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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Feb 1967

Vol. 226 No. 8

Private Members' Business. - Rent Restrictions (Amendment) Bill, 1966—Committee Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

When we reported progress, I was about to make some further observations on this section and to say I thought the section as it stood was reasonably good—that it more or less followed the same lines as local authorities take and that I should not like to see any amendment to the section that would lessen in any way the rights of the tenant. There is nothing more disturbing for a tenant than to have his son, daughter, niece or nephew, move out and afterwards be unable to continue in occupation of the house that had become their home. I agree that the provision in this section should be fairly strict—that it should be positive the person has been genuinely living in the house. Such persons should be able to fall into the tenancy. Any small degree of uncertainty would give rise to a good deal of worry to members of a family who for many years, through grandfather to father to son, have resided in the house and formed a sentimental attachment to the house. These provisions should be continued in this Bill so that relatives will not be exploited on the death of tenants or through any other happenings.

Deputy Pattison's views are appreciated on this question. When I spoke of the problem involved here, I was not referring to the successor who has genuinely and bona fide resided there. I do not know if the Minister can do anything about this matter in this Bill. It occurred to me that the kind of problem we are anxious to solve might be stopped if there were some time test, some period of residence. I can visualise a situation where there is an elderly relative in occupation and likely to die. Somebody might move in and cash in on the tenancy in that way. I fully appreciate the situation where there is a bona fide residence and where the tenancy is of importance to the family.

With regard to Deputy M.J. O'Higgins's suggestion to have a period of residence in the house I have in mind that there are cases where a son or daughter gets married and moves out of the house and goes into bad housing conditions and they live there and wait for the opportunity to move back. I am worried about providing for that kind of case.

They would not come in at the moment because they could not be bona fide residing.

What Deputy Pattison has just said highlights the danger of bringing in a rigid rule in statute form specifying a minimum period of time. I think it is better to leave it "bona fide residing”, leave it open and let the courts decide on the merits of different cases.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In subsection (1), page 7, line 56, to delete "Act." and substitute "Act, other than any such letting in the contract for which there is, in accordance with section 114 of the Housing Act, 1966, to be implied the condition and undertaking referred to in that section."

This amendment is consequential on the enactment of the Housing Act, 1966. Section 114 of that Act provides that in any contract entered into after the commencement of that section for the letting for habitation of a house at a rent not exceeding £130 per annum there shall, notwithstanding any stipulation to the contrary, be implied a condition that the house is at the commencement of the tenancy in all respects reasonably fit for human habitation and an undertaking that the house will be so kept by the landlord during the tenancy. There will, by the acceptance of this amendment, be no overlap between the provisions of section 11 of this Bill, which also implies certain repairing covenants in weekly or monthly lettings of controlled dwellings, and the provisions of section 114.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In subsection (2), to delete ", gas and electricity" in lines 10 and 11 and to substitute "and gas" and to delete ", gas or electricity" in line 14 and to substitute "or gas".

This amendment proposes to remove from the list of repairing obligations the obligation proposed to be implied by this section to keep in repair and working order the installations for the supply of electricity.

Because in practice the repair of electricity, wiring of houses and things like that traditionally have been the obligations of the tenant. The section seeks to set out what in practice happens. In fact landlords have not got the obligation in regard to the maintenance of electricity in a house once the house has been linked up by the ESB. It has always been the practice for the tenant to extend and maintain the wiring and fusing, to put in extra points and deal directly with the ESB. The landlord does not enter into it.

I would have thought it was the same for gas.

No, strangely enough. The landlord has responsibility for the gas but not the electricity. It has just been the usual arrangement.

I am not disputing it but in my mind the gas and the electricity would run together. I would have thought if the landlord was responsible in the case of one, he was responsible in the case of the other and vice versa.

Traditionally, people have been very reluctant to interfere with gas pipes. In any case where trouble has started with gas, the usual thing has been for the tenant to leave it to the landlord or the gas company whereas in regard to electricity the norm has been that most tenants regard themselves as competent to put in fuses, extend the wiring or do whatever little job requires to be done to put the electrical apparatus right. It has been represented to me that in practice in 99 per cent of cases the tenant has made himself responsible for dealing with electricity but has always been loth to deal with gas.

I should like to ask the Minister why was an amendment not made then to section 6 on the same lines. In section 6, subsection (2) there is a reference to water, gas and electricity.

They are not really related. In section 6 the landlord must have in fact spent money.

If he did, why should he not continue to spend?

I know he very seldom spent money on the electrical installations but if he has, in fact, it is allowed to count as far as getting the 15 per cent increase in rent is concerned. What we are dealing with in section 11 is a question of implied repair covenants in a lease.

It is well worth having this section in. One of the difficulties heretofore is that if there was an agreement with regard to these, neither the landlord nor the tenant was obliged to do them.

That is right; the thing was left in mid-air.

And it could be left indefinitely.

If Deputy Pattison looks at subsection (2), we are now bringing in implied covenants that will put the onus on the landlord to do specific things set out at (a) (b), (c) and (d). The repair of electrical installations is in (c). What I am doing by the amendment is excluding electricity from those implied covenants on the basis that in fact electrical repairs have been traditionally done over the years by the tenant. In this respect it differs from the other matters set out at (a), (b), (c) and (d) where traditionally the landlord has, in fact, carried out these repairs.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 11, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

Before section 12, to insert the following new section:

"12. (1) Where an order under section 21 of the Principal Act stood in force immediately before the passing of this Act, it shall have effect as from such passing subject to the following modifications:

(a) for the amount specified therein as the basic rent of the dwelling in question there shall be substituted an amount equal to the lawful rent so specified less any amount so specified in respect of rates, and

(b) for the amount so specified in respect of lawful additions there shall be substituted an amount equal to any amount so specified in respect of rates.

(2) Where an application is made by a landlord under section 8 (1A) of the Principal Act in relation to a dwelling in the case of which an application previously made under section 20 of the Principal Act remains not determined, the latter application shall be regarded as terminated.

(3) Where, during the month referred to in section 23 (1) of the Principal Act, an application is made by the landlord under section 8 (1A) of that Act in relation to the dwelling—

(a) the order made on the application shall operate to revoke the order under section 21 of the Principal Act, and

(b) thereupon the provision as to the rent to be paid contained in section 22 (2) of the Principal Act shall not apply to the dwelling.

(4) The applications under section (8) (1A) of the Principal Act mentioned in subsections (2) and (3) of this section may be made notwithstanding subsection (3) of section 22 of this Act."

The provisions of the new section which this amendment proposes to insert before section 12 are of a traditional or consequential character and do not involve any changes of substance. Subsection (1) provides that an order provisionally determining the rent of "small premises" under the 1960 Act which is in force when this Bill becomes law is to have effect as if it showed on its face that the calculation of basic rent and lawful additions had been made in accordance with the provisions of section 7 of the 1960 Act as amended by this Bill. In other words, the provisional order will be deemed to reflect the new basic rent being introduced by this Bill—the actual rent being paid on the 8th June last—instead of the basic rent determined under the 1960 Act—normally the rent being paid on 31st December, 1960. The provisional orders which will be in force when this Bill becomes law will show the 1960 Act basic rent and various lawful additions for repairs et cetera as well as for rates.

To bring the orders into conformity with the new situation, they are being deemed to read as if they were merely a single lawful addition for rates, the balance being the 1966 Act basic rent. Subsections (2), (3) and (4) of the proposed new section are consequential on the introduction of the provisions enabling "small" landlords to have a fair rent fixed in certain circumstances and are necessary to avoid overlapping between the procedure for the determination of the rent in accordance with the procedure laid down in Part III of the 1960 Act and the new procedure for determining fair rents.

However, as small landlords will be entitled to have fair rents fixed only in respect of houses and self-contained flats and as almost all the dwellings normally dealt with under the special provisions for the relief of poor tenants in Part III of the 1960 Act relate to rooms, it is unlikely that these provisions will be necessary, except in relatively few cases.

There are really two parts, the first part dealing with provisional orders that have already been issued under the provisions for small tenants in the 1960 Act. The amendment is to ensure that when we talk of the basic rent of a tenement in this Act the basic rent set out in these orders will be in line.

The second part is designed to ensure that there is no overlapping between the new procedure we are now bringing in here for the determination of a fair rent in the case of a small landlord and that laid down in Part III of the 1960 Act.

I am not sure that the Minister has made it any clearer to me but I do not think I would make it any clearer.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

Before section 12, to insert the following new section:

(1) This section applies to a dwelling which is a house or a separate and self-contained flat, being a house or flat—

(a) which immediately before the passing of this Act was a controlled dwelling subject to a letting which was not—

(i) a letting made and expressed to be made for the temporary convenience of the landlord or of the tenant and (if made after the 22nd day of December, 1931) stating the nature of such temporary convenience, or

(ii) a letting made for or dependent on the continuance of the tenant in any office, employment or appointment, and

(b) the rateable valuation of which—

(i) in case it is situate in the county borough of Dublin or the borough of Dún Laoghaire, exceeds forty pounds (if it is a house) or thirty pounds (if it is a separate and self-contained flat);

(ii) in any other case, exceeds thirty pounds (if it is a house) and twenty pounds (if it is a separate and self-contained flat).

(2) This section also applies to a dwelling which is a house or a separate and self-contained flat, being a house or flat of which, after the passing of this Act, a person, being a bachelor or spinster and being over the age of 21 years and under the age of 65 years, has become the tenant.

(3) The Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, shall apply to all dwellings to which this section applies and for that purpose—

(i) ‘tenement' in that Act shall include all such dwellings,

(ii) section 19 (1) of that Act (as amended by section 54 of the Principal Act) shall have effect as if the following word and paragraph were added thereto:


(f) such tenement is a dwelling referred to in section 12 (1) or 12 (2) of the Rent Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1967'.

(iii) in any application of section 24 (2) (a) of that Act to any such dwelling, the reference therein to one month shall be construed as a reference to six months,

(iv) where any such dwelling, being a dwelling referred to in subsection (1) of this section, was, immediately before the passing of this Act, held under a statutory tenancy, the tenant under that tenancy shall, as from such passing, be deemed to hold the dwelling from the landlord under a tenancy having the same terms and conditions as the statutory tenancy except that the landlord may, by not less than three months' notice expiring on any gale day served on the tenant, determine the tenancy,

(v) where any such dwelling, being a dwelling referred to in subsection (2) of this section, was, immediately before the time when the person referred to in that subsection became the tenant, held under a statutory tenancy, that person shall, as from that time, be deemed to hold the dwelling from the landlord under a tenancy having the same terms and conditions as the statutory tenancy except that the landlord may, by not less than three months' notice expiring on any gale day served on the tenant, determine the tenancy,

(vi) any notice under either of the foregoing paragraphs shall, for the purposes of section 24 (2) (a) of that Act, be deemed to be a notice to quite,

(vii) in any application of section 23 of that Act to any such dwelling, that section shall have effect as if ‘whichever of the following is the greater, that is to say, such sum, for the purpose of enabling the tenant, without incurring hardship, to secure appropriate alternative accommodation, as the Court considers proper, being not less than three years' rent (including rates, whether or not payable by the tenant) or' were inserted after ‘the measure of such compensation shall be',

(viii) in any application of section 29 of that Act to any such dwelling—

(I) in case the occasion is the first occasion on which the terms of a new tenancy for the dwelling are fixed under that section and the Court is satisfied that payment of the rent which, apart from this provision, would be fixed would cause hardship to the tenant, the Court shall fix the rent payable by the tenant under the new tenancy at a sum (not below the existing rent) which it is satisfied that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the tenant should be required to pay and paragraph (c) of that section shall have effect as if ‘exceed a term of ten years' were substituted for ‘, without the consent of the tenant, be less than a term of twenty-one years and shall not in any case exceed a term of ninety-nine years',

(II) in any other case, paragraph (g) of that section shall have effect as if ‘(whether before or after the passing of this Act or of the Rent Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1967) which, at the time of the application to the Court, add to the letting value and are suitable to the character of the tenement' were substituted for ‘and in respect of which the tenant would have been entitled to compensation for improvements if (as the case may be) Part III of this Act did not apply to such tenement or such new tenancy had not been created'.

This is consequential on amendments Nos. 1 and 3, which we have agreed.

This was discussed with amendment No. 1.

The Minister will bear in mind what I said about the definition of "dwelling" in the Landlord and Tenant Bill?

I will look at that before Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 12 deleted.
Sections 13 and 14 agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 was discussed with amendment No. 9.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 10, to delete lines 45 to 49 and to substitute the following:

"Subsection (3) of section 8."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 11, to insert the following after line 2:

"The words ‘any tenant of which has availed himself of this Act or of any of the former enactments relating to the restriction of rent to obtain a reduction of the rent of the dwelling' in subparagraph (ii) of section 13 (4) (a)."

The effect of the repeal of these words from section 13 of the 1960 Act is to provide that in every case an increase in rent to which the landlord is entitled by reason of an increase in the rates for which he is responsible, may be recovered by the landlord on giving seven days' notice. Under the present law, this is the period necessary in the case of statutory tenancies, or if the rent claimed under the notice of increase of rent does not exceed the rent provided for in the tenancy agreement; or if the rent is based solely on an increase of the rates payable on a dwelling, any tenant of which has availed himself of the 1960 Act, or of any of the other Acts relating to rent restrictions. However, there are a number of other circumstances where the length of notice to be given is such as would be necessary for a notice to quit. This means that in the case of monthly, quarterly or yearly tenancies, the landlord is never quite able to recover the amount of the increases in rates because of the necessary time lag. We are now proposing that in these circumstances also the seven days' provision will apply.

I think it is reasonable to introduce the seven day rule for all rates increases and it follows that if the rates should ever be reduced, the tenant—in that unlikely event—will have the right to have the rent reduced at the end of the seven day period. In practice, it makes universal the seven day rule which already operates in the cases which I have outlined. It is in ease of the landlord, to the extent that he is able to recover the full amount due to him which, at the moment in certain cases of monthly, quarterly and yearly tenancies—because of the delay involved—he cannot recoup to the full extent. Under the seven day rule he will be able to act expeditiously and be assured of being able to recoup himself of expenditure to which he is entitled by law.

Could the Minister give us any idea, or would he have any knowledge, of how many tenants did avail themselves of the Act to get a reduction in rent?

That is only when rates go down; the Deputy knows how seldom that is.

I am asking, in respect of a reduction—if the house was substandard or not being kept in repair— has the Minister any idea of how many tenants did avail themselves of the 1960 Act?

I have not got those figures offhand. That is not relevant to this particular amendment, of course. That is the right given to the tenant under the 1960 Act to recover from the landlord, in the event of the landlord's neglect in regard to repairs. I could not say offhand to what extent that remedy has been used by the tenant. I can get that information for the Deputy.

I should like to have it.

We will try to get that information for the Deputy and convey it to him.

Where exactly is amendment No. 18 to fit in?

Page 11, after line 2. We will just insert the words which we propose to incorporate.

It is words you are proposing to delete, is it not? This is a repeal of portion of section 13 (4) of the 1960 Act. Is that not it?

Has the Deputy got the 1960 Act before him? It is to insert in this Bill a deletion from the 1960 Act.

It is purely a matter of the readability of this. It seems to me that if the Schedule were designated—(a), (b), (c), and (d), or (1), (2), (3), and (4)—something to show that there were different sections of the 1960 Act being referred to; in other words, if you would number the things in the Schedule.

Yes, to relate it back to the 1960 Act, it would be more convenient if they were enumerated. The Deputy is talking about the Schedule paragraph, as it were.

What do the words "Second Schedule" refer to here?

The heading of the Schedule is: "Portions Of The Principal Act Which Are Repealed," and then we set out the provisions being repealed. One of these is the Second Schedule of the 1960 Act. I think it would be better to enumerate them because, as they are baldly there, it is confusing.

It would look as if, coming on the thing in the Second Schedule, it refers to the Second Schedule of this amending Act; the Second Schedule here is part of the Schedule to the Bill.

And part of the repealed portions of the 1960 Act.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 1st March, 1967.