The Minister has modified considerably the amendment as compared with the amendment which was produced on Committee Stage and, to the extent that he has modified it, I think this is a considerable improvement.
Just so that we may get our minds on to what is involved here, it was suggested by the Committee Stage amendment, which the Minister proposed, that, where a landlord was a landlord of a plurality of properties, of more than one property, if he carried out the repairs to the prescribed minimum value within the prescribed period, he would be entitled to increase the rent on all properties and that was there, simpliciter, whether or not he had done repairs to a particular property and even, as I suggested on Committee Stage, if his arrangements with the tenants were such that he was not responsible for the repairs to some of the properties. It was pointed out that a landlord might have as many as half a dozen properties in different parts of the city and that he might spend a considerable amount on the repair of one of those properties alone and would therefore be entitled, under the Minister's amendment, to increase the rent of all properties.
The Minister made it clear that he was not thinking in terms of a landlord who owned maybe up to a dozen properties but that he was thinking in terms of the kind of estate landlord who had an interest in several hundred houses, who maintained a proper maintenance unit and who kept the property under repair, going on right through the year, from week to week and from month to month. He made it clear that, from information he had obtained, in the case of these concerns it had not been the practice to keep detailed schedules of repairs relating them to individual properties. I accepted on the Committee Stage that that was the position in relation to the estate landlord, to describe him as that for want of a better word. But I did see two dangers.
I think it was Deputy Fitzpatrick of Dublin who suggested the compromise that the Minister might reconsider the matter and introduce an amendment on Report Stage which would make it clear that this particular operation would be limited to these cases of the estate landlord who had several hundred houses. The Minister indicated that he would consider that favourably. I felt there were still two dangers, one of which was that, if an amendment were passed in that form, even though regulated as regards the number of dwellings to the higher category, there was still the danger that some tenants, who, by reason of their agreement with their landlords were themselves responsible for their own repairs, would find themselves billed with an increase in rent because other property of the landlord was repaired.
I suggested there was a second point the Minister should look at. I think he has dealt fairly with the case up to this, that is, with the first points that were made to him. The second danger I saw was that unless the Minister were prepared to modify his proposal, making it clear in some way that if it could definitely be established that repairs were not done, that not one penny of repairs were done on a particular house, the tenant in question should not become liable for an increase in rent and that, unless we did that, we should still be falling short of what was required. That is still my view.
It seems to me that, under the proposal the Minister has introduced now, a situation can arise—I am nearly certain it will arise—where the rent will be increased on some tenants to whose houses no repairs at all have been carried out. The tenant, for example, who keeps a house, the subject of the tenancy, and who himself takes a certain amount of trouble with it, who takes pride in the house and carries out small repairs that may be necessary and relieves the landlord of the burden of doing that type of small repair, will now find that his rent can go up even though the landlord has not spent a penny piece on repairs as I understand that the whole principle in this section is to relate the rent increases to repairs carried out. There is machinery in the Bill—indeed, it was in the 1960 Act as well—whereby the landlords can find the increases taken off them if the repairs are not carried out so that clearly the principle is to relate the rent increase to the repairs carried out.
It is being suggested in this amendment that that principle is all right, so far as the small man is concerned. However, in the case of the big landlord, it does not matter whether he actually repairs particular houses or not, provided he has spent the prescribed minimum within the prescribed time over the entire of the property. I know that the Minister is trying to be fair in this. I appreciate the problem of these landlords. I imagine that the legislation envisaged in this particular amendment should be purely temporary because I think they should be put on notice that in future they will be required to schedule in some way the houses on which repairs are carried out. If the Minister agrees with me that something like that could be done, that they would be put on notice, I would think that it would not cause hardship to them if the Minister were also to except from this amendment the cases of houses where it is admitted by both sides—where it is claimed by the tenant and admitted by the landlord—that no repairs were carried out. In such a case, I would suggest that the tenant should not find himself liable for the increase.
I am talking about the case where the landlord is not making any case that repairs may have been carried out to a house but, unfortunately, in the absence of a system of listings these repairs might have been forgotten. I am talking about the case where it is conceded on both sides that no repairs were carried out. In such a case, I think the principle enshrined in the Bill dealing with the repairs—in other words, that increases should be related to repairs—should prevail. I would strongly urge the Minister that in those cases the principle should be adhered to.