There are a bunch of problems with the Irish property market at the moment. I’d go as far as saying it's a full blown crisis, with not much hope in sight due to constrained supply until 2020.
Huge rents, crazy high valuations, and the colossal size of deposits needed are among the biggest grievances people have, but the one that always gets under my skin is the rental deposit.
We get hundreds of people writing into us asking us to write about this issue. The chances are every single person reading this post has had a bad experience with their deposit, because all the power sits with the landlords. It doesn’t matter how professionally you get your place cleaned, how many fixes you put in place, or how little you've bothered the landlord during your occupancy. The default position seems to be, “prove that we should give it back to you”.
Not happy with crazy high rents, many landlords see the deposit as a chance to make even more money. A thirteenth month in the year. Money for old rope and just another way of gaming the system.
There should be some quick fixes put in place to regulate this, because we aren’t talking small amounts of money here. A house share with three young professionals will often require at least a month's rent, which in the current market could mean a couple of thousand euros. A full three month's deposit for more plush places isn’t unheard of.
Of course with a supply so constrained people are turning up with envelopes of cash and doing whatever it takes to get to the front of the queue. “Sure we’ll get it back in a year’s time anyway”, they say as if popping it into a savings account.
And then the day comes. You’ve the money already spent in your own head. Maybe it’s part of a deposit for a new house. Maybe it’s money to spend while travelling the world. In fact, who cares what it’s for. It's your money and you spend it how you choose.
You wait a couple of days. Then a week. There are murmurs of the place being dirty. A floorboard chipped. A stain on a carpet. The lock is slipping in the back door. Whatever it is, make no mistake about it, the chances are your eagle-eyed landlord will have found it and, with the sword of Damocles hanging over you, they’ll quickly whittle down that initial deposit with the skill of somebody who has done it many times before. Because they have. Common sense, like wear and tear or the work you’ve put into cleaning the place, doesn’t come into it.
There are some protections in place, but they involve jumping through hoops, filling out forms and arguing that you kept your underwear clean at all times and lived like the pope. Many go down that route and get what's rightly theirs, but many give up quickly, can’t be bothered and move onto better things knowing they've been screwed.
Like everything the system should be simple. Pay an intermediary. Say €300 split between you and the landlord. They take pictures and inspect the place before and after. They also get to hold the deposit and repay it in full or withhold it as required.
Being realistic though, this is Ireland and that solution would need government approval. Given that they let people live on the streets in such numbers, can’t get any houses built and have let the crisis get this bad, I can’t see them solving this anytime soon.
This scam is just another gaping black hole which Irish people are forced to throw their hard-earned money into, while the rich get even richer.