Property owners have reacted angrily to a planned extension by Government of a ban on rent increases and evictions.
Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien confirmed on Thursday the emergency rent freeze and evictions moratorium, introduced at the start of the coronavirus crisis, would be extended beyond the Monday deadline. It is expected the extension will be short, with details to be announced on Monday.
The extension comes as data from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) shows while rents continued to increase during the lockdown, the rate of increase fell.
“The annual growth rate of rent levels declined significantly compared to the period prior to the lockdown. While the annual growth rate in March was over 3 per cent, by April this had fallen to 0.4 per cent. This declined again in May to 0.1 per cent. By June the annual growth rate had turned negative with prices falling by 3.3 per cent compared to the same month the previous year,” the report said.
A dramatic decline in the number of applications to register new tenancies in the private-rented and voluntary housing sectors is also revealed.
“While in March there were over 7,000 registrations, in April this had fallen to less than 4,000. The number of new registrations also remained subdued in May.
“The 3,888 applications in April represent a decline of over 41 per cent compared to the same period the previous year. The annual decline in applications is broadly similar across the different regions with applications down by 42.4 per cent in Dublin, by 38.4 per cent in the greater Dublin area, and by 41.1 per cent in the rest of the country.”
Asked why the number of new registrations had fallen so sharply, an RTB spokeswoman said the research did not gather reasons behind the data. However, the restrictions on economic and social life brought in to stop the spread of the virus were likely contributors.
Tenants' advocacy organisation Threshold welcomed Government plans to extend the rent freeze and evictions ban. It said, however, it "awaits further clarity on the duration of the extension and [details of whether] there are any changes to the ban".
Chief executive John Mark McCafferty said rents remained unaffordable for a large section of lower-income households, despite the slowdown in increases. According to the RTB report in the first three months of 2020, the average rent in Dublin was €1,735; €1,156 in Galway city and €1,199 in Cork city.
Mr McCafferty said: “There is much more to be done to bring rents to affordable levels and provide suitable homes for individuals and families.”
The Minister said the rent freeze would not be in place “indefinitely” and he was working with the Attorney General to develop “alternative protections . . . to safeguard renters”.
The Irish Property Owners’ Association said it was “absolutely gutted” at the extension of the emergency legislation. Describing the move as “incredibly unfair”, spokeswoman Margaret McCormack said there was “no justification for it”.
She said while the original evictions moratorium and rent freeze had been acceptable, given the shutdown of the economy, landlords should now be allowed to “go about their business” as other sectors could.
“I actually trusted the legislation . . . I thought they would abide by it . . . Why should anybody expect landlords should be responsible for the cost of this? . . . It’s the Government that should be assisting people who have a problem.
“It is unsurprising that 4,000 landlords left the sector in the last year, with 8,000 less tenancies. When will good sense prevail?”