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'It keeps me awake every single night with worry': Your stories of Ireland's rental crisis

We asked you to share your stories – here’s what you told us.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Sep 28th 2021, 5:33 PM

DEBATE ABOUT IRELAND’S rental crisis is raging on as the government comes under pressure to implement a ‘real’ rental freeze and to help provide some level of security to tenants. 

A recent government reform linking rent increases with the rate of inflation has already been deemed ineffective after inflation rose to 3%. Now the Department of Housing is considering fresh changes that would cap inflation-linked increases once they hit a certain level. 

As the Dáil heard calls last week from opposition parties for a three-year freeze on rents and measures to address the “power imbalance” between landlords and tenants, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the  government needs to balance that “one person’s rent is another person’s income”.

After a call-out to readers, over the last number of days The Journal has received dozens of stories from renters and some landlords about their experience of Ireland’s rental crisis. 

Here’s a selection of the contributions we received.

‘My wonderful children no longer believe we will get a place of our own’

“My partner died from cancer ten years ago, we have two children who are now in their early to mid teens. He was self-employed, I was working in hospitality. As we were not married, when he died I was classified as a single parent.

“I retrained (while I kept working) and got a job with the hopes of stability and a pension etc. We have never not been renting. There are very few places to rent, fewer within budget. Most places won’t rent to a single mother.

I have rented in places where there is no proper heating, where the electricity to a portion of the house stopped working if it rained for three days in a row, problems with rodents, problems with mould – my first task in any place we move into is to work out which room is likely to have the worst mould and that will be my bedroom to try and protect the kids – where the drinking water is unusable for months at a time and it’s bottled water only, the toilets back up every few weeks.

“The longest we have been able to have a lease is four years. Due to the cost of rent, a lot of people in my situation either have to rent off the books, which leaves us with no rights or due to rent caps we only get a year lease so that they are not “obliged” to allow us to stay longer.

“Because I went for a more stable career option to try to ensure the children could get out of the ‘single parent poverty’ loop I now earn too much. I am over the threshold by less than €1,200 per year – that’s €23 per week before tax – as a single applicant to qualify for any assistance apart from the Help-To-Buy scheme.

“I am scared to change jobs as I can’t afford to risk a contract position in case I end up unemployed at the end of the contract and very few places are offering permanent places. Conversely, because I don’t earn enough I can’t afford any new house where we live. We don’t have family to help us out.

I would like to provide a home they can call their own, somewhere where they can change the colour of their bedroom walls before they move out for college. My amazingly wonderful and very patient children no longer believe we will get a place of our own.

‘The kitchen had rats – the landlord’s reply was that it was common in the area’

“I’m 29. I have a BA degree and a MA and have been working full time in marketing and account management roles since I was 22. I have been renting for seven years. In those seven years I have lived in five different places. All house shares.

“I hate house sharing but on an income of €35,000 I am left with few options, though I am seeking an affordable bedsit in the region of €800 a month.

“I lived in a house in Dublin 8 where the kitchen had rats – the landlord’s reply was that it is common in the area. My dream is to have a place without living with randoms, to be able to have a cat and to have walls that are painted a different colour than white. I can’t see any way to ever have that in Dublin.”

‘They arrived at the door with a letter to evict us’

“For the last 15 years we have been renting. We have three kids, two of whom have special needs. We have been in our current home for over three years. Over the last year I have been sick and during the summer have had to have two surgeries to remove part of my breast. I will be having another operation in January.

“Three weeks ago I approached my landlord to ask if we could pay our rent weekly instead of monthly as with the added cost of me being sick, it would help us to pay in this way. We also had a small amount of arrears from the previous month. The landlord said ‘let’s see how it goes’.

Two days later they arrive at our door, unannounced as usual, with a letter to evict us. They claim they need the house back for them to live in. They gave us until 30 September if we want a deposit back or 31 of October and the deposit covers that month’s rent. If we agree to be out by the end of October latest, they said they’ll write off any arrears owed.

“The arrears owed is less than one month’s rent. We have no copy of a lease, no rent book and the tenancy is not registered. When you desperately need a home, in my experience, landlords will take advantage of the situation. They have all the power.”

‘We have a decent landlord but if she sells we’ll be homeless’

“Myself and my wife have been renting at the same property for 11 years now. We have a decent landlord who charges us well under market rate and we’re on Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) as well so financially we’re not so bad at the minute.

“The main issue is that there’s no security because if she needs to sell the house or anything we’ll be homeless since the supply and rent rates in towns in County Wicklow are both awful for a lower income household.

It makes us constantly anxious and worried. Something needs to be done to ensure long term security for renters who will never be able to buy in the current market due to the income limits.

‘Our rent was raised 12% and then a further 37.5%’

“Eight years in the same house in Limerick city centre. The house was quite rough around the edges, but rent was reasonable so my partner and I accepted it as the property had a lot of charm.

“We made it look better with our own efforts and landlord didn’t raise the rent for about five years. Then in the space of two years our rent was raised 12% and then a further 37.5%.

“We’d also brought two kids into the world. Now our landlord is selling, as is his right. The price is well out of our range. We’re moving out now into a very difficult market both for renting and buying.”

‘Our landlord demanded we pay the 8% increase in cash or we’d be evicted’

“I currently rent in Dublin and live with my partner and two children.

“My experience of a power imbalance is that of our landlord attempting to increase our rent by 8%. When we pushed back to the letting agent they rightly agreed that the rent increase must be inline with inflation.

However the landlord turned up at our home unannounced and demanded that we pay the 8% increase in cash, which he will collect personally, or he would have us and our children evicted. I assume he doesn’t want the increase reflected in his accounts.

“Karma will catch up with the guy, but we were forced to agree to the terms as he waited to demand this from us days prior to our lease renewal. Upheaving our life and kids would have been devastating if we had to move so fast.”

‘Constantly chasing the landlord to fix issues’

“I rented a two-bedroom terraced house in Dublin 8 for seven years and constantly had to chase the landlord to fix issues within the house. During the tenancy my bedroom had a serious leak from the roof that was only ever patched up by one of the landlord’s friends or relatives, never a professional, and only after weeks or months of chasing on my part.

“Damp was another issue within the house, to the point that the wardrobes in the second bedroom had to be torn out only to reveal an entire wall of black mould. The issue persisted into the bathroom, with black mould on the ceiling, and the kitchen was in a similar state.

We even had slugs that would appear in the kitchen during winter and found that the wall hadn’t been properly sealed. After I left, I never heard from them again, despite chasing for a rent book and my deposit, and I still to this day receive text messages from the electricity supplier to tell me a bill is due. I was there for seven years of renting at €1,000 a month (€84,000). 

‘The hot water didn’t work and there was black mould in several rooms’

“I spent around €800 a month to share a two bed apartment in Dublin with a friend. The apartment didn’t have working hot water for bathing. There was substantial black mould in several of the rooms.

“We flagged these issues to the landlord and their agent on several occasions. After several months the landlord visited unannounced to carry out works during the pandemic. The mould was not resolved and our hot water was not fixed.

On moving, the landlord and their agent attempted to keep several hundred euro from our deposit for cleaning. When asked to provide an invoice for the cleaning, we found that the invoice was for a local builders company. We ended up settling the matter with them for a substantial reduction, but were still left out of pocket.

“My landlord was formerly a TV star with several businesses. We were just poor graduates trying to afford to live in the city. Things are completely unfair.”

‘We’re fearful of the future’

“We live in West Cork. Through inheritances and savings we have €160,000 in cash, but there is nothing we can buy. We have three children all in schools here.

“We need to be out of our rented property 31 October 2021 – there is nothing to rent in the area. We are at a loss as to what to do. We have been there years. It is so frustrating, we are fearful of the future.”

‘I have nowhere to turn’

“I’m a single parent, employed full-time in the civil service. I have been renting the same house in Limerick city for the last eight years. Unfortunately I was served with a Notice of Sale a few weeks ago.

“I immediately burst into tears. I am paying €795 per month, leaving me little to save for a deposit. I started looking on Daft, one house near me appeared at €925 per month, I immediately applied and made it down to the final eight applications out of over 200 and was invited for a viewing.

“I believe a lot of the 200 were likely students or Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) people. They took the ad down after just one hour online due to calls.

“I had to produce rent reference, work reference and three payslips (this was shocking to me). I duly complied. After a week I was told today I didn’t get it.

What little is on Daft is far too expensive and would leave us starved with no quality of life. I have awful anxiety about our future.

“I could end up having to hand over my child to her father and see her for access so I can rent a room in shared accommodation. This would be soul destroying. I have nowhere to turn.”

‘I’m 41 and still house-sharing’

“Here I am at 41 and still renting, still house-sharing. The lease is up soon, the landlord won’t renew or rather the rental agency told them that they would get more monthly rent income if the carpet on the landing and stairs was changed and an actual electric shower was installed in main bathroom, that I share with two others.

“So we are out of house at the end of November. For the last six years I have had to quote the laws back to them and argue that the rent can’t be just increased by €200 every year. They tried to do it twice in one year. Imagine having to get facts and laws about renting and actually having to quote it all to a rental agency so they would leave you alone.

“Spent the day looking up house shares and I’m ashamed at the thoughts of having to convince a few 20-something-year-olds that I’m still cool and don’t mind heading out for drinks on a Tuesday night.

Jesus, I just want a nice room and to share with people my own age. Where are you? Did ye all manage to get a house or what? Am I the only 40-something that’s still house-sharing?

“Do you know what’s worse? I actually have funds, a deposit. It should be enough to get a little two up, two down terrace house. It really should. Apartments are even out of reach. I have savings, I have a pensionable job. Help me, someone!”

‘They sent us ads for more expensive apartments in the area to justify their greed’

“We were renting in South Dublin a couple of years ago and being charged through the teeth. When they increased our rent each year they sent us ads for other apartments in the area that were more expensive, to justify their greed.

“Anyway, when we left the apartment we spent two full days scrubbing the place. It was spotless. My parents were helping move our things and they even helped a bit so there were four of us polishing the place before we left.

A couple of days after we vacated I received an email stating that the letting agent was “quite disappointed” at the “state” in which the place was left. She actually sent me a picture of a single tuft of dust on the floor in the corner of one room. She stated that our deposit was going to be held and “professional cleaners” (plural) would have to be employed. I laughed.

“This may not have been too ridiculous except for the fact that the apartment was genuinely disgusting when we moved in.

“The oven and microwave were crawling and there was faeces in the toilet. I challenged them with the Residential Tenancies Board as I had dated pictures from the day we moved in and they backed down eventually.

My advice to anyone is to take pictures when you move in and out. I have no doubt whatsoever that this property company does this to everyone they deal with, I’m just wondering where all the retained deposits go. Certainly not on cleaners.

‘There’s a hole in the kitchen roof and the bathroom’s destroyed – we’re still paying full rent’

“My partner and I left Dublin soon after our son was born as we couldn’t afford to rent somewhere larger than our one-bed flat on his salary and my State maternity benefit.

“After living with my family for a couple of months we decided, with the strong possibility of working from home long term, to move to a nearby town in the midlands, where we could afford a house with good public transport links to Dublin.

“We’re currently living in our rented accommodation with a hole in the kitchen roof and destroyed bathroom after a leak caused by a handyman, which our landlady failed to repair despite repeated warnings from us.

We’re still paying full rent as the landlady ‘has a mortgage to pay and now the repairs to the house’. We’ve no legal rights to a reduction and as the bathroom is the only one in the house with a shower – if she were to have it fixed we’d have no shower facilities for the duration. Our landlady is under no legal obligation to provide alternative accommodation while works are carried out (I’ve checked with Threshold).

“We’ve been trying to find somewhere new to live in the same town since the start of August, and we’ve only seen one house, which had at least ten other viewings. There were a number of things wrong with the house, but you couldn’t raise fixing them as landlords just don’t care, there’s always someone else to take it.

“If you go on Daft today there are five apartments/houses up for rent in the area. Paying a higher end rent is thankfully not an issue for us at the moment, there’s just nothing there.

“You’re caught between no accommodation or unaffordable accommodation in larger cities. We’d move towns again if we hadn’t finally managed to get our son into a crèche after almost a year of trying.

“The complete lack of rights for tenants in Ireland is immoral, hopefully we’ll be in a position to buy our own home in a year or so, after nearly two decades of renting. I feel for future generations, and those renting long term.

Sadly I know our experience will pale in comparison to many others you receive, which makes me so angry as our situation is very stressful so I can only imagine what other tenants are having to deal with.

‘The landlord said they were selling – it was back on Daft months later at a higher rent’

“My previous landlord worked in a property company in a senior position. The property was a three-bed house in a Rent Pressure Zone. No lease was ever provided to us and whenever we asked were told ‘I’ll have it to you shortly’.

We were never registered with the Residential Tenancies Board. The house was in poor condition, the boiler was faulty and never serviced, the seals on the window were broken so the house was freezing, the water never worked and constantly tripped the electricity when on. Black mould was covering the bedrooms and bathroom.

“The landlord refused to fix any of the issues. Last year we received a text to state the landlord was selling. No official documentation was provided. Many months later the house was back on Daft to let at a significantly higher rent, well above the 4% increase – an approximately €1,000 increase.

“The old appliances remained along with the windows. The walls were painted and new carpet was put down. I reported the landlord to the RTB and they basically said they could do nothing.”

‘The plumber said it was one of the most dangerous houses he’d seen’

“This was June 2020-21. I have since moved out. I was in Galway City renting a damp, tiny house with five people as I did my masters. In December 2020, the married couple (the landlords) told us they were getting divorced.

“They also would only collect rent in cash (even at height of pandemic) and we had to have an electricity box which we put coins into ourselves. The house was not registered with the Residential Tenancies Board, so they were paying no tax.

“The next six months were a nightmare of both of them fighting to get the rent from us. He didn’t own the house, she did, but we had to keep calling the police on him because he wouldn’t go away and kept trying to break in.

Then the tap water started running filthy brown one day, we called a plumber and he said that it was “one of the most dangerous houses he’d ever seen”. Plastic pipes for heated water, the water tank was polluted – we’d been drinking it the whole time – everything was a shambles.

“We moved out and she said she would get it fixed. She didn’t, she went straight back to leasing it out to some students who didn’t know. The rent was €2,200 for the whole house.”

‘I ended up leaving Ireland’

“I’m 26 and lived in Dublin for six years after leaving Galway (where I’m from) and during the first lockdown in 2020 my housemates moved out and I was on my own in the house.

“When I told my landlady it was just me now, she told me I had to pay the entire rent for the house which was €2,000 by myself, find someone to move in or she would sell the house. Bear in mind this was when we couldn’t go more than 2km from our homes.

When I tried to explain the situation and that €2,000 a month was more than my monthly income, she told me it wasn’t her problem and that she had to pay her mortgage. She then asked me when I was moving out.

“I ended up leaving Ireland last year because I could no longer afford to rent there. I now live abroad and am very happy, but it also deeply bothers me that I can’t afford to live in my own country. I can’t move home now, even if I want to because it’s no longer affordable for me.”

‘I have so many horror stories’

“I’ve been renting in Dublin since I was 18. I’ve lived in so many different houses and it’s always just been a room in a shared house with random people. I have so many horror stories from those houses.

In my current house, someone moved out in March and the landlord left it up to us to replace them. We didn’t find someone to take the room until mid-April and she asked me and the other tenant to pay €150 extra for the month to cover the rent that was lost from the room being unoccupied for two weeks.

“We stupidly paid it because we didn’t want to lose our rooms. I had to dip into my savings to pay it as I was short on money that month.

“I’m 26 now and I’m sick of living in house shares. I spend a lot of time in the house as I’m working from home, but renting a room in a shared house never feels like home. I can’t afford to rent by myself in Dublin and I can’t get a mortgage by myself either. I feel stuck living in substandard accommodation with awful people.”

‘I don’t want to be a homeless pensioner’

“I am 50 years old. I moved back to Ireland in 2015, after 20 years abroad. I pay €1,200 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Dublin. I earn €50,000 per annum.

“I can afford a mortgage on a house worth €200,000. There are no available properties in my budget. I am looking to emigrate again as I do not wish to be a homeless pensioner in Ireland. The lack of protection for renters in this country is disgusting.”

‘Now I commute to college from Galway to Dublin’

“I rented student accommodation two years ago. I was paying €500 a month and they said I would be sharing the room with one person, my friend. However the day I showed up, I was put in a room with four other girls. The beds were only less than one metre apart.

There were days we had no water to even shower or cook. The kitchen was shared among 20. It was impossible to cook in this kitchen. I never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I didn’t even eat in this house as it was so disgusting.

“I now commute to college in Dublin from Galway, as I would rather not go through any dodgy accommodation again. I hope the housing crisis improves, it’s not good for students’ or families’ mental health/wellbeing.”

‘Condemned to an endless stream of beige prison cells paying someone else’s mortgage’

“I won’t get many violins playing compared to the people who get less than me and owning a house is completely out of their price range.

I work as a doctor, get a very good salary but due to the way we work short contracts across the country it’s hard to buy a house in the first place. Therefore I’m condemned to an endless stream of beige prison cells paying someone else’s mortgage.

“Ultimately I will buy a house, but I’ve seen colleagues delay having families, move abroad to escape this process and even just give up over it. It’s easy to see how the bitterness you see in the medical profession comes from after dealing with decades of renting and poor treatment.”

‘It keeps me awake every single night’

“I’m married with three children. My husband has to pay €2,500 per month in rent for a basic house, just so we have a roof over our heads. The houses are too dear, we can’t get on the ladder.

“It’s soul destroying and depressing not having our own home, it’s tearing us apart as a family as the stress of not knowing if we’ll be asked to leave hangs over us every single day.

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“I feel so let down by the government, they have turned their backs on the people of this country. I’m 46 and this keeps me awake every single night with worry.”

LANDLORDS’ STORIES

‘In penalising all landlords they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. ‘

“I have been a tenant and a landlord.

“As a tenant I was once given 28 days notice, then told to vacate within 14 days and pressured to move within week. I brought the landlord to the Residential Tenancies Board and while waiting for the case the landlord evicted me. My stuff was thrown out on the front lawn, it was humiliating to say the least.

“As an accidental landlord, over the last decade, approx three out of five tenants left the place in a complete tip. One I had to keep the deposit as it took me over a week to clean the house and yard, they caused damaged amounting to far more than the deposit.

“If a tenant wants to trash a place they can. If they refuse to pay rent a landlord can be left with the loss of rental income and cost considerable amounts in legal fees to get their property back.

“Landlords are portrayed as wealthy greedy individuals. The truth is, many are just that. But many are also good people who are happy to make the property pay for itself and treat tenants with respect.

“The government is over-regulating to the extent that both good and bad landlords are leaving the market. In penalising all landlords they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

‘We sold our rental property in January – the new owners double the rent’

“Not a renter but an accidental landlord. We had an apartment rented out for €975 until January of this year.

“We sold the apartment and the new owners have it up for €1,800.”

‘The media will be responsible for the family made homeless when I sell’

“It would make great reading learning about how tenants can refuse to pay rent and then just walk away owing tens of thousands that the landlord has to pay to the bank, but who cares, landlords are all evil right?

“As soon as I’m out of negative equity on my property I’ll be selling, you and the rest of the media can hold yourselves responsible for the family who will be made homeless when I sell because they won’t be able to afford the rent as I have kept it low for years. Well done you absolute morons.”

‘The rent barely covers the mortgage – I would never do it again’

“I own a five-bed student accommodation in Dundalk, I paid €285,000 for it. I can’t sell it as no one will buy it, the rent barely covers the mortgage. Every year I am faced with broken couches, holes in the walls, broken blinds etc. When you try to withhold deposits each tenant blames the other. I hate it .

“We don’t charge the full fee up front because we understand it’s a lot of money at €500 a month but the downside is that now and again a student quits college and you lose a tenant for the rest of the year. I bought this property because of the tax break, but I have no tax to be covered now and if I sell I was told I would only get €100,000 for it.

“I am not really complaining, I am just telling you the way it is. Student accommodation is a nightmare, new tenants every year, no respect for property, parties, complaints from neighbours. I would never do it again, not if I was getting twice the rent.”

‘If I was renting just one room in the house I wouldn’t have to pay tax – how is that fair?’

“I’m a landlord renting a moderate three-bed semi out to two respectable tenants. I live off the rent I receive via the HAP Scheme. My tenants are free to stay as long as they wish and we’re all very happy. Suffice to say I keep up with any and all maintenance.

“But here’s the rub: Not only do I pay my end of year taxes, PRSI, and all maintenance of said property, but when you work it out, I live on less money than someone receiving unemployment payments.

“But I’ve also noticed an anomaly in the system. If I was renting a room out of my house to a tenant, I would not have to pay tax. But even though I’m earning ‘less’ renting a house out rather than renting out a room, I do pay tax. How is this fair?

Us landlords generally get a bad name, but I (don’t just try to) play it absolutely fair with the HAP payment and the tenants. I ask you, what of the landlord’s rights, mortgage – in cases where a mortgage exists – and the landlord’s state of mind where tenants stop paying the rent and refuse to leave.

“I understand a tenant not having too much choice of properties, but isn’t the action of withholding rent simply theft? I don’t believe enough is being said about this.”

‘We were punished for our forbearance’

“We are accidental landlords, inheriting our father in law’s apartment when he passed away in 2009.

“We had the same tenants for the first 10 years, supporting them when the breadwinner lost his job by freezing the rent for several years and only applying moderate rent increases during the other years.

Once the rent pressure zones were introduced, we were punished for our forbearance as the rent we are allowed to charge is about €1,000 a month less than the going rate in the block.

“So, we now have a spacious two-bed, two bathroom apartment in a great area in Dublin whose rent has effectively been frozen for the past few years, despite our costs rising hugely.

The apartment now needs serious maintenance – windows need work, kitchen appliances need to be replaced, bath needs to be replaced as it was damaged by the previous tenant and the apartment needs to be painted. And we are stuck with the low rent which means we can’t afford to do these things.

“Our current tenant has now been offered a house by the council. We had requested three months’ notice as we had been screwed by previous tenants, but we have only received one month’s notice and there is nothing we can do about it.

“I am not surprised landlords are getting out of the market – rights are stacked against them already. We too have decided to get out and sell the apartment so there will be one less rental property available.”

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