Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rent rises and regulations lead tenants on a merry dance - Independent.ie

IT'S no secret that the collapse of the property market has forced hundreds of thousands to rent rather than buy their own home. What might come as a surprise is the cost of rent.

You could pay as much as €5,000 a month to rent a two-bed apartment in Dublin city centre, or as much as €8,000 a month to rent a five-bed house in Dalkey. These rental properties are at the high end of the rental market -- but in today's hard-pressed times, rents like that are still jaw-dropping.

The two-bed, two-bathroom apartment in Dublin city centre which is quoting a monthly rent of €5,000 is on Grafton Street. It's "an exceptional penthouse apartment with spectacular views of the city", according to Lisney, which is advertising the apartment.

"There are not that many good penthouse apartments in Ireland," said Joan Fogarty, manager of residential lettings in Lisney's St Stephen's Green branch. "There's not a huge demand for penthouse apartments today -- but there are some people who will pay that kind of rent."

While properties such as this are often rented by corporations for senior executives, professionals and others who like the convenience and views of the city are also interested, according to Fogarty.

Out in Dalkey, meanwhile, Kilross Cottage -- a five-bed, five-bathroom house on Sorrento Road -- comes with a monthly rent of €8,000.

The architect-designed house, which includes a swimming pool, had previously been rented for €8,500 a month, according to Terrie Dunne, managing director of Terrie Dunne Letting Agents, which is advertising the property.

Although Dunne admitted that she was unlikely to get someone to pay rent of €8,000 a month for the property, she said "there's a lot of money around".

Let's face it though, the ordinary Joe Soap is miles away from affording rent of €5,000 or €8,000 a month. But other less expensive properties in or near Dublin city are still out of reach of many people.

For example, you could pay €2,000 a month to rent a two-bed apartment in Grand Canal Dock, Dublin -- and you'll easily pay between €2,500 and €3,000 a month to rent a two-bed apartment in Sandymount's Shrewsbury Square.

Rent isn't as steep outside Dublin. However, you could still pay €1,000 a month to rent a two-bed apartment in or near Galway city, or €2,500 a month to rent a three-bed penthouse apartment there. A two-bed apartment in Cork city could set you back up to €1,200 a month.


Rents are also on the increase in certain parts of the country.

It costs €1,709 a month to rent a three-bed home in Dublin city centre -- almost 12 per cent more than rent for a similar property cost a year ago, according to the latest report by Daft. The cost of renting a three-bed home in a Galway city suburb has increased by almost 5 per cent over the last year, while rent for a three-bed home in a Cork commuter town is up 3 per cent, according to Daft.

The cost of renting a family home in Dublin and Cork could increase further over the next year -- but rents are unlikely to increase outside these cities, according to Ronan Lyons, economist with Daft.

Lyons, however, warned that the cost of renting one-bed apartments could soar in six months' time when new renting regulations come into force.

Under these regulations, each flat, apartment or house must have its own toilet and bath or shower --effectively heralding the death of the bedsit. The regulations already apply to properties that were rented out for the first time after February 1, 2009.

Many of the properties rented out before February 2009 did not have to meet the new regulations -- but most of these won't be able to escape the new rules after February 2013.

"Some landlords, particularly those renting property in Dublin's Rathmines or the North Circular Road, will get out of the game once the regulations come in," said Lyons. "They may not be interested in investing in their property to ensure that each flat or bedsit has its own bathroom."

This in turn could prompt many landlords to sell their properties -- leading to a shortage of one-bed apartments or flats in or near the city centre.

This shortage would most likely drive up rental prices for one-beds.

The huge demand for rental properties is also pushing up the cost of rent, according to Stephen Large, manager of the Dublin office of the housing charity, Threshold.

"It's getting a little bit more difficult to find a property to rent than would have been the case a few years ago," said Large.

So is your landlord entitled to push up the rent willy-nilly?

"If a landlord wishes to increase the rent, he or she can only do so once a year -- and 28 days' notice must be given," said Large.

If, however, your landlord improves or renovates the property, he or she may be entitled to push up the rent more than once a year. But the rent cannot be higher than the market rate -- in other words, the cost of renting similar properties in the area.

Another factor that could potentially push up the cost of rent is the upcoming property tax.

Some landlords have already passed on the cost of the precursor to this tax, the €100 household charge, to tenants. Large said the property tax or household charge should not be passed on to tenants. However, the Irish Property Owners' Association, which represents landlords, says this depends on the rental contract.


Another major headache for renters today is the increased repossessions of buy-to-let properties.

A tenant could find that the property they are renting is being repossessed by a bank, or that a bank has appointed a rent receiver to collect their rent after the landlord fell behind on mortgage repayments. A repossession of a property shouldn't affect your tenancy -- but if you feel your tenancy is under threat, get in touch with the Private Residential Tenancies Board, the State body charged with upholding tenants' rights.

If you get a letter from a rent receiver demanding you pay your rent to him/ her, get in touch with your landlord first. "If there is a rent receiver collecting rent, the landlord should notify the tenant first -- otherwise, you should get in touch with your landlord before paying anything over to a rent receiver," said Large. "Tenants are getting caught in the middle of all this."

With banks being urged to get tougher on those falling behind on mortgage repayments, it looks like tenants will be caught in the middle of the property collapse for some time yet.

- Louise McBride

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