Monday, July 27, 2009

Ooooh, Mr Rigsby, you are awful

From today's Evening Herald...

So, it’s a renters’ market? Try telling that to the landlords
By Susan Daly

It's a renters' market out there – but some of the landlords haven't cottoned on yet.

Not long ago, renters couldn't be choosers. The demand for accommodation was such that a queue would snake back from the door as soon as an advert for a newly vacant home hit the Herald's property pages.

I remember going to view a studio flat in Rathmines about eight years ago, when I still harboured illusions about the romance of a bed that drops out of a cupboard in the wall.

Six of us crammed in to see the wonders of a living room with a freestanding shower in one corner, while the landlord asked us unseemly questions about our backgrounds.

It got worse in the boom when housing prices – both rental and for sale – inflated beyond all reason.

There were young estate agents who had never actually had to sell a place on its virtues.

They just had to stand at the door looking bored, while people vied to show how they would be the best, quietest, most responsible residents for the gaff. It was a bit like the All- Ireland Tenant Show.

Of course, it's different now. Apparently. There are hundreds of thousands of homes lying empty across the State, and hard-up developers and overmortgaged owners desperately trying to fill them.

I don't doubt their despair.

It would be as easy to persuade people to step behind a red-hot gate marked ‘Hell' as it would to get tenants to pay dead money for some of the more isolated apartment blocks and housing developments.

These are tumbleweed estates, unreachable without a car, removed from all amenities, so soul-destroyingly identical that you'd need a ball of wool the size of a basketball to find your way out again.

Why would you want to live in a flat overlooking a roundabout off the M50 when rental prices are tumbling in more established parts of Dublin?

Many landlords and ladies understand this state of affairs. I have been hunting for a new rental this month, one closer to town.

With the state of the market, they'll be falling over themselves to have me, I thought.

Several of the places I looked at had been newly refurbished, wooden floors installed, manky bits of plywood furniture thrown out, white goods replaced.

These landlords – and they are the majority – know that competition for renters is fierce.

But, to my surprise, there are a number of Mr Rigsbys still plying their measly trade (if you're too young to get the reference, ask the nearest aul' one about the slum landlord in the sitcom Rising Damp).

Here was one apartment advertised as ‘two-bedroom': the single bedroom was actually a narrow, cold hallway out to the back yard.

Another had radiators – but not control of the heating.

“You'll have to sort it out with the tenants upstairs if you want it on,” he said nonchalantly.

I was almost waiting for him to lean in and say, “Oooo, Miss Jones, you are lovely.” (Again, kids, ask a Rigsby fan).

The worst of the places I saw are still up for rent – I've been keeping tabs out of horrified curiosity. In the recession, it's adapt or die, and these bizarre throwback landlords are losing ground. I'm not sure why they just don't learn.

Oh, I found a new place to live. We bargained them down on the rent, and they are giving it a fix-up before we move in.

There is value for money to be had – just avoid the smell of rising damp.

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