– Tenants face arrears and extreme anxiety, says charity
The national housing charity Threshold has called for the extension of the moratorium on rent increases and evictions introduced by the Government as a response to the Covid 19 crisis. The call comes as the latest figures from the Residential Tenancies Board show rents throughout the country increased further in the final quarter of 2019, before the pandemic struck.
“Threshold has experienced a substantial increase in calls as a result of the Covid 19 crisis”, according to the CEO of Threshold John-Mark McCafferty. “Two thirds of the people contacting us due to Covid-19 have lost their incomes, and some are building up substantial rent arrears. The Government moratorium is very welcome for these tenants but is due to expire on June 27th. It simply must be extended in order to reduce the huge level of fear and distress out there among tenants.”
He was speaking after the Residential Tenancies Board reported further rent increases in the final three months of 2019. “The increase of average rent in the State to €1,226 per month in the last three months of 2019 represents an average 6.4% rise throughout the State”, said Mr McCafferty. “This is the lowest year on year increase for six years, and shows in fact a small decrease on the previous quarter. However rents were at an unsustainable level for many people, and the financial catastrophe brought to many by Covid 19 renders such trends pretty meaningless as predictors of the future.”
For many people rents at Q4 2019 were in excess of what a mortgage would cost them”, said the Threshold chairperson Aideen Hayden. “Before the pandemic, those living in the private rented market were at great risk of poverty and social exclusion. In the new reality that risk is higher still.”
She welcomed the designation of five new Rent Pressure Zones in Mallow, Killarney, Athy, Tullamore and Mullingar. “High rents are pushing people our of Dublin into the commuter belt so the inclusion of Athy, Tullamore and Mullingar are particularly welcome in this context. This means rents can now increase in these areas by no more than 4 per cent per annum. The widespread nature of the problem of rising rents has been obvious for some time and this designation of these new rent pressure zones will help give tenants and prospective tenants in these areas some relief. However the fact that this has happened just reflects the reality in that unaffordable rents are a feature of our entire rental system and are a national problem.”
However Threshold is warning of a crisis for many families and individuals once the temporary government restrictions on rent increases and evictions, introduced as a result of the Covid 19 crisis, come to an end. McCafferty said. “Many people in the private rented sector have seen their incomes collapse and face an uncertain employment future, particularly those working in hospitality and other sectors which have been badly affected.”