Less than half of rental terminations and increases issued by landlords in the last year were valid, according to the housing charity Threshold, which has begun an aggressive campaign to alert renters to their rights.
A survey of over 500 people found that while the majority had broadly positive experiences with landlords, many felt the pressures of unfair rent hikes, evictions and discrimination.
Two days before Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien brings fresh legislative proposals to Cabinet on rent caps and tenancies of indefinite duration, Threshold launched its Own Your Rights campaign to help reinforce those that already exist.
Its polling found more than one third of respondents (37 per cent) had never heard of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), the body charged with overseeing the sector.
A further 43 per cent said they did not know if their tenancies were registered with the RTB – 37 per cent said they were, and 12 per cent said they were not. However, 29 per cent said they felt somewhat or very uninformed when it came to their rights.
Threshold chief executive John-Mark McCafferty noted that four out of five people were unsure where to go for advice.
“What’s really important is that both we and the RTB are out there and that our services are promoted, especially [to] emerging communities and people new to the private rented sector,” he said.
When it came to landlords refusing to fix problems in a property such as broken or faulty appliances, 30 per cent said this was “somewhat common”, while just over half of respondents described it as rare or never occurring. Just 18 per cent said the experience was “very common”.
A further 58 per cent described issues with mould or damp as being common or very common, compared to just 16 per cent who had never had any trouble.
The majority of tenants (70 per cent) said they could afford their current rent, while 57 per cent said they had never experienced an unfair increase (those without due notice or a very high increase), while 23 per cent said they had once and about one fifth of respondents more than once.
The vast majority (89 per cent) said they had never been illegally evicted, and 69 per cent had not had their security deposits “unfairly” withheld by a landlord.
Mr O’Brien, whose department is involved in the campaign, said his forthcoming proposals are designed to avoid alienating “mom and pop” landlords in a sector that has previously said many are being driven out by regulation and tax burdens.
“We want to ensure there are no unintended consequences,” he said. “We need a private rental market but we need a functioning one. I think most people would agree that rents are too high right now.”
He acknowledged that only about 2 per cent of tenancies end up in dispute, and that his “calibrated” reform proposals will “bring certainty in relation to rents but also not have an effect of driving further landlords that we need out of the market”.
Mr O’Brien said the new legislation would be in place by the end of the year.
One renter’s experience:
Having traversed a sometimes brutal rental landscape, renter Helena came to liken the process to the Hunger Games.
Unconvinced by political promises, and less so by rental agencies, she and her partner eventually found their home after weeks of midweek viewings and encountered a number of opportunistic tactics along the way.
In one case they were asked to cough up three months’ rent as a deposit, far higher than the normal one month.
In another a prospective letting agency offered her a contract that allowed it to cancel the tenancy after the lease had been signed, and without having to refund a €1,400 deposit.
“All of the risk was on us, I was very annoyed,” said the 29-year-old administrator. “And I was one of those people who was going to complain about it.”
Helena contacted Threshold on three occasions – her suspicions of foul play confirmed, but not everyone is so aware of their rights or who to talk to about them.
Now settled in a home they love, thanks to a valued letting agent and landlord, Helena and her partner will be keeping an eye on the promises of political reform.