Some 32 per cent of calls to Threshold last year were from tenants faced with losing their homes. That is according to figures included in Threshold’s annual report for 2017, which was launched by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD. Overall, Threshold received 73,526 calls in 2017, up from 71,319 the previous year.
Commenting, Threshold chair, Aideen Hayden said: “Threshold is marking its 40th anniversary this year and since its foundation, our organisation has helped in the region of half a million people with a housing difficulty. Unfortunately, our services are needed now more than ever. Acquiring and maintaining safe, secure and affordable accommodation in the private rented sector is a huge challenge for many people in Ireland today, and not just in urban areas.
“Of particular concern to Threshold is the rise in the number of people contacting us in relation to tenancy terminations – over a third of our calls in 2017 relate to tenancy terminations, an 18% increase on the previous year. This points to the vulnerability of people in the private rented sector.”
Annual report 2017 findings
Tenancy terminations, rent reviews and rent increases were the main issues about which Threshold was contacted in 2017. Tenancy termination queries once again topped the list, followed by queries regarding rent review / increases (18%); seeking accommodation (12%); standards and repairs (7%) and deposit retention (7%).
In all, Threshold protected 4,376 tenancies last year. Threshold also represented 90 clients at Residential Tenancies Board hearings. Through its Tenancy Protection Service, Threshold saved the State in the region of €3m through its provision of services and supports for those at imminent risk of homelessness. This saving was achieved through Threshold’s work to secure enhanced rent supplement payments to 227 families and individuals using the Interim Tenancy Sustainment Protocol (ITSP) which operates in Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, with an expenditure of €2,253,464. Had these tenancies not been protected, Threshold estimates that the cost of housing these families through emergency hotel accommodation would have come in at €5,210,800.
Ms Hayden added: “Through providing advocacy, advice, Residential Tenancy Board representation and our Tenancy Protection Service, Threshold helped an average of 364 households a month to remain in their homes last year. It must be remembered that these are not just statistics, these are real people – men, women and children with lives, and hopes, and dreams – and adequate services and procedures must be in place to protect them. It is fair to say that without our vital interventions, the homeless figures would be much higher.
“The Private Rented Sector is the leading source of homelessness in Ireland, through evictions, both legal and illegal. Keeping people in their homes and protecting tenants’ rights must be a priority for the Government. We continue to call on the Government to introduce the key changes necessary to ensure tenants' rights are protected. These include the introduction of a transparent dwelling-specific rent register, which would allow tenants in Rent Pressure Zones to compare prices; effective enforcement of RPZ legislation, which is designed to cap annual rent increases at 4% in designated areas; a deposit protection scheme, which would provide a simple dispute resolution mechanism for one of the most frequently contentious areas of the landlord-tenant relationship; and a certification scheme, or an NCT for housing, which would make the private rented sector a viable, attractive and sustainable tenure option.”
Threshold chief executive, John-Mark McCafferty said: “The Tenancy Protection Service, which was extended nationwide in 2017, remains our key service. Since 2014, more than 3,000 tenancies have been protected through securing enhanced rent supplement payments. While calls increased steadily in 2017, year-on-year figures for those accessing advice on our website increased by 39%, to 208,069, which indicates a move to online platforms to access information.”
He added: “Face-to-face contact is vital for more complex cases and in 2017 we also expanded our outreach service in Dublin, launching a weekly service in Balbriggan, Co Dublin in September 2017. Some 440 clients benefitted from our outreach service in the offices of Fingal County Council in Blanchardstown, Dublin 15. In the west, we also run outreach services in Ennis, Co Clare and Castlebar, Co Mayo.
“Threshold is the only specialist information, advice and advocacy service for tenants in the private rented sector in Ireland and the services that we provide are essential to renters who are worried about losing their homes. We are also concerned about the so-called ‘hidden homeless’ – those who are bunking in with family and friends because they can’t find or afford suitable accommodation.
Launching the report, Minister Murphy said: “I am happy to launch Threshold’s annual report which highlights the excellent work they do. The private rented sector is a key element in housing provision in Ireland and it is important that tenants feel secure in their homes. Legislation is imminent which will introduce stronger protections for tenants and more powers for the Residential Tenancies Board. These include provisions to ensure that the RTB can inspect rental properties and make sure that landlords are compliant with the rental caps in Rent Pressure Zones. Regulations are also being introduced to regulate short-term letting, which will also work to ease pressure on the rental market for workers and families.
“The supply of housing and particularly affordable homes is at the centre of our housing difficulties and for 2019 I have secured a record budget of €2.4billion to increase the supply of both social and affordable housing and this too will help to bring some relief to the rental market.”