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File photo Eamonn Farrell

Landlords are evicting tenants and doing up their properties as a 'back door' around rent limits

Housing charity Threshold launched its pre-Budget submission today.

A HOUSING AND tenant advocacy charity has said that landlords are exploiting a gap in legislation in order to raise rents beyond legally allowed limits.

Threshold – which advocates for tenants in the private rental sector – said that it has seen an increase in the number of evictions as a result of landlords undertaking refurbishments on their properties.

At the launch of its pre-Budget submission today, the charity gave the results of a flash survey of people contacting its service over two weeks last month.

Over 100 clients contacted the charity in this period looking for assistance to do with tenancy terminations. Of these, 85% had to do with landlords attempting to evict tenants.

Over 40% of attempted evictions were because the landlord was selling the property, while just under 20% had to do with a landlord’s family members moving into the property.

A total of 12% of the attempted evictions had to do with landlords looking to evict tenants so that they could refurbish the property.

According to Tracy Murphy, a policy officer with the charity, there has been a significant increase in landlords doing this in recent months.

Threshold chairperson Aideen Hayden said today that this increase was due to landlords seeking a way around rent certainty legislation.

“Obviously… it’s a back door around the legislation,” said Hayden.

And it really does need a robust rebuttal and clarification.

Rent Pressure Zones

The government last year introduced rental caps laws for some areas around the country. Under the legislation, certain areas are designated as Rent Pressure Zones.

In these zones landlords are not allowed to raise the rent by more than 4% a year. As well as this, a new tenant in a property can only be charged 4% more than what a previous tenant was paying.

A clause in the Residential Tenancies Acts gives leave for landlords to raise rents above these limits when there is a “substantial change in the nature of the accommodation”.

However, Threshold said that landlords are abusing this clause by carrying out minor refurbishments on its properties, then jacking up the rents.

One of its pre-Budget proposals is to amend the Act so that it is explicitly stated that minor renovations cannot be used to get around the limits.

“We have to be very active and diligent in ensuring the law and the spirit of the law is abided by,” said Hayden.

Budget submission

Threshold also called for increased rental protections, a rise to the limits of the Housing Assistance Payment and Rent supplement payments and more tax incentives to protect smaller landlords.

As part of its submission, the organisation called on Government to:

  • Introduce the Deposit Protection Scheme
  • Provide an appropriate and secure funding framework for the delivery and promotion of housing advice and advocacy supports
  • Increase Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Supplement (RS) limits to reflect market rents
  • Ensure local authorities have appropriate resources to carry out inspections of private rented accommodation and to pursue enforcement proceedings. This is part of a move towards an NCT for housing
  • Introduce tax reforms to sustain small scale landlords and to ensure any such measures are contingent on the provision of permanent, quality and affordable rental accommodation
  • Develop a cost rental system of social and affordable rental accommodation

Budget 2018 will be announced in October.

You can find Threshold’s full pre-Budget submission on their website

Read: Laws trying to combat rising rents are being ‘flouted by landlords’

Read: The number of rental properties in Ireland is at its lowest in recorded history

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