‘It’s soul-destroying’: personal crises from Dublin’s rental shortage

Tenants face lost job offers, emigration and homelessness as rents soar and supply withers

Prospective tenants queue at a house viewing. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Prospective tenants queue at a house viewing. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The rental crisis has left one desperate tenant in search of a home facing the loss of a job offer, another contemplating emigration and a third close to joining the homeless he helps.

These are some of the stories shared by people who contacted The Irish Times about their own personal crises caused by the severe shortage of rental properties in and around Dublin.

Days after a report showed rents at a record high, these people searching for homes in Dublin – and as far as 90km outside the city – spoke of long queues at rental properties, threats from landlords looking for more rent and apartments and furniture that are falling apart.

ANN (44) – “I have been looking for a good month. It is not happening”

Ann (44) is finishing her temporary public-service role in Galway after being offered a permanent civil-service job in Dublin. She has spent a month in vain trying to rent a place.

With two children, aged 11 and eight, due back at school in Galway next week and with no place to move to in Dublin, she feels she may have to tell her new employers, a high-profile government agency in Dublin, that she can’t take up the permanent job they have offered her.

“It is soul-destroying,” she says, preferring – like the other renters – not to have her surname disclosed. “I can’t see how I can find somewhere for me and my family at this stage. I have been looking for a good month trying to find somewhere and it is not happening.”

Any property she has found that would be suitable for herself, a single mother, and her children, is about €2,000 a month in rent – way beyond what she can afford. She feels she is at a disadvantage to other tenants, being a single woman with just one income and two dependent children, particularly when a professional couple could be applying for the same properties.

Two-bedroom properties that become available online at about €1,200 a month – a sum Ann can afford – disappear from the website soon after they are posted, such is the demand for affordable properties, she says.

She estimates that she has sent well over 100 emails applying for properties, received responses from fewer than 20 and viewed just five properties. She has ventured as far out as Laytown in Co Meath and Portarlington in Co Laois but has found nothing.

“It is disheartening. Just when you think you have done the tough bit – getting the job – you don’t prepare yourself for how tough it is interviewing for a house,” she says.

LAURA (23) – “My current landlord makes inappropriate sexual remarks”

Laura (23), a public-service worker, is on the search for a new home, too, after spending 10 months of last year looking for one. As of now she is one of seven people in a house on the southside of Dublin, each with their own room and each paying €600 a month, but the situation is far from ideal. The problem is her landlord.

“[He] makes inappropriate sexual remarks, uses his key to open my locked bedroom door and goes through my personal belongings. The wardrobe is broken, the shower door is broken and my mattress is bent with age,” she says.

“My room is freezing in winter and he controls the heating. His reasoning is he pays for heating, so he controls the hours it comes on, which fluctuates as he reduces it to save money, thinking we don’t notice the cold. He visits our house every day to collect his post, goes into our rooms and uses our toilet.”

In her search for alternative accommodation, the cheapest rent Laura can find amounts to a third of her take-home pay. Prospective landlords have asked for a month’s rent up front and a month’s rent as a deposit, along with a work reference from a landlord, her PPS number, a copy of her passport and copies of bank statements. It is all too much.

“Quite honestly, I am really uncomfortable passing all of that over to a stranger, but it seems to be what everyone is asking for,” she says.

Every property she visits has queues outside. She arrived 15 minutes before viewing time on one property and there were about 25 people there before her and an additional 30 people waiting to see it when she left. The crisis is so bad she is considering relocating overseas.

“I feel I would be much better moving abroad for five years while the Government gets its act together and figures this out. It is too expensive. There is no balance in it,” she says.

“There needs to be better regulation on landlords. I see people jump to the defence of landlords, but we have solid proof that tenants are being ripped off here. It is a struggle.”

OTIENO (28) – “It’s a catch 22”

Otieno (28), who is originally from Kenya, was told by his landlord on Wednesday that he would change the locks unless he agreed to pay an extra €100 a month for his room in a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin 3. That would bring his rent to €900 a month, excluding bills.

He has refused to pay and sought advice from Threshold, the national housing charity. He has also been in touch with one of his local councillors. He has been looking for alternative accommodation but has received no reply to more than 200 emailed applications.

Otieno is a drugs counsellor and works for a homeless charity, helping people find accommodation. He has found himself in the same situation as the people he counsels.

“How do you expect to help other people when I can’t help myself? It’s a catch 22,” he says.

BENOÎT (34) – “The situation in Dublin is the worst I have ever seen”

Benoît (34), a French national, has been on the move repeatedly since he moved to Dublin in January 2016 to work for a large trading company. He has lived in four places in that time.

In his last rental – where a room cost him €750 a month – the landlord told him that he needed the room back after six months for his family. A few days after moving out, he discovered the same room being advertised again with a 7 per cent increase in rent.

He pays €740 a month now for a room in an old house, sharing a bathroom with two others. His landlord refuses to pay for refurbishments because, Benoît believes, there are so many people looking for accommodation that he can rent it out no matter what condition it is in.

“I have visited many accommodations in Dublin and I am often appalled by their bad quality and exorbitant price,” he says.

“Having lived in France, Switzerland and Germany I can confirm that the situation in Dublin in terms of quality and price for renting is by far the worst I have ever seen.”