THE unpredictability faced by people in private rented accommodation has been illustrated by the case of an Ennis couple who were told the rent for their apartment would be increasing by an incredible 50%.
Pensioners Hilari Hinnant and Greg Miller rent a one-bedroom apartment at Parnell Street and on July 11 they received a letter from a representative of their landlord, informing them the rent would be going up from €400 to €600 a month.
In certain parts of the country, designated rent pressure zones, prices may only rise by a maximum of 4% per annum, but no part of Clare is included, meaning tenants here can see prices rise by any amount.
The letter to the couple informing them of the rent increase stated “the new rent is not greater than the market rent, having regard to the other terms of the tenancy, and letting values of dwellings of a similar size, type and character to the dwelling that is the subject of this tenancy, and situated in a comparable area to that in which the dwelling the subject of your tenancy is based.”
The letter provided details of four other dwellings which were said to have rents of €600 or greater, which were said to be comparable to the property at Parnell Street. Central Statistics Office figures for one bed apartments in Ennis during the second quarter of 2018 showed the average price was €470.12.
Ms Hinnant and Mr Miller both have Irish citizenship, but divide their time between Pennsylvania and Ennis. Speaking to The Clare Champion, Ms Hinnant said, “We typically spend six to seven months over here. We’ve always liked Ennis and we thought that eventually we might buy something but we wanted to wait and rent for a while until we even thought about doing that. When we got our rent review letter we were in denial, we couldn’t believe that someone would go from €400 a month to €600.”They subsequently appealed the increase to the Residential Tenancy Board and are currently awaiting a decision. Mr Miller said they had not been inflexible, and were willing to pay a higher rent, but not a full 50% more. “We told him and the adjudicator that we were willing to pay €500, to come half way. He said no, bottom line €550. That’s still €150 more than what we are paying, a 37.5% increase instead of 50% increase. We would be happy with a 25% increase.”
They say that their case proves the need for greater regulation of the rental sector and that what has happened would not be allowed in other EU countries.
With a property in the US, the couple are not at any risk of homelessness, but Mr Miller said they have fought the price increase and sought to publicise the matter to highlight the plight faced by many renters who may be more vulnerable. “We did it for the people who can’t do it and who are afraid of doing it. Luckily we have a safety valve. Had we sold our property in the United States we would have nowhere to go right now. Some people just don’t have a safety valve, they have nowhere to go.”
Ms Hinnant also said they are speaking publicly about the matter for the benefit of those who are less fortunate than themselves. “We’re older, we are not afraid, we will speak up up for those who can’t because they’ll lose their house and be on the street.”
The letting agent retained by the landlord claimed that the amount sought is not excessive. “The current market value of a one bedroomed apartment in Ennis is in the region of €600 and hence this was the rent that was initially asked for.
“The landlord did offer to lower the rent increase substantially and also made the offer for them to remain in the property, at their current rent, until they found suitable alternative accommodation for their stay in Ireland.”
The agent also wished the couple the best of luck in their search for new accommodation.