Ires Reit, the Republic’s largest private landlord, warned investors on Wednesday that the risk of political interference in the property market is increasing, after it reported a 6.7 per cent increase in revenue from its €1.49 billion portfolio of more than 3,800 residential units.
An “unexpected and significant” move by the Government last year to increase stamp duty on the purchase of 10 or more single family houses sliced €8.8 million off the value its portfolio, partially offsetting a €34.9 million upward revaluation of its properties last year, it said.
While the Government pushed through legislation last July to replace an existing 4 per cent cap on annual rent increases in designated rent pressure zones with a limit linked to inflation, it amended the new laws in December to restrict increases to 2 per cent, as general consumer prices were soaring.
Ires said that a growing Irish economy and workforce, as well as an ongoing shortage of homes on the market for sale or rent, provided a “positive backdrop” for investors. However, it warned that “there are downside risks arising from the current inflation environment that will put pressure on costs, as well as political and regulatory risks due to the ongoing challenges from lack of housing supply and affordability challenges”.
The company, led by chief executive Margaret Sweeney, said the risk of Government introducing legislation, including tax and rent rules, that would negatively affect Ires's performance were "increasing". Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst Colm Lauder highlighted the company's comments on potential political interference in a note to clients.
Ires said rents across its portfolio, averaging €1,678 in December for two-bedroom apartments, were about 9.4 per cent below market rents.
Although the company paused rent increases between April 2020 and October 2021 to give tenants breathing space during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, two-thirds saw their rents increase by 4 per cent after that period of respite, executives told analysts on a call. The remaining tenants were saved by the 2 per cent cap introduced by the Government in December.
Ires’s total revenue from its property portfolio rose 6.7 per cent to €79.7 million last year, while its profit rose by about 15 per cent to €67.5 million, aided by property valuation gains.
Total rent collections, including commercial rents, rose to 99.2 per cent as of the end of last year, up from 98.9 per cent a year earlier, with the company describing this as a “a very strong outturn under the current exceptional Covid-19 conditions”.
Residential occupancy levels increased to 99.1 per cent from 98.4 per cent, reflecting the shortage of rental properties in Dublin, its main market.
As of the end of 2021, the group had a portfolio of 3,829 residential units across 35 properties in the Dublin region and one in Cork.
Last year saw the Dublin-listed real-estate investment trust add 146 apartments at the Phoenix Park Racecourse in Castleknock with an investment of €60 million. The company also agreed investment on two contracts for the acquisition of 152 residential units located in Ashbrook, Clontarf, Dublin 3, in two phases, with the first of these, involving the handover of 86 units, completing last month.