Housing charity calls for commercial tenant rights to be extended to domestic renters
National housing charity Threshold has called for domestic renters to be given similar rights to commercial tenants in situations where the property is being sold. The call comes as figures for the first quarter of 2018 show that Threshold’s housing advisors assisted 3,640 clients facing tenancy insecurity and handled more than 19,000 calls. More than 30 per cent of those were related to tenancy terminations, with 704 related to tenancy termination by a landlord. This is a four per cent increase on the number of people contacting Threshold over this issue in the last three months of 2017.
The top three reasons for terminations by a landlord were:
- Sale of property (36%)
- Landlord/family member moving in (16%)
- Renovation (10%)
Commenting, chief executive of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty said: “Threshold’s figures for the first three months of 2018 indicate the seriousness of tenancy insecurity in Ireland. Every day Threshold receives hundreds of calls from concerned tenants, many of whom are facing the real prospect of losing their home. While there are many legitimate terminations of tenancies, we are aware that some landlords are abusing the legislation to hike up their rental yields: using a fake sale, falsely claiming they need the property for a family member, or falsely saying they are planning to carry out substantial renovation as grounds for termination. Even though this behaviour is illegal under the Residential Tenancies Act, we regularly receive complaints from tenants who have been told to leave their homes on these grounds, only for the property to be then re-advertised at a higher rate of rent.
“In instances where property is being sold and a tenancy exists, legislative changes should be made to enable a tenant to remain in the property until the sale has been finalised. This is common practice for commercial properties and would give tenants more time to find a suitable new home. Where a property is being sold as a buy-to-let, existing tenants should be allowed to remain in the property, allowing the new owner to become the new landlord.”
Mr McCafferty reiterated the charity’s call for housing legislation to be properly enforced. Pointing towards the fact that the onus is on the tenant to make a complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board before it can act, he said that such legislation can only be effective if the tenant has the knowledge and the courage to do so.
He said: “Threshold regularly represents clients at the Residential Tenancies Board. Where a complaint is upheld, wronged tenants can receive damages of up to €20,000. In our experience, tenants typically receive in the region of €4,000 to €5,000. While we hope that successful cases set an example for other landlords who abuse the law, like many parts of the present system, the responsibility rests on the tenant to bring a case. Until there is proactive policing by the RTB to ensure that landlords comply with the law, some landlords will continue to evade it, with no fear of the consequences.”
He added: “Threshold is urging the Government to put the resources in place to fully enforce current legislation to ensure that all tenancy terminations based on the sale of a property are legitimate. All landlords who use a fake sale to evict a tenant and then place the property on the market at a higher rate should be prosecuted.”