THRESHOLD has seen landlords in Cork asking tenants for non-refundable deposits of €200, saying that it will increase their chances of getting a lease.
Niall Horgan of Threshold in Cork said that the practice is motivated either by profiteering or discrimination, and that existing legislation on deposit protection would need to be amended or expanded to cover it.
Speaking after initial reports pointed to the practice happening in Dublin, Mr Horgan said Cork is seeing it too.
"It's quite a new development, and quite a worrying one," he said.
He said that landlords were either trying to discriminate against tenants who would not be able to afford such a charge or make money based on the demand for housing.
"If 50 people turn up to view a house and are all asked for €200, that's a lot of money in the hands of the landlords, where the only recourse to get it back is the courts. It's landlords praying on people who are desperate," he said.
Cork North Central TD for Solidarity Mick Barry said that his party would support legislation to make the practice illegal.
"This practice may not be illegal yet but it's certainly immoral. In effect, potential tenants are being asked to hand over sums roughly equal to week's pay just to be considered for a tenancy. The housing crisis created by government inaction is being exploited here to inflict highway robbery on people in need of accommodation," he said.
Mr Barry encouraged anyone who has been asked to pay such a deposit to contact him and he will pursue it.
Mr Horgan advised people not to cooperate with potential landlords who asked for money in this way, as it is unlikely that they would get it back if they did not secure the tenancy.