New report shows Westmeath rents increased by 10% in 2019

A new report has revealed that rents paid by tenants in Westmeath increased by a whopping 10.1% over the course of 2019. 

Athlone was designated a 'rent pressure zone' last July, meaning that landlords are legally prohibited from increasing rents by more than 4% each year, while the Mullingar area has been given this designation from today (Wednesday). 

The latest quarterly rent index from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was published today and covered the period of October-December, 2019. 

It showed that Westmeath was one of three counties - along with Offaly and Kerry - which experienced an average increase in rents of over 10% last year. 

The standardised average rent paid in the Lake County went up from €760 at the end of 2018 to €837 at the close of last year, representing an annual increase of 10.1%.

According to the report, the average rent in Athlone stood at €824.53 at the end of last year, while the average rent registered in Mullingar was €907.96. 

The average rent nationally was €1,226 per month, up by 6.4% (€74) when compared with a year earlier. Quarter-on-quarter, rents nationally decreased by 1.2% (€15) in the last three months of the year. 

The report is based on the actual rents paid on 17,269 tenancies registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)

Padraig McGoldrick, Interim Director of the RTB, said he was "encouraged" that last year saw the smallest annual rent increase nationally in six years, saying this indicated there were "signals of stabilisation" in urban areas. 

However, he said the Covid-19 crisis now presented "new challenges for both landlords and tenants" across the country. A rent freeze is currently in effect meaning that, while rent must still be paid, no rent increases can take effect. 

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said the report showed that "despite Government spin" rents were continuing to rise last year. 

"The latest figures confirm again the need for an emergency three-year rent reduction and freeze," he said. 

"This could be achieved by extending the current freeze and, in Budget 2021, providing for a refundable tax credit to put a month's rent back into every renter's pocket.

"We also need the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to meet with opposition politicians and representatives from tenants, landlords and banks to put in place a plan to deal with the rent arrears debt burden that will arise during the COVID-19 restrictions."