Unlike most European countries, there isn’t a strong rental market in Ireland, where families have traditionally preferred to buy rather than rent. There’s a chronic shortage of rental properties in some areas, particularly in Dublin, and rental properties with three or more bedrooms located in good areas are in short supply.
Some accommodation agencies charge a registration fee, while others take a percentage of the rental fee from the landlord so that their service is effectively free (although you may find yourself paying a higher rent as a result).
In general you should try to obtain a reference before signing up with an agency and, particularly if you’re being asked to pay a registration fee, find out how likely the agency is to find you suitable accommodation, i.e. what sort of accommodation it has to offer and how frequently its lists are updated. You should also ask whether the agency is licensed (estate agents are required by law to be licensed and bonded, but the legal position regarding accommodation agencies is less clear), what services are provided in return for the fee, and whether you’re entitled to a refund if the agency fails to find you accommodation within a reasonable period. Also ensure that you receive a receipt for any money paid.
Rental prices have been adversely affected by the spiralling property market, and the availability of rental accommodation severely reduced by recent changes in taxation laws. The abolition of mortgage interest relief on residential investment property, which came into effect in April 1998, and the introduction of an anti-speculative property tax in June 2000, combined with increased demand for rented accommodation resulting from growth in employment opportunities, have created a shortage of rental property, in turn causing prices to rise even more steeply.
In 1999, average rental prices increased by 13 per cent nationally and 15 per cent in Dublin, where queues of prospective renters are commonplace. To make matter worse, the unpleasant ‘English’ practice of gazumping, whereby unscrupulous landlords renege on agreements in order to pocket ‘a few’ extra pounds per month, has also spread to the rental market.
With the Irish economy flourishing and both employment and university enrolment at record levels (note that September and October are especially busy times for renting in university towns), demand for rented accommodation is expected to continue to be high in 2001, although there are signs that investors are being attracted back into the rental market by the prospect of low interest rates and continually increasing property prices.
Most rental properties, whether long or short-term, are let furnished and long-term unfurnished properties are particularly difficult to find. Standards of rented accommodation in Ireland are generally good. The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993 specify certain minimum requirements regarding structural condition, the provision of sinks, toilets, baths/showers, cooking and food storage facilities, the safety of electrical and gas installations, the adequacy of heating, lighting and ventilation, and the maintenance of communal areas, so you shouldn’t be offered anything less than habitable.