Latest Laois News: Half of renters in Laois and nationwide feel insecure in accommodation
Feelings of tenure insecurity recorded at highest level in recent survey
Security of tenure remains the largest concern for tenants as nearly half of renters feel insecure in their accommodation, according to the latest report from the national housing charity Threshold. The charity’s annual We Are Generation Rent Survey, which gives a voice to the experiences of Threshold users, will be launched this morning Wednesday, June 21st by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Darragh O’Brien.
The survey, which was conducted in 2022, provides further concerning insight from renters, painting a picture of an unaffordable and insecure private rental market. Of 119 respondents to the survey, 59% are renting as they are unable to afford their own home, while 12% are renting as they are unable to access social housing. Just 17% of people are renting by choice.
Feelings of insecurity in tenure were recorded at their highest level in the annual survey, with nearly half (48%) of respondents stating that they feel insecure in their accommodation. This is a steady year-on-year increase compared to findings in 2022, where 44% of participants felt insecure. A significant drop in those who felt secure in their accommodation was noted in this year’s survey, with just 18% reporting security compared to 38% last year.
The cost of renting was found to be a considerable concern among respondents. Using a 30% income to rent affordability measure, just 27% of respondents were found to have affordable rent. Half of renters were found to be paying more than 30% of their income on rent. Almost one fifth of those surveyed were found to be spending over half of their income on their rent.
The majority of those surveyed do not wish to be in the private rental sector, with 61% aspiring to own their own home in the next five years. However, just 39% expect this to become reality. Only 9% of those surveyed wish to remain in the private rental sector in the next five years, but despite it not being the preferred tenure of most, nearly a third of renters (31%) expect that they will still be renting in five years’ time. This expectation is a reality for many, as half of respondents have been living in the private rental sector for more than ten years.
Threshold Chief Executive Officer, John-Mark McCafferty commented on the survey, stating:
“The strong deterioration in feelings of security among renters over the last number of years is unsurprising as we are continuing to see an exodus of small landlords from the private rental sector, leaving high volatility in the market.
“We welcome the Government’s recent initiatives to maintain renters in their homes via the Tenant -in-Situ scheme and the increased delivery of social, affordable and cost-rental housing. However the issue at large remains the sale of properties by small landlords. It is imperative that those wishing to sell see a benefit in selling to Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies and that any incentives provided to retain small landlords in the market improve security for renters.
“This year we examined the level of affordability in the current market using a 30% income to rent measure. The findings fuelled a stark narrative for renters across Ireland, as over half of respondents are paying more than 30% of their income on their rent. This is across all family types, income ranges and ages, however those reliant on social welfare, pension payments and those in part-time employment felt this challenge of affordability more acutely. This crisis in the rental sector is leaving no area of society untouched.”
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, who will be launching the report, stated:
“The findings in Threshold’s 2023 We Are Generation Rent Survey provide a much-needed insight into the sentiment from tenants with regard to the private rental sector. The Government has put in place a number of initiatives to alleviate pressures in the private rental market, such as the Tenant-in-Situ scheme, which will allow for landlords to sell their property to Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies, meaning a tenant can remain in their home and adding to our social housing stock. We know from every independent survey of renters that the majority want to own their own home – this report is further emphasis of that. We know that we must develop more housing, of all kinds, and significantly scale up the delivery of affordable purchase homes and affordable cost rental homes. This is beginning to happen and Government will do all it can to speed up this delivery. Cost-rental, in particular, will provide a level of security at affordable prices not seen in the market up until recently. It provides the solution to many of the challenges highlighted in this report.”
The cost of renting
Nearly half (45%) of those surveyed stated their rent had increased in the previous 12 months. Among those living in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs), almost one in four reported that they had received a rent increase above the permitted 2% cap. There were 18 respondents in total who received rent increases of between 5% and 40%.
Experience of Generation Rent
Sarah Brett, a participant in Threshold’s We Are Generation Rent Survey faced extreme challenges with her property management company when her 2-bedroom apartment faced persistent mould problems. Sarah was blamed for the issue and was told that it would take time to replace the heating, leaving her with the prospect of a cold, damp winter.
Sarah contacted Threshold and shortly after, a heater was installed. When she chose to leave her home, her property management company retained her €500 deposit. With support from her Threshold advisor, Sarah’s retained deposit decreased to €80, instead of the original €500. Sarah has since moved back in with family to save for a home following this experience.
Key Policy Recommendations
To address the key issues which are making the private rental sector an undesirable place to live, Threshold has set out a number of key policy recommendations. These include strict enforcement of rent regulations to improve affordability, the development of an NCT-style system of certification to safeguard against sub-standard housing, and the introduction of a right to housing in the Constitution – a critical policy measure that Threshold has advocated for previously.
Threshold has also recommended the introduction of a sliding tax scale system on rental income generated from properties subject to long-term lease agreements for ten years or more, which will guarantee greater security of tenure and incentivise the retention of small landlords in the market.
John-Mark McCafferty spoke to the responses from tenants, stating: “When asked how the private rental sector could be improved, the clear message was greater affordability, security and better standards. A number of the comments from respondents highlight a lack of control and a sense of tenants feeling powerless in their relationships with their landlords. This undermines a renter’s ability to live in a place that they can call home; instead, it just feels like accommodation.
“It is extremely disappointing to hear of tenants facing unlawful rent increases in RPZ’s, with almost one in four respondents in RPZ’s reporting to have received a rent increase above the permitted 2% cap. Many tenants are already struggling financially to afford their basic needs while paying their rent, so to hear of this level of rent increases in RPZ’s that are not permitted is deeply unsettling. It is absolutely crucial that rent increases in RPZ’s are monitored, and we strongly encourage any household who has received a rent increase to contact Threshold to seek information and guidance on what is permitted.”
Threshold’s helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am- 9pm at 1800 454 454, with webchat at www.threshold.ie/advice/help for any renter in need of advice or support.