Here in the Rabble Bunker we almost feel sorry for the government as it flops around like a hooked fish on the end of an IMF rod.
With a kind of reverse Midas touch effect everything they touch seems to turn to shit. A fine example being their attempt at reducing the state’s burden in supporting around half of all rented accommodation through the Rent Allowance Scheme.
Between the Minister for Sneaky Taxes, Big Phil Hogan, and the Minister for Social Injustice, Joan Harangue Burton, they managed to concoct a budgetary device that not only has the usual suspects (that’s you rabble) up in arms over more cuts and misery but they’ve managed to get everyone from the landlords’ representatives to the anarchists joining forces against them.
Back in January our hopeless heroes decided that the rental market was being inflated by the subsidised rents being handed over by the unemployed and the rest of the undeserving to the top-hat wearing, racehorse-owning landlord class. After what we’ve been informed was in-depth and exhaustive consultation – for that we’re thinking a lock-in at the subsidised Dáil bar – the ministers wiped the creamy heads from their beards, reapplied their lipstick and brought forward changes to the Rent Allowance Scheme.
It breaks down like this – the tenant’s contribution to their weekly rent should increase by €6 to €30 for a single rabble and by €11 to €35 for a couple. Not a massive change there but an unwelcome further reduction to the amount acceptable as a minimum weekly income to sustain life and dignity. However the real cut and thrust of the Rent Supplement changes lies in the maximum rent allowed figures. Some massive cuts have been made to the upper limits at which rent will be paid by the scheme.
A single rabble sharing a shack can look for rental property in Dublin up to a maximum €300pm down from €390pm in one fell swoop, if you’re unfortunate enough to be sharing the bed with another, you can kiss goodbye to that luxury penthouse you spotted on Daft for €400 and trawl the Evening Herald for somewhere a little more bijou at €370.
At least thank your lucky stars you’re not a culchie (or you’ve been here long enough to take the whack of Benji off you) as the cuts elsewhere don’t make happy reading. A couple with child in Wicklow (practically South Dublin but fewer four wheel drives and girls called Fuinneog or Cabbáiste) can see a massive €225 knocked off their monthly maximum rent allowed.
But hold on! All this means that rents will come down immediately and everyone is happy in the House of Inda, non? Unfortunately for the collection of failed teachers that run our good ship Ireland into the rocks of destitution, all has not turned out as they planned during that lock-in in the Dáil.
Anecdotally, your fellow rabble will tell you horror stories of landlords refusing to take these cuts but agreeing to ‘sign’ for the lower rents and accepting cash under the table from the tenants to subsidise the difference. In fact a visit to landlords’ internet forums will find threads advising on this topic. A loophole whereby they can charge the maximum allowable rent but add ‘charges’ on top of rent gets around the checks by the CWO (Community Welfare Officer). In one case we saw a landlord adding €200pm to cover ‘grass-cutting etc.’
So what’s to stop our rabble readers from moving to cheaper accommodation if the landlords won’t accept the reduced maximum rent? Well apart from the rather dull ideas of continuity, sharing with friends, living in your community and the likes, there are other more complicated hindrances. People have signed leases which supersede these changes to the scheme – in other words tenants who have tried to negotiate with their landlords as requested by the department and have been unsuccessful face breaking their leases and at the very least losing their deposits. Not great, eh?
In fact worse than that – the policy makers are forcing renters to break the 2004 Residential Tenancies Act rules which prohibit mid-term renegotiation of leases. Landlords and tenants are advising skirting the law on the discussion forums in Daft.ie by signing these ‘side letters’ whereby the tenants accept charges above and beyond the nominal maximum lease. One tenant looking for advice, (his landlord refused to drop the rent to the new maximum but there was no other suitable accommodation in his area) is told to offer the Landlord €70 a month out of his children s’ allowance. Once again it’s the poorest who end up paying for the intransigence of a government which cares more about how the European autocrats view its policies than the effect of those policies on its citizens.
But it’s not just the tenants who are aggrieved. The rather arbitrary manner of the maximum allowable rent cuts means that there are suddenly thousands of mortgage-payers now facing arrears that could see them losing their homes. Bear in mind that not all landlords are champagne-swilling, peasant-shooting friends of Johnny Ronan. The decent ones are sticking to the new rules but find themselves suddenly facing penury, bankruptcy and all that that can entail.
There are many people out there struggling to make ends meet who have rented out their own homes while moving into rented accommodation themselves; the thousands of young workers who bought their first homes at the inflated prices of our Celtic Tiger years, money being thrown at them by banks, finding themselves unemployed now have had to hoist the bag of washing over the shoulder and head back to mammy’s hoping to rent out the dreamhouse to keep the mortgage paid while they look for work themselves.
Straightened times for everyone then? Well, we know otherwise, but the representatives of vested interests have done nothing to help the struggling tenants and homeowners with this poorly thought-out policy. Not that they seem to care.