ITEM 1: RENTAL RIGHTS
Does Ireland's Generation Rent have fewer rights than its European counterparts? With one in five households now in the private rented sector in Ireland - compared with one in 10 in 2006, The Consumer Show takes a look at Irish tenancy rights and compares it with the rental experience across Europe.
Here in Ireland, queues outside rental properties for viewings are now common, and it's because there are simply not enough properties to meet demand. Right now it's a landlords market, and many tenants feel hard done by - but should they?
We hear from Irish renters on the continent who talk about their experience renting abroad compared to the situation at home. We ask what are the major issues facing the Irish rental market and what that means for consumers.
Under four different areas - Rents, Deposits, Rent Review & Termination, The Consumer Show compares Ireland's tenancy rights with those of some Irish renters we spoke with who are living in Denmark, France and Germany.
For instance, with rental deposits in Ireland, you pay one month's deposit to your landlord. In Denmark, it's normally 3 months rent, while in France it's two months for a furnished apartment. In Germany it's also 3 months, but that is put in a special savings account and any interest accrued on that is the property of the tenant.
"I pay ¤600 rent per month - that includes everything, heating electrictyinternet, phone, and water. I think my rent is reasonable and allows me to save - which is very different from the stories I'm hearing from my friends, in Dublin especially," says Kate Ferguson, who lives in Berlin, Germany.
Irish couple, David Connolly and Anna Marie Tighe, have been living in Copenhagen for 3 years and feel very secure in their apartment and how protected they are by tenancy laws in Denmark.
"There's a maximum limit on how much each landlord can increase the price by from one year to the next, and this is usually specified in your contract when you move in," explains David. "This is very nice for us especially here renting in the long-tem as we know over the next 3, 4, 5 years how much we are going to pay in rent and that makes it very comfortable to stay in a rented accommodation for the long-term."
Here in Ireland, your landlord can only increase your rent once a year and must give 28 days notice and it can't exceed the 'market rate', i.e., what others are paying for similar properties in your area. In France, there is also a legal maximum and this is calculated using a local rent index. In Germany meanwhile, a rental cap has been recently introduced in some areas particularly in the bigger cities, to try and control rents.
When it comes to terminations, France has particularly strong tenancy rights.
"There are so many protections as a renter in Paris, for example during the winter from November - March it is illegal to evict anyone," Roisin-Ana Ní Chartaigh points out.
Here in Ireland, one third of private rental tenants don't know their rights, and may also be unaware of the protections they have. The Consumer Show spoke with Anne-Marie Caulfied, Director of the Private Residents Tenancy Board (PRTB), the Governent Agency which helps to to resolve rental disputes, for a fee of ¤25.
"In the event that you cannot reach a resolution with your landlord, you can apply for a mediation or an adjudication. If you want to go for mediation, we will provide you if you wish with a telephone mediation and you can take that call after work at your convenience and the mediator will mediate for you between you and your landlord. In the instance that you want a more formal hearing you come in [to the PRTB offices] for an adjudication," she explains. For tenants that have moved on from their property but felt their landlord treated them unfairly, they can take a case to the PRTB. For example if you were illegally evicted, or your deposit was unfairly held, you could be entitled to considerable compensation, Anne-Marie points out. However, the biggest problem now is that there aren't enough properties out there to meet demand and so The Consumer Show asks what needs to happen now to help Generation Rent?
ITEM 2: I WANT THIS DEAL
This week Ella McSweeney meets a number of unhappy customers of the daily deal website IWantThisDeal, that offers discounted products and services.
Some of the customers, who paid up front, didn't receive the gifts in time for Christmas, as guaranteed on the website and others felt the adverts were misleading and are disappointed in the quality of their purchases.
All of these complainants are dissatisfied with the level of customer service provided by IWantThisDeal, as emails and Facebook messages went unanswered.
Ella meets Catriona Reilly from Co. Meath who purchased a Frozen style dress in November as a Christmas present. The website gave a delivery date of 10th December. The only correspondence Ms Reilly received from IWTD before Christmas confirmed that the dress would arrive on time. But when the dress didn't arrive by Christmas Eve Ms Reilly was forced to buy a replacement.
I Want This Deal have told us they had a "difficulty" with one particular delivery company that led to "regrettable delays for some customers" at this time. They say they have reviewed their delivery arrangements as a result , have offered Ms. Reilly an unreserved apology and credited her account with ¤10 compensation.
Christopher Hennessey explains to Ella that he feels let down by IWantThisDeal that guaranteed the projector he ordered would be delivered by Christmas, but it didn't arrive until January. The emails Mr. Hennessey sent were not answered until after Christmas.
I Want This Deal have confirmed that the supplier of the projector "failed to honour his delivery terms" and as a gesture of good will, they have credited Mr. Hennessey's account with ¤10. The company states that all complaints are investigated but "on occasion it can take time to get replies to our queries to Merhcant Suppliers or outsourced contract delivery operators.".
Shelly Wallace ordered a number of products from IWantThisDeal. The two make up brush sets she ordered were not delivered. The three Smartpad tablets that she ordered were advertised as 'ideal for streaming' but the customer has found the browser speed to be unsuitable for even the basic online tasks. The Children's Ypad bundle "ideal learning toy for toddlers" was advertised as having an original price of ¤63. When Ms Wallace received the product she was very disappointed to see it was made of plastic and had stickers instead of a screen.
I Want This Deal have told us they are carrying out a full investigation into the non-arrival of Ms. Wallace's make up brush sets. They confirm that the smart pad tablets are designed for streaming and they have had "overwhelmingly positive" feedback. They believe the slow speed experienced by Ms Wallace could be down to her Internet connection although she has told The Consumer Show that she has not experienced any problems with her Internet speed before...
I Want This Deal acknowledge that they have had "some negative feedback" in relation to the Children's Y-Bundle and will no longer stock this product. They apologise to Ms. Wallace for her bad experience with this product.
Catriona Reilly and Shelley Wallace ordered a Handheld Retro Game Console that was advertised as having the original price of ¤88. The complainants believe that this original price is misleading as the product does not meet the standard they expected from a ¤88 game console and doesn't have all the games as advertised on the website.
I Want This Deal explained that this product was extremely popular and that they are happy to examine the devices for faults I Want This Deal does not accept that any advertisement on their website could be seen to be misleading and point out that they examine and test every offer they have on their website.
I Want this Deal told us that the customers were free to avail of their 14 day return policy but they did not do so in these cases.
Grace Duffy from the European Consumer Centre explains what are consumers rights when buying online and what to look out for when ordering from a deals website.