Why we shouldn’t feel sorry for the small landlord

By Robert Cosgrave 

Nearly a decade on the housing crisis continues with no end in sight under the policies of successive Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil governments. In fact the government is intent on creating an even worse crisis with its lifting of the eviction ban on 1 April. Even during the lifetime of the ban thousands were served with notices of eviction – in the last three months of 2022 alone 4,329 notices were served according to the RTB, a 350% increase on the same period in 2021. A tsunami of evictions is already underway and the government is going out of its way to throw people in its way. 

At the same time the political and media establishment want you to know who are the ones really suffering at the minute: the poor and downtrodden ‘small landlords’. We are told, and then told again and again for good measure, that the small landlord is being forced out of the market by ‘excessive tax and regulation’, ‘terrible tenants’ and, worst of all, the eviction ban. The only solution then is to make it open season for tenants, let landlords charge what they want, evict when they want – as though this doesn’t already happen – and more tax breaks than you can shake a stick at. 

Gambling on the market 

There’s the good reason and then there’s the real reason. These landlords are like any other capitalist – albeit less successful ones than the big corporate landlords. And like any capitalist, their interest is in getting the maximum profit on their investment. If they are selling up now it’s because they think this is their best shot at a big payout, the slight slowdown of house prices has clearly got them spooked. 

The policy of successive governments has been to treat housing a commodity and this housing disaster is where it has led us. It is a policy which creates these bubbles and all sorts of people coming in looking to make quick and easy money. 

Just look at the numbers, average rent in the last quarter of 2022 was €1,733 per month, and €2,300 in Dublin! The reliance on the private market for housing provision, which means private profit from social need, has been an absolute disaster for working-class renters, but for landlords – including small landlords – it has been very profitable indeed.

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