I’m out of a job for a week, making no income, with an uncertain future. Unrelated to this, my landlord, seeing that the year long lease period is over, says he wants to increase my rent 25%. I live with his vulnerable 25 year old son who’s been hospitalised twice in 12 months, and was diagnosed, after a decade and half of problems, with Aspergers and major depression. So it’s an extra €80 a month. The landlord’s son, with characteristic honesty says he has been told to tell me this is to cover the new water charges (€10/ month), and the garbage collection the landlord does (worth €7-10 month) . He was also told to tell me that the house is large for the price (it’s a bit below average), and that the market rate is higher than €400 for a property of this type. The father doesn’t care who lives with the son. Given how inflated rents are in Dublin, and that prices increased 11% on house rentals in 2013, someone would take it for €400. The market is in another fucking bubble. The son explicitly said that the father wants more money out of me. But at €400, plus whatever other living costs, which could be another €200 this winter, makes this place a lot less of a bargain when my monthly income might be be €650 at most, €400 at mid, and €0 at least.
Then there’s the other shit.
Last year, I knew the rent of €320 was low. I was told about it through my friend. My friend was in a mental health ward with the son, who’s now my housemate. I thought the low rent took into account the fact that the place was in bad condition, and the son was frequently incapable of taking care of himself, or the house. The son’s body odour was extremely offensive, and was further soured by his inability to clean his room, do laundry or help around the house. It would also be cash in hand, as these were country folk who follow their own rules, unless it suits them – no paying tax on income for them! They would drive 80km, take our rubbish, drive 80km home and burn it, rather than share the cost of bin charges for it. The father, who is a builder, asked me why I even wanted a contract for the lease, let alone to fulfill statutory requirements to be registered with a landlord-tenant dispute agency. He seemed to fear the written word, and blanched or boiled at any hint of book learning. The mother had more sense, and printed out a contract for me to sign, and gave the son a rent book to log the rent received.
The son had a habit of leaving bags of rubbish and laundry in the entrance hall to the house, saying his dad “would be around this week”. He also dumped bags of rubbish in the alleyway, unknown to me. This lead to a letter from someone calling herself “Watchful Eyes Mary”, saying she knows who we are, that we had been reported to Dublin City Council, and we should be ashamed for being “litter louts”.
The father had a habit of turning up unannounced to keep an eye on the son, which I can understand. But the father walked in on me half naked a few times, and as I never had notice of when they were showing up, the place was never cleaned or tidied sufficiently. He tracked mud into the house, and split his son’s cartons of rotten milk on the floor. This lead to a note saying “
rince [UG] and [son’s name misspelled] rince out milk cartons”. The interactions between the son and his parents were extremely poisonous. The son related a story where the father fired a shotgun over the heads of people walking on the land, and how the father stole from his employers. The son advised me not to engage at all with the father in navigating this potential rent increase. Good advice.
The mother, in any interaction I had with her, was fair, sympathetic and even-handed. I’ve asked the son, who might make a balls of it, to say to her I lost my job last week, and I don’t have another €80 a month at the moment. At least until things settle down, I’ve asked them to hold back on a rent increase. If the rent will be increased, I want it to be as little as possible. So I’ve called their bluff, if it is a bluff. I worry that if the rent goes up based on bubble prices, it won’t stop there, and they will try nickle-and-dime me for whatever else they can get. They likely have a friend or family member who is looking for place in the capital to replace me if I bail on the house.
My decision all depends on if my parents are going to charge me €200/ month to live at home. I really don’t want to move home, as I know it will open me up to the threats or violence I got back in 2012. But like everything in Ireland, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I only have to hold out until March, when the woman finishes her job up North. More and more it feels like leaving Dublin is a good option, or emigrating to somewhere that isn’t as tough for young people. Joyce wrote in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that Ireland was a sow that ate its young, and there was no future for young people who didn’t believe there. His formula for rising above the misery of Ireland was through silence, exile and cunning. I’ve always taken that to heart.
But it looks like I have to contend with losing my job, chronic illness and now housing insecurity in any case. I was homeless last year for two months, sleeping on the floors and couches of friends, which sucked. I do have enough cash to cover 4-5 months of expenses, but that would wipe my life savings, which I want to avoid, so I can get out of the country when I need to.
At least this misery is feeding the NanoWriMo novel.