Cork Langerlords Increasing Rent Just Because They Can

The first story on a recent bulletin on a Cork radio station was about the increase in rents around the city and county. It’s nothing we haven’t heard in the last six months – there are so many stories about the cost of living now that they’ve all started to blend into each other. You’re getting flahed no matter what.

Whether it’s supermarkets or pubs, they all have excuses for their price increases. We believe them when they say it costs more to get stock delivered because we all see the prices listed outside petrol stations. We believe them when they say their electricity bills are soaring because ours are too.

How much we believe them though is up for debate. Like, you’d often wonder are they also taking advantage of the situation to jack up the prices so that as well as covering the increases in their costs they’re also lobbing on some extra profit too? We often take them at their word because the detail of their business is too complex to pick apart on a morning talk show or in a short newspaper column.

Any cynicism is well justified though. The petroleum industry in Ireland and elsewhere ramped up prices at the pumps as soon as oil soared when Russia invaded Ukraine in March. When oil prices suddenly dropped again the prices mysteriously rolled off much more slowly. Like those langers, ’Langerlords’ in Cork are rubbing their hands this month at the prospect of students desperately searching for beds around UCC and MTU.  

The language used about rising rents really gives langerlords a free pass. The way it’s presented to us is as if some mysterious force called “demand” has hacked into tenants’ bank accounts and added ten percent. We’re conditioned to this more then previous generations because of direct debits and subscriptions.

Nowadays telecom and internet companies, to whom we have given our IBANs, can jack up their monthly fee after sending us bland email notifications full of vague mumbo jumbo jargon that could be summarised as “we reckon we can squeeze and extra fiver out of you every month so we’re doing it unless you go through this really long and awkward process to stop us”.

Because of this baffling D-E-M-A-N-D virus your rent is also ‘set to increase’ - another fantastically de-personalised and regularly used phrase.

The prevalence of this seemingly unstoppable bug-in-the-system creates an image of a slightly befuddled and innocent landlord standing outside your gaf shrugging their shoulders, almost apologetically, telling you that you need to hand over an extra few hundred quid every month or you’ll sleeping under the Shakey Bridge.

Pipe up a little bit and you’ll be told that higher rents are just a basic rule of economics. Your landlord is only following the rules. Sure, EVERYONE KNOWS that once demand goes up, rents must go up too, right?   

Despite the landlord-friendly language used in the media, we should always remember that behind every single rent increase there is a human or set of humans that have decided to do it. And let’s be clear that also means that they could choose to not do it.

Nobody’s saying fair and modest increases aren’t acceptable, but the unrelenting surge in rents in Cork and elsewhere are undoubtedly because many landlords, who are our fellow citizens, our family, our neighbours and our friends, have all decided to take advantage of D-E-M-A-N-D.
They know they can squeeze even more coin out of their assets and they do it shamelessly with a list of well rehearsed tricks: for example, ‘langerlords’ pretend family are moving in so they can get the current tenants out, but the property will be back online for 20% more within days. This is hustling in its rawest form, rebranded for the Irish psyche as just a bit of innocent fun-loving cute-hoorism.

Interviews by British trade unionist Mick Lynch, whose father was from Cork city, have gone viral here and in the UK for his pushback on the rise of that country’s right-wing politicians. Not withstanding his manky comments on Ukraine and his staunch pro-Brexit views, Lynch has struck a chord with many younger people in particular who are bewildered at the power that wealthy companies and individuals, like langerlords, have to extract money from those who are less well off. 

Electricity from wind energy generated in Ireland is going to cost 600% more this winter. Not because they have to increase prices, but, simply, because they can.  

As we head into an autumn and winter full of landlords, fuel, telecom and energy companies that are already making eye-watering profits telling us they have to raise prices due to “demand” let’s at least make it a bit more difficult for them by calling the excessive increases out for what they really are: greed.