Tenancies Board director Rosalind Carroll told the committee that since rent caps started to be implemented in December, there has been a huge rise in complaints to the board.

These pertained to rent hikes being wrongly imposed on people, the committee heard, within the current 24-month rate freeze ahead of the new caps coming in.

There has been a 135% increase in contacts to the board over rent problems since December, the committee heard.

The board had found that the majority of these attempts to increase rent had been declared invalid.

Mr O’Dowd said that his constituents in Louth are living in “hell” and in fear of rent hikes for several months before the next review of potential RPZs takes place.

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