A report on RTE news yesterday told us that house prices have increased by 13 per cent in rural Ireland. There are a number of reason for this spiral and one is that people working from home will continue to be the new norm. These workers do not have to live near their work anymore and they are moving from city to the more tranquil country life.

Another reason is the fact that there is a shortage of houses available on the market. The old adage of ‘supply and demand’ has come into play. I don’t know if the pattern is similar in the US, but I do know that house prices there are at a thirty year high.

Some will tell you that it is more difficult now than ever before for first time buyers to get on the property ladder. I’m not so sure about this: It was never easy. Back in the day we had to have 20 per cent of the required mortgage on deposit for a year with the building society. Buying a house was never easy for most people in any generation.

So what about renting? There is a strong case to be made for renting rather than buying. We Irish like to own our own house, and we have one of the highest level of home ownership in the world, but if this proves to be a difficult or stressful target, a leaf should be taken from the American or German manual and just continue renting?

I know, the satisfaction of owning your own house is immense – but you can still have the same benefits from a house, whether you rent or buy.

I have told you this story before but it is worth repeating: A farmer who lived near me left his farm to his trusted farm-hand ‘for his day’. The will stated that the farm was to pass on to family members after the workman’s death. A neighbour met the grateful workman on the road one day and remarked that it was a pity his former boss had only left him the farm ‘for his day.’ The simple workman’s reply is worth remembering. ‘But he too only had it for his day!’

In poor times the local authorities built cottages for those entitled to low rent accommodation. The government of today needs to push on with similar projects right now. Also, private landlords should be aided instead of frustrated when they attempt to provide rental accommodation by way of ‘buy to rent’s.

Landlords are constantly getting bad press, but most that I know are decent, fair people. There are bad landlords – same as there are bad tenants. Your average landlord is not the owner of huge blocks of apartments. He or she is generally somebody who has worked and saved to own a second house or two as an investment.

People who invest in houses to rent become a significant asset in alleviating the housing shortage. They should be encouraged and aided by grants or tax-breaks, but in actual fact, the opposite is the case. If landlords are taxed out of the sector, more tenants will be left ‘without a roof over their head.’


Tenant and landlord should be an equal partnership, and with mutual respect with both sets of rights protected. The renter deserves a long-term agreement and security of tenure. This works well in other countries. The landlord must receive his rent on time and without having to go looking for it.

‘A roof over your head’ should be a basic human right, but it should not be landlords alone who carry the burden of providing citizens with a roof over their head. That is the responsibility of the State.  But if the thing was done correctly, private landlords, sinking their savings into bricks and mortar, can form an amicable business partnership with a renter looking for a home.

It is a bad sign that so many landlords are getting out of the business in recent years. Unfortunately, a minority of tenants stop paying rent and ‘dig in’ for as long as the protracted legal proceedings take to get them out. The landlord gets soured by the experience, gets out of the business, and misses out on the good tenant looking for a home. In order to increase the supply of rentals, the owner must have a sustainable return

There is an urgency about tackling both the homeless situation and the housing crisis. A housing scheme of temporary rows of cheap accommodation surely cannot be that difficult to achieve by local authorities? Give those who are entitled to it the opportunity of say a year in a ‘starter home?’ ‘Direct Provision’ is a disaster. Families should neither be split up nor herded into a hotel room.

We all know that there are good tenants out there: But it needs to be said that not all landlords are louts!

Don’t Forget

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.

Bernie Comaskey Books