Moves to block rent hikes by landlords


Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner Reporter

Wexford Rentals & Property Management has read today that Landlords will be blocked from unfairly racking up rents while any rises will only be allowed after a three- month cooling off period, under plans set to be launched by Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Labour’s Deputy Leader is understood to be preparing to reveal the measures, which also include a possible review of Rent Supplement levels, in the coming days to address the risk of homelessness and the related rental bubble.

Wexford Rentals & Property Management has read that Files seen by the Irish Examiner newspaper show Mr Kelly has put forward three specific proposals to calm rents, which have surged over the past 12 months, with the aim of helping struggling families. Specifically, they state:

* Landlords will be blocked from increasing rents unless they can provide information on “three comparable properties” in their surrounding area “to justify rent increase”.

* In future, any increase in rent can only come into effect after three months compared to the current one- month period.

* A review of Rent Supplement levels will be instigated to bring the supports into line with the housing market.

It is believed Mr Kelly feels the measures will ensure landlords do not attempt to increase rents for no other reason than to take advantage of the present market, and that tenants involved have an adequate amount of time to assess their situation. It comes at a time when rents have risen by 15% in Dublin over the past year, and the average national rent nationwide has risen by almost €150, from €790 a month to €933. In addition, Focus Ireland warned last month that 800 children and their families were made homeless in the first 10 months of 2014 — 41 of whom had “no previous experience of homelessness” — with substandard Rent Supplements blamed.

However, the proposed measures are likely to spark an angry reaction from landlord groups, which have previously warned the Minister they may ask for double deposits from tenants due to fears they will be left to pay Irish Water charges.

Speaking at the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Kelly said that he was worried over the risk of rents going beyond an “acceptable” level and wants to see “what other measures we could take to ensure they [tenants] have rent certainty”. “We need to especially look at the issue of families, which would be a big issue for me. The rental market is a huge concern. From an immediacy point of view, that is the biggest issue,” Mr Kelly said. “My department in particular is prioritising [the issue] this year. Everything is on the table, we are looking at everything. There are a number of measures we are looking at in the coming weeks,” he said. The Minister stressed he was cautious to use labels like ‘rent caps’, but said “other ways” may be available to “protect tenants more”.