Sunday 23 October 2016

Landlords accused of 'downright extortion' by housing charity

Aideen Hayden
Aideen Hayden

Landlords in Dublin and around the country have been accused of "downright extortion" for hitting their tenants with massive rent hikes, a major conference on housing heard.

The national housing charity Threshold said rent increases of up to 50pc in some cases are forcing families into homelessness "every day of week".

Senator Aideen Hayden, chairperson of the charity, made the comments at the Generation Rent conference in Dublin city centre yesterday.

The conference heard of the problems in the rental market from various stakeholders including homeless charities and academics, as well as Environment Minister Alan Kelly

Ms Hayden said "rent certainty" needed to be brought to the market immediately to protect renters.

"Every day of the week we're seeing tenants coming into us with 20pc, 30pc, 40pc and even 50pc rent increases," she said.

"We're seeing families falling into homelessness everyday of the week because they cannot keep, and they cannot get, accommodation."

She added if the country wants to escape the boom and bust cycle, "there must be certainty in the system to allow the rental market to grow in the Irish economy".

She added landlords would also benefit from certainty and pointed out rents fell 30pc during the crash.


Later she labelled as "downright extortion" landlords who hit renters with big rent hikes in cases where the house has been paid off and the owner is not dependent on the money to pay a mortgage.

Mr Kelly said rent is a "very serious issue" facing the country and that he wanted to bring rent certainty to the market but ruled out the introduction of rent controls.

He also said the current problems were a result of "years pursuing policies that simply weren't the correct ones" and added that €4bn had been secured for social housing.

Speaking afterwards, he said he would be bringing a "package of measures" to cabinet before the summer recess.

"Rent certainty is one of them. Certainly we're looking at other regulatory changes and also from an enforcement point of view working through the local authorities."

The conference also heard from Prof Peter Kemp from Oxford University who compared the Irish rental market with that in the UK.

Prof Kemp said the "key issue" remained a lack of supply, but he also said changes to taxes on landlords could alleviate the current situation.

Asked about introducing rent certainty, he stressed against "rushing" such measures and instead suggested "installing 100pc mortgage tax relief for landlords".

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