Tenancies board and housing department to investigate ‘rent fixing’

Minister calls for ‘transparency’ amid claims of artificially high rates registered

Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. File photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. File photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Government is investigating reports of “rent fixing” by an investment fund to register rents as artificially higher than the amount charged to tenants.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said in the Dáil that he had asked his officials and the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to look at the matter following a report in the Business Post.

The issue was raised by Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan on the media report which “found evidence of institutional landlords and investment firms, advertising and recording artificially high market rents that don’t reflect the actual rents actually being charged”.

Mr O’Callaghan said the practice of rent fixing has serious implications for long-term leasing “which is based on discount, off-market rents”.

Some institutional landlords were reportedly doing deals to lower rents during the pandemic but did not register them officially, to mask a decline in rents during the pandemic as renters moved out of Dublin.

The agreements could potentially circumvent rent-control rules with the rent paid monthly being less than that listed on the official lease.

Mr O’Brien said the report had been brought to his attention. “In this instance, it looks like it was an institutional investor artificially, you know, leaving the rent price higher than it actually was.

“I am looking at that. I have asked my officials with the RTB” to investigate the issue “because I’ve been very clear in saying I want rent transparency” and it was important to ensure that if landlords were providing deals or cutting rents that it was done transparently.

The Minister also criticised “instances where we know where properties have been kept vacant for quite a long number of months which is not something that I would support”.