Landlords feel like ‘fall guys’ for rental crisis

IPOA threat of extra levies led to investigation by consumer protection body

This week Lisney warned that rental controls may persuade more landlords to exit the market, “thus reducing the already low level of supply of rental properties”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

This week Lisney warned that rental controls may persuade more landlords to exit the market, “thus reducing the already low level of supply of rental properties”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Landlords are back in the news again after the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) rapped one of the country’s biggest property owner bodies over the knuckles for threatening to introduce a rake of new charges for tenants.

The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA), which represents about 5,000 of the State’s landlords, came under investigation after it issued a press statement last month indicating plans to bring about a number of measures to counterbalance the introduction of new rent controls.

The threat was a response to the Government’s recent move to limit rent increases to 4 per cent a year in so-called “rent pressure zones” such as Dublin and Cork.

The organisation warned in December that it was considering imposing 12 new levies on tenants. The levies would include property tax, service charges, registration fees, car parking fees, and call out payments. It also said landlords could in future seek compensation for damages and barring orders against tenants for anti-social behaviour.

Anti-competitive conduct

However, in issuing its threat, the organisation drew the attention of the CCPC, which began investigating “potential anti-competitive conduct” by the IPOA.

The organisation has been forced to retract its press statement and to promise not to mention its contents publicly again.

Whether the IPOA’s threat carried any substance or not, there is no doubt that private sector landlords feel they are the ones taking the blame for the rental crisis.

The organisation claims that some 40,000 private landlords left the rental sector between 2012 and 2015, with many more likely to do so in the future.

It states that successive governments have relied on the private rental market to cover its obligations to provide housing, while increasingly penalising the sector with additional taxes and charges.

While there may be some landlords who are seeking to take advantage of the crisis, many claim that they are just trying to get by.

The jury is out on how true this is but it seems that the rent controls are unlikely to prove to be a long-term solution.

Just this week Lisney warned that the new controls may persuade more landlords to exit the market, “thus reducing the already low level of supply of rental properties”.

While yet more empty threats from landlords does not help the situation, they should be encouraged to be part of the solution.