RENTERS in Cork are agreeing to illegal rent hikes in fear of losing their homes, according to a housing charity in the city.
Threshold has hit out at the lack of policing in the rental market, claiming that some landlords are hiking rents above legal limits in rent pressure zones like Cork city.
Niall Horgan, manager at Threshold Cork, said that current regulations are toothless when it comes to protecting tenants as the private rental market is largely unmonitored.
This week, the Residential Tenancies Board issued its annual report, noting a 10% increase in the volume of calls received, including a significant number of queries about rent increases.
Mr Horgan said that this situation is evident locally, despite the introduction of rent pressure zones, which cap annual increases at 4% per annum.
"We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of rent arrear issues," Mr Horgan said.
"People just can't afford the increases that are being asked to pay."
Mr Horgan said that the introduction of the rent pressure zones was a welcome development but added that they are not having their desired effect yet.
He said that those living outside the zones are being hit with significant hikes as landlords fear they will soon see the rents in their area capped.
In addition, Mr Horgan said that the lack of monitoring in the private rental sector means that some are simply not adhering to the laws.
"The reality is that the figures reported by the Residential Tenancies Board are probably much higher in reality but people are too afraid to lodge complaints in case they lose their tenancy," he said.
"People are simply afraid of revenge evictions and house sales. The penalties for those who are caught flouting the laws are severe but there is nobody policing it.
"What we are hearing from tenants is that people are afraid to challenge landlords in case they lose their homes."
Mr Horgan said the current trend in the market is 'very worrying.'
"The number of people renting in the private sector is continuing to grow and there is no protection for them," he said.
"What is the point in legislation if there is no enforcement?"