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Private sector tenants need protection, says SVP

By Cian Molloy - 04 December, 2016

Urgent reform of the private rented sector is needed to protect tenants from spiralling rents and the threat of eviction, says the Society of St Vincent de Paul.housing agencyt Candy-Terraced-House-Scene

Private sector tenants who have been living at the same address for close to two years or more, and who had a rent increase in 2015, are very likely to face another increase in their rent in a few years’ time.

With a chronic shortage of housing, particularly in Dublin, rents in the private sector are now higher than they were in the Celtic Tiger years, says John-Mark McCafferty, the society’s head of social justice.

The burden on families relying on private sector rental accommodation in comparison to those living in social housing/council housing is huge. Families in Dublin where a parent is working on a low income are paying about €10,500 a year more for private rented accommodation than they if they were living in social accommodation.

The SVP is calling for all future rent increases in the private sector to be linked to the Consumer Price Index to prevent landlords from inflicting unfair ‘what the market will bear’ rent increases on families who would otherwise become homeless if they don’t pay up.

Improved security of tenure is also an essential reform needed in the private rented sector, says the SVP. McCafferty said: “If the sector is to be the home for life for many households and is to be a key component of sustainable communities across the country, tenants must be assured that if they are compliant with the terms of their tenancy, they can look forward to secure housing.”

These proposals are contained in a St Vincent de Paul submission to the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government on the development of a Strategy for the Residential Rental Sector.

The contents of the submission are based on what SVP volunteers have witnessed when visiting people in need in their own homes. Many of those visited by SVP are tenants in the private rented sector who are struggling to find and afford accommodation.

McCafferty says that SVP volunteers report a number of common themes regarding the lower end of the private rented sector: rent hikes and economic evictions; termination of tenancies for little apparent reason; poor physical standards including cold, damp dwellings and unreasonable withholding of deposits by landlords.

The SVP is now becoming increasingly concerned at the affordability crisis facing many households living in the private rented sector.

“Those in private rental accommodation spend a higher share of their income on housing than those in owner-occupied or social housing. The high and increasing cost of rent in the private rented sector is one of the factors preventing many households from being able to afford a minimum essential standard of living and is resulting in more individuals and families becoming homeless,” said McCafferty.

“The Government’s housing strategy, Rebuilding Ireland, commits to introducing a pilot Affordable Rental scheme by the end of 2016. The detail of this scheme will be important, as will the extent to which it will rely on the existing supply of housing in the private rented sector rather than on new supply.”

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