Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Bill, 1979 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

This Bill represents the third and final instalment of three measures——

Surely it should be a matter of grave concern to the Chair and every member of the House that it would appear that the Taoiseach and Government are arbitrarily suspending the Constitution of this country?

The Deputy is well aware that the Chair is only concerned with Standing Orders and order in this House. It is not in order to raise this matter in this fashion now.

The Deputy is trying to ride two horses. He was a junior member of a Government that acted in exactly the same fashion.

Could we have details of the fashion?

Would the Taoiseach consider clarifying it to the extent that the word "agreement" appears to have been used in statements issued after the London talks and is it the case that this, in fact, was a misuse of the word which has a technical and precise meaning in the Constitution and that what were reached were understandings? The Taoiseach should clarify if that is the case for the benefit of the House.

I invite the Deputy to examine Article 29 of the Constitution in its full context. I am not going to interpret the law. He has a former Attorney General sitting on his right.

I have the Constitution here and the Article is quite explicit——

We are not going to have a debate on this. The Minister to continue.

The Constitution is being ignored or suspended by the Government and this House——

The Chair is only concerned with order in the House and the logistics of the running of the business of the House. In that context I must ask the Minister to continue.

On the Order of Business I am entitled to ask the Taoiseach when he proposes to lay before the House——

Shall I continue with the Bill?

The Deputy is entitled to question, on the Order of Business, what is on it and what might be on it.

That is what I am doing. I am asking what might be on it and when will it be on it. My request is reinforced by the Constitution.

The Deputy has that already in the Taoiseach's answer.


Would the Taoiseach clarify the point I have raised as to whether the use of the word "agreement" in reference to this has misled the House and the country as to the nature of what happened?

It seems to have misled nobody else but Deputy Cluskey.

Many people are confused constitutionally——

There is a growing weight of opinion that the sensitivity is more party political than it is security.

I am calling on the Minister to continue.

This Bill represents the third and final instalment of three measures to give effect to the Government's current proposals in the area of landlord and tenant law. The other two measures are of course the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1978, and the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act, 1978.

Is that the Bill that abolished ground rents?

If the Deputy waits and sees I will let him in on the secret as we go along.

It is not usual for a Minister to be interrupted.

What about the fishery——

The Minister should not be interrupted.

Did the Deputy get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning? He seems to be unusually carnaptious. Taken together, they will provide us with a complete revision of the post-1922 landlord and tenant code and with the consolidation of that code to a very useful degree.

Assuming that the Bill now before the House becomes law, the code will consist of three Ground Rents Acts, one of 1967 and the two of 1978 that I have just mentioned, the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1971, which deals mainly with sporting leases, and the present measure, and will collectively be cited as the Landlord and Tenant Acts, 1967 to 1979.

Deputies may fairly ask why a single consolidating measure is not before the House that would not only cover the changes that are proposed in this Bill but that would also present the modern landlord and tenant code in a single enactment. The reason is twofold. First, a degree of urgency attaches to one particular proposal in the Bill, with which I will be dealing in a few minutes, and this rules out the delay that a consolidating Bill would have involved, if only because of sheer size. The Bill that is now before the House is already substantial enough. In the second place, the Landlord and Tenant Commission are still sitting.

The changes in the law that the Bill proposes arise almost entirely from recommendations that have been made by the Commission and they may have further recommendations for changes in landlord and tenant law in the not too distant future. This raises the possibility that further legislation may be necessary to bring to a conclusion the work of the commission in this area of the law. In fact the commission, at the particular request of the Minister for Justice, recently examined certain specific matters that come within the scope of this Bill and I may have certain amendments to propose on the Committee Stage of the Bill, arising out of the findings of the commission in relation to those matters. Furthermore, the commission are currently concerned with a review of the pre-1922 statute law: in the main this is contained in the Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment Act, Ireland, 1860, known as Deasy's Act. If the commission go on to recommend changes in Deasy's Act, the question of still further legislation would arise. All in all, it is clear that we are not yet at the stage where the work of consolidating all the statute law of landlord and tenant can be tackled, and any consolidating Bill that might now be proposed would still be an interim measure.

Nevertheless, what we have before us goes a considerable distance as a consolidation measure. Because the subject matter is necessarily of some complexity, I will deal in a general way only with the proposals in the Bill and with its background. Its purpose is to up-date the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931 and the Landlord and Tenant (Reversionary Leases) Act, 1958 on the basis of changes that have been recommended by the Landlord and Tenant Commission. Purely as a matter of consolidation, certain provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts and of the 1963 Planning Act are also involved.

The subject matter of the Bill extends to two main areas. One area concerns the terms and conditions attaching to the renewal of occupational tenancies and to the award to a departing occupational tenant of compensation for improvements he may have made—this is the area covered by the Act of 1931. The other area concerns the renewal of ground rent leases—this is the area covered by the Act of 1958.

The Bill, of course, originated in the Seanad and has been passed by that House with two amendments, both of which were of a drafting nature. I should acknowledge here the painstaking examination that the Bill received in the course of its passage through the House. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and the dedication of the Senators who helped in giving that phase of the Bill its present legal purity. I refer particularly to Senators Alexis FitzGerald, Molony and Cooney, with assistance, from time to time, from other Senators. I should also like to acknowledge the work of the Landlord and Tenant Commission whose recommendations give rise to the main changes in the law that are proposed in the Bill.

The background to the Bill is the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1931. The code of law we are concerned with could perhaps be said to have begun, not with the Act of 1931, but with the Town Tenants Act of 1906, which marked the first occasion on which legislative recognition was given to the claims of tenants of premises to have a measure of statutory protection. However, the Act of 1906 was rather limited in its effects and the Act of 1931, which replaced it, was the real beginning of the modern landlord and tenant code. That Act marked a watershed in the regulation of the relations between landlords and tenants. It effectually recognised that the landlord and tenant relationship is one in which both parties have rights beyond the rights that are recognised in the contract of tenancy and that the tenant's rights should not be taken simply to disappear on the expiration of his tenancy. The Act conferred on tenants the right to a renewal of their tenancies. In the context of landlord and tenant legislation such a renewal tenancy is referred to as a "new tenancy" where an occupational tenancy is concerned. Where the renewal is the renewal of a ground rent lease the renewed lease is referred to as a "reversionary lease".

Before the passing of the 1931 Act, an urban tenant had no legal right to remain on in his property after his lease had expired and the landlord was entitled to recover possession even where the tenant had constructed the buildings himself, that is to say, even where a ground rent lease was involved. The 1931 Act gave rights to tenants both in the case of ground rent tenancies, where the tenant himself had constructed or paid for the buildings, and in the case of occupational tenancies, where he had not. The rights given to ground rent leases under the 1931 Act were later extended by the Landlord and Tenant (Reversionary Leases) Act, 1958.

Since some of the expressions which fall to be used in the course of this discussion, such as those I have just touched on, may be less than self-explanatory, perhaps a few further words of explanation may be useful. An "occupational tenancy", which may arise by way of a lease or any other form of agreement, is one where the landlord owns the "bricks and mortar" interest, for example, a tenancy of a business premises or of a shop. In such a case the landlord may or may not also own the ground on which the buildings stand. The tenant has not a claim to the ownership either of the buildings or of the ground and his interest is related primarily to his occupation of the premises. The rent charged in such cases is, of course, higher than a ground rent and is commonly called an "occupational rent".

The other kinds of tenancies with which this Bill is concerned could be grouped together under the general description of "ground rent tenancies". The rent charged—a "ground rent"—is lower than an occupational rent and reflects the fact that the "bricks and mortar" interest in these cases belongs to the tenant, by virtue of his having either erected the buildings or of having paid for them. The 1931 and 1958 Acts identified ground rent leases under the categories of "building lease" and "proprietary lease". A "building lease" in its simplest form is a lease under which the landlord leases the tenant a plot of land with a covenant in the lease that the tenant will build a house on the land. There may, of course, be a number of variations of such an arrangement. A "proprietary lease" is a sub-lease under a building lease under which the sub-lessee in effect pays for the buildings on the property. The Act of 1958 had already identified so many different categories of "building lease" that these categories had become somewhat unwieldly, even before a number of new kinds of "building lease" were identified by the Landlord and Tenant Commission. One of the purposes of the 1978 No. 2 Ground Rents Act was to extend the right to purchase the fee simple to the lessees under these different kinds of ground rent leases, and it has done so under a much simplified classification. This gives the opportunity, which is taken in this Bill, of simplifying also the law relating to the grant of a reversionary lease—that is, a renewed building or proprietary lease as at present contained in the Acts of 1958 and 1971, and of dropping the expression "building lease" and "proprietary lease" as they have already been dropped in relation to the acquisition of the fee simple in the 1978 No. 2 Act.

I think I should make it clear at this point that while we will in Part III of this Bill be dealing with ground rent leases, we will not be concerned directly with leasehold enfranchisement or the purchase of ground rents. These matters are the subject of the 1978 No. 2 Act; what we are concerned with in this Bill is the renewal of expired ground rent leases and the general law of covenants in leases. The 1978 No. 2 Act represents the Government's considered response to the ground rents problem and I do not envisage any proposals for substantial changes in the foreseeable future in the system of acquisition of the fee simple that was introduced by that Act.

As I have indicated, the main changes in the law which are being proposed in the Bill stem for the most part from recommendations of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. I will deal first with the changes that are proposed in Parts I, II and IV of the Bill and that are of concern to occupational tenants, that is, those who do not own the "bricks and mortar". The right to a new tenancy is being given to business tenants of three years' standing in all cases, regardless of the term for which the existing tenancy was granted, and this right is also being given even where there has been an unforeseen or unplanned temporary break in business use during the three years, if the court considers it reasonable to disregard that break.

At present, business tenants who hold on less than yearly tenancy, or on a lease for a term of less than a year, must show not only three years' continuous business use prior to the termination of their existing tenancies but also continuous occupation during the seven years preceding that termination, in order to have the right to a new tenancy. This change is being proposed in Part II of the Bill. Furthermore, in Part I of the Bill the definition of "business" is being widened to include cultural, charitable and sporting organisations, while it is also being made clear in the same context that local authorities may acquire rights as business tenants.

The provision enabling a temporary break in business use to be disregarded is designed to prevent tenants from being excluded from the right to a new tenancy because of a casual break arising from such causes as illness, fire damage or structural alterations. On the other hand, the Bill does not propose to prevent parties from making arrangements that are expressly designed to be, and to remain, outside the scope of this legislation. Such arrangements outside the scope of the legislation may of course be made under the law as it stands, as a recent decision of the Supreme Court has made clear.

In this connection I should make the point that this Bill, like the Act of 1931, must leave room for arrangements where rights of renewal do not accrue; must take account, that is, of circumstances where no letting arrangement at all can be contemplated if renewal rights are to be raised. One such circumstance, for example, is the case of shop concessions within hotel premises where the hotel proprietor for obvious reasons must be in control of the situation — he must for instance be in a position to insist on a certain standard of service since otherwise his own business suffers.

Another type of occupational tenant, apart from the business tenant, is the tenant of living accommodation. In this regard, a further change that is proposed in the Bill is that an occupational tenant is being given the right to a new tenancy of a dwelling after 20 years' continuous occupation by himself or by his predecessors in title. This entitlement is sometimes referred to as the "long occupation equity". At present, there must be 30 years' continuous occupation without any sale of the tenant's interest during that period.

In addition, provisions are being included in the Bill to ensure that a tenant, whether a business tenant or otherwise, will not inadvertently lose the right to a new tenancy through failure to claim that new tenancy within the time-limits provided: the onus will be on the landlord to give notice of the termination of the previous tenancy and the tenant's right to claim a new tenancy will survive until after that notice has been given.

Perhaps the most important single area of change that is proposed in the Bill relates to the terms on which a new tenancy will be granted where those terms fall to be fixed by the court in the absence of agreement between the parties. At present, where the court fixes the terms of a new tenancy that tenancy is normally for a 21-year term: under the Bill it will be for 35 years unless the tenant opts for a shorter term. In addition, the rent on renewal under the Bill will be subject to review at the instance of either the landlord or the tenant at intervals of five years instead of remaining unaltered throughout the term of the new tenancy. Although the Landlord and Tenant Commission recommended at the time they made their first report the introduction of rent reviews at seven-year intervals to cater for the inflationary situation and the longer terms now proposed, it is much more usual nowadays in tenancies negotiated between landlords and tenants to have reviews at intervals of five years or even less. Hence reviews at intervals of five years are proposed in the Bill.

The present state of the law in this area is satisfactory neither to landlord nor to tenant. The decision of the Supreme Court given in 1977 in the case of Byrne v. Loftus means, in effect, that while the tenant can obtain the grant of a new tenancy for a 21-year term at a fixed rent, that rent may nevertheless be very high at the time it is fixed. It is higher, and it may be very much higher, than it would be under a tenancy that provided for reviews of the rent at regular intervals and accordingly that fixed rent may represent a real burden on the tenant. Consequently a change in the law to provide for periodic reviews of the rent where a new tenancy is granted is something to which a degree of urgency attaches.

A further change that is proposed relates to the time when a new tenancy may be obtained. Under the 1931 Act the right to a new tenancy can arise only in or about the time of termination of the previous tenancy. It is now proposed that a new tenancy may be claimed and granted as soon as the necessary conditions are satisfied, although the new tenancy is not to commence until the existing tenancy has terminated. This should have important benefits in terms of security of tenure.

Other proposals, in Part IV of the Bill, concern changes in the law relating to the procedure to be followed where a tenant wishes to carry out improvements and where he is to qualify for compensation for those improvements in the event that he is leaving the premises when his tenancy terminates. At present an occupational tenant is not entitled to such compensation where he has failed to serve an improvement notice on his landlord. The Bill proposes that compensation be allowed even where that notice has not been served, provided certain conditions are satisfied, of which the one I may mention is a condition that the landlord has not been prejudiced by non-service. It is also proposed that a tenant should be empowered to carry out improvements even where the landlord objects, except where the landlord is due to recover possession of the premises within the following five years.

Certain changes of a somewhat technical nature are proposed in Part I of the Bill whose effect will be to extend the right to a new occupational tenancy to Government Departments, to certain business tenants outside urban areas and to business tenants of housing authorities, as well as to persons who in certain cases have not at present the right to a new tenancy by reason of having formed a private company or a trading company to carry on the business.

Part IV of the Bill, as I have indicated, contains the provisions dealing with the right of a tenant to carry out improvements and with compensation for improvements. Part IV of the Bill also proposes, in section 60, a new provision that is designed to facilitate re-development in the case of worn-out buildings or in the case of areas that are in need of re-development. This is a proposal to enable a landlord, subject to certain stringent conditions, to terminate an occupational tenancy so as to regain possession, before the lease expires, of buildings that are obsolete or that are in an obsolete area as defined in the Planning Acts. It can happen occasionally that a sitting tenant in such a building will not give up possession except for exorbitant compensation, or cannot be induced to move at all. In this way he can hold up re-development or reconstruction schemes for whole areas.

The Landlord and Tenant Commission gave close attention to this problem and came to the conclusion that in such a situation a limited right to terminate a tenancy should be given, although only under the most stringent conditions. Accordingly the Bill proposes to allow the court to order the termination of a tenancy, with safeguards for the tenant such as to ensure against abuse of the provision. In the first place it must be reasonable to make the order terminating the tenancy. In addition the relevant tenancy must have not less than three years and not more than 25 years to run. Compensation must be paid for loss of the tenancy and for any further hardship to the tenant.

Additional compensation is provided for the tenant in the form of a share of the financial benefit that accrues to the landlord from obtaining possession of the property. At least six months' notice of termination must be given to the tenant and every termination order would be subject to a stay of one year. In every case the landlord will be required to have a development scheme that includes the property and for which planning permission has been granted, and either the buildings themselves must be obsolete or they must be in an obsolete area as defined in the 1963 Planning Act.

I need not, I think, enlarge at too great length on the proposals in Part III of the Bill which concerns reversionary leases, that is, renewals of ground rent leases. This area of the law is at present covered in the main by the Landlord and Tenant (Reversionary Leases) Act, 1958. The proposals in Part III of the Bill involve two main changes in this area of the law. One of these changes I have already mentioned, that is that the expressions "building lease" and "proprietary lease" are being abandoned in favour of the simplified classification of ground rent leases that is set out in the No. 2 Ground Rents Act of 1978: this is the significance of the references to the No. 2 Act that appear in section 30 of the Bill.

The other main change is that the right to a reversionary lease is being extended to all the classes of ground rent lessees who have the right to purchase the fee simple under the 1978 No. 2 Ground Rents Act. This includes not only the classes of lessees who have that right under the Acts of 1958 and 1971 but also the additional classes of lessees who are given the right to purchase the fee simple by the Ground Rents Acts of 1967 and 1978. The reason for the extension is, of course, that we cannot have certain classes of ground rent lessees who have the right to a reversionary lease and certain other classes who do not.

The alternative to that extension would be to abolish the right to a reversionary lease altogether and to leave ground rent lessees with the right of purchase only. However, it would be wrong, in principle, to take away the alternative right to a reversionary lease from those classes of lessees who already have that right under the Acts of 1958 and 1971. It would put those lessees in the position of being compelled to buy out the fee simple in order to preserve their security in their properties and, as was made clear in the course of the debates on the 1978 No. 2 Ground Rents Act, it was never the intention to compel ground rent lessees to purchase. Such lessees are being left with their freedom of choice.

Part V re-enacts with drafting changes the provisions in Part VI of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, which provide certain reliefs for tenants against covenan in leases of tenements. The expression "tenement" is defined in section 5 of the Bill.

Part VI of the Bill, which contains a number of miscellaneous provisions, calls for comment at this stage only in relation to two matters. One of these is section 70 of the Bill. Section 70 proposes that ground rent tenants of the State should have the right to buy out the fee simple of their dwellinghouses under the purchase scheme provided by the No. 2 Ground Rents Act of 1978, subject only to the public interest. The same right is also being given to ground rent tenants; who hold under leases given by a harbour authority or by the Commissioners of Irish Lights and who have not that right under the law as it stands.

Ground rents of dwellinghouses held from the State or from the other bodies I have mentioned did present a difficulty at the time last year's ground rents legislation was in progress and the Minister for Justice expressed his intention at that time of finding an acceptable solution. What the Bill proposes is that ground rent tenants who hold their dwellinghouses from the State, or from one of the other bodies I have mentioned, shall have the right to buy out the fee simple except where the State authority concerned is satisfied that acquisition of the fee simple by the ground rent tenant would not in a particular case be in the public interest and where the State authority certifies accordingly.

The other matter I should mention in connection with Part VI of the Bill is that section 60 of the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1931 is not being re-enacted. Section 60 of the 1931 Act provides for the grant of long leases of building ground in certain circumstances. The section is highly complicated. No case under its provisions has ever been brought before the courts. The section appears to have been devised originally rather as a means of bringing derelict land into development than as a regulator of relations between landlords and tenants. As such it has no proper place at all in landlord and tenant legislation. At all events, since the section has never operated, it is better that its complicated provisions be removed from the law.

The foregoing are the main changes that the Bill proposes. A number of lesser changes are also proposed and Deputies will, I trust, agree that it will be appropriate to deal with these as they arise on Committee Stage.

Before concluding, I should like to refer to one matter on the subject of which I gave an undertaking to the Seanad during the Bill's passage through that House. That matter is the position of the State under the Bill, which is dealt with in section 4. This was, in fact, the topic which gave rise to the keenest debate in the Seanad. An amendment was moved in that House which sought to delete section 4 from the Bill, and that amendment was withdrawn on foot of an undertaking by me to re-examine the position before proceeding with the Bill in this House. This I have done. As a result of that examination I may be moving an amendment on Committee Stage to cater for tenants of the State in one particular situation. It is fair to say that the credit for that must go to Senator Alexis FitzGerald, who was concerned with the position of tenants as outlined by him on that occasion. It is my intention to move an amendment to take care of the problems he raised. Apart from this, however, no change in the section as it stands is either necessary or desirable. I think that some Members of the Seanad were genuinely under the impression that section 4 of the Bill is an innovation in the law. I would emphasise that it is not: it is simply declaratory of the position in law as that position has been understood since the foundation of the State.

I have already suggested that this Bill is itself a tribute to the work of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. On behalf of the Minister for Justice I wish now to pay tribute formally to the members of the Commission and in particular to their esteemed Chairman, Mr. Justice Conroy, whose work during the past quarter of a century and more in the area of the landlord and tenant code has become almost legendary.

The commission will, I expect, proceed with their general examination of both the non-statutory and statutory provisions of landlord and tenant law. I look forward to a successful conclusion to the Commission's work with the prospect in due course of a major Bill which will propose a comprehensive, modern code of landlord and tenant law.

I commend the Bill to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.

I welcome the opportunity to deal with legislation and issues affecting landlords and tenants. I welcome with slightly less alacrity some aspects of this Bill. The Bill is not merely about those issues contained within its various sections; it is also about issues and elements which are omitted. The proposed legislation is in many respects a missed opportunity. Some of the sections are worthy of commendation but one gets the impression of a Bill which is, apart from being technical, slight in its impact on this area, a Bill which is not fundamentally relevant to the major issues presently of concern to both landlords and tenants. Therefore, it is of doubtful impact in relation to the totality of this problem.

I acknowledge that the Bill is the third and final instalment of the trilogy of measures giving effect to the Government's present thinking in relation to this area and that it tends to act as the final chapter on the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1978 and the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act, 1978.

The Minister is a gentleman and he has been very courteous in respect of the contributions made by Members of the Seanad. I do not wish to lower the tone of the debate but feel obliged to say that the Minister was categoric when he referred in the Seanad and in this House to "this final instalment of legislation for the foreseeable future". One, therefore, gets the impression that the Minister is not thinking of further proposals in this area. I find that a little surprising in view of certain contracts and commitments entered into not too long ago which, if carried out, would have a major and beneficial effect in this area. It is germane to say that some of these commitments which are not going to be enacted could only be considered as missed opportunities.

For example, I refer to a letter circlated on 7 June 1977 to the various interest groups, notably the National Flat Dwellers' Association, which made certain promises. I am disappointed that these promises have not been kept and there is no indication that they are likely to be kept. The letter reads:

It is our view that legislation should be enacted to provide protection for tenants of flats or houses, but at the same time to ensure that landlords do get a fair return on their investment....

That is very fair. This letter was written by Senator Eoin Ryan, who was the national director of elections for Fianna Fáil who were then in opposition. The letter continues:

We would be in favour of setting up tribunals to which the Landlord and the Tenant could have recourse for the purpose of fixing fair rents and deciding disputes between the parties.

A reference on page 2 of the letter, which would be accepted as being wise and sensible, reads:

We are totally opposed to discrimination against tenants on the grounds of marital status, colour, religion or sex.

We are accordingly basically in favour of your suggestion for the charter of rights and we are prepared to introduce appropriate legislation in this field."

There is nothing equivocal about that statement. The charter of rights referred to contains eight points as follows:

1. Legislation to be enacted granting tenants of private rented accommodation security of tenure.

2. Illegal eviction and harassment of tenants to be made a criminal offence.

3. The establishment of statutory minimum standards for the letting of rented accommodation.

4. Neutral Tribunals to be established with statutory powers to arbitrate in landlord tenant disputes on application, with power to make binding rulings.

5. Tribunals to have power to fix fair rents and to rule on validity of Notice-to-Quit issued by landlords.

6. Legislation to be enacted preventing discrimination against tenants on grounds of marital status, children, occupation, nationality, religion or sex.

7. The immediate enactment of legislation enforcing uniform safety standards for private rented accommodation.

8. The recognition by the ESB and the Gas Companies of all private tenants as consumers, who enjoy the same right registered consumers have of direct dealings with the ESB and the Gas Companies.

Again the paragraph said that the Government are basically in favour of the suggestion for the charter of rights. Would the Minister indicate whether or not there are proposals presently on the stocks for the introduction of legislation which would bring these unequivocal comments about? If there are not, then I must suggest to him that the pledge—which was certainly effective politically but, more important than that, was a positive, progressive list of helpful suggestions in this area—and the way in which it was presented could only be considered to be a massive deceit and that it was not the intention of the Government to introduce that legislation. Any evidence that we have to date indicates that it is not, because on the occasion when the Labour Party, supported by ourselves, brought forward a proposal for this independent tribunal the Government voted unanimously against it. So I am a little dubious about the extent to which we will see further action in this area. I suggest that the finality of the Minister's speech certainly does not allow for the likelihood of legislation in the near future in these areas and they are important omissions. What the Minister has said tends to negative and undo to some extent a lot of the good work and presumed good intentions of the Government and that is extremely regrettable.

I will be able to show in my remarks that the Bill is largely cosmetic and tinkers with a major and growing social area of basic need without any likelihood of bringing about the kind of change we all want. One of the major effects would be to liberalise the commercial landlord and tenant law by making it easier for business tenants to obtain new tenancies on reasonable terms. Section 5, subsections 2, 3 and 4 and also section 13, subsections 1, 2 and 3 of the Bill refer to this. There can be no doubt that one of the by-products of this legislation will be to complete the process of dismantling rent control initiated by Fianna Fáil in the 1960 and 1967 Rent Acts. Section 60 refers to this and I intend to deal with that later. It seems that this section can be used by landlords to secure vacant possession from all tenants presently protected by the Rent Acts and a close examination of the protection which a tenant might have in those circumstances is not of great consolation. The compensation referred to and the various protective measures are very likely to be passed on to those who benefit from the development which would take place in the context of the vacant possession achieved by utilising this section.

The Bill itself is worded in a manner which tends to make it difficult to distinguish between residential and business tenants. I do not know whether there is any degree of deliberateness about that but I would hope there is not. The easiest method of distinguishing between them is by reference to provisions for leases. Business tenants are normally on fixed leases. Residential tenants are not; a specific provision is made for renewal of leases. The Minister has an opportunity here because of the likelihood that this is going to be the last word we are going to hear for some time in this chamber on landlord and tenant legislation——

Until the change of Government.

In case the Deputy does not know, this is a Bill brought in by the former Minister for Justice.

I am very familiar with it.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The former Minister for Justice did not write the document that Senator Eoin Ryan circulated.

He was forced to write the document because of the lack of initiative of the previous Government. That is the reality of the situation. He was forced to do this in the interests of justice. It is all there. It is in this.


The Deputy should be allowed to continue with his speech.

Obviously I must have touched a raw nerve somewhere. I am very familiar with the Bill drawn up by the Minister for Justice at the time, Mr. Cooney. Times have changed since then. More important than that, certain promises and commitments were entered into and were hawked around the flats in the Rathmines area by Deputy Briscoe and his colleagues to great effect. I do not wish to introduce any contentious note; all I am saying is that if words mean anything, then what this Bill is about is not what was promised.

What the Deputy said about hawking around the flats making promises in relation to this matter is not true.

Whatever the Deputy hawked around, it worked. Promises were made and they were not delivered on, and no matter how it is twisted or turned that is the fact.

We kept all our promises.

Where is the tribunal?

I will deal with the Deputy's points in my reply. I do not want to interrupt him.

I appreciate that because I have put some work into preparing my remarks and I would like my train of thought to be allowed to continue. It is rather limp for the Minister to say at the end of his remarks:

I look forward to a successful conclusion to the commission's work with the prospect in due course of a major Bill which will propose a comprehensive, modern code of landlord and tenant law.

when in the introduction he referred to the problems of delay implicit in such a major Bill. I would not consider it a recipe for instant legislation and certainly the problems posed by major Bills which were referred to both in the Seanad and here did not inhibit the very rapid publication of the promises mentioned by me earlier on. There is a time for equivocating and a time for not equivocating. All I can say is that I am disappointed.

But not surprised.

It is part of the pattern unfortunately. I only hope that when we get the chance on that side of the House—which I hope will not be long more—we will deliver on those things that we promise now. I mean that. It is in the interests of the people. It is a shameful exercise for politicians of any party to make promises that they do not deliver on and the example set by this Government is exceptional in that regard. Never was so much promised to so many and never was so little delivered. This is only one area where there are 350,000 tenants in private rented accommodation, the vast majority of whom never got the benefit of the rates abolition and for whom this Bill is not in any way helpful.

I will make a couple of suggestions which I would ask the Minister to consider. I believe, as does the National Flatdwellers Association and the Private Landlords Association, that the time has come to introduce a proposal which would allow the rent payable by tenants in private rented accommodation to be offset in part or in whole against income tax. The benefits of such a proposal are very many and would help the Minister for example in achieving at least a good statistical base for the kind of legislation which is before us. I will show in a minute that the base we have and the research that has been done on this Bill is inadequate in that respect based on the 1977 census.

If the Deputy wants to get into inadequacies, I do not know what income tax relief has to do with this Bill. It is utterly irrelevant. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

The Deputy is entitled to discuss what he thinks might be in the Bill.

I am not going to dwell on it. I just want to make suggestions which are meant constructively and they may reflect a wider vision of this problem than the Minister has at this stage. It reflects my concern with ensuring that we are aware that all landlords and all tenants are somehow known about, that they are on one central register, that we can legislate for them in the light of all the available facts. At present part of the problem is that we do not even know how many tenants and landlords there are and this is one way of finding out. There are other advantages relating to the offsetting of rent against income tax and, for what it is worth, this party would wish to see that done and if we get the opportunity we will do so for all the positive advantages which both the tenants and the landlords both accept at this stage. I say also, as a corollary to this, that there should therefore be and will be enabled to be, without any great Exchequer revenue being siphoned away, a major grants package for landlords to improve their properties, because the Bill refers in whole or in part to various calibres of property in the cities and towns. The Minister is well aware, as is everybody, that there are grey areas here of major dissatisfaction.

In many respects this is the Cinderella area of the housing sector and it is not realistic for the Minister to pretend that this is essentially a matter for Justice and exclusively a matter for reform. It is also a matter relating to housing stock. I believe we can facilitate landlords in improving their property by offering the kind of rewards and incentives which are apparently quite acceptable in the private housing sector or the local authority sector, where subsidies of various kinds are paid. To the tenant and landlord there are none, with the single exception of the £600 improvement grant. I am asking for a fund of about £30 million or £40 million, which money would already be in hand due to the new insights which the Revenue Commissioners would have from the offsetting of rent against income tax.

There should be strict enforcement of landlord registration, yet this is not mentioned in the Bill. How can one relate in a legislative matter to an area where we shy away even from maintaining the basic standards which are necessary and acquiring the basic information? It is not too much to ask that such a measure should be included in the Bill. Is it that we are afraid of what would happen if we tried to enforce the fairly meagre standards which are there already?

There should be stronger provisions covering security of tenure. We are all familiar with areas where people are extremely mobile and migration from one area to another is often reflected in a type of social malaise in that people do not keep their houses in the best fashion and there is a breakdown of community spirit. People do not have a great commitment to their area because they do not believe they will be there for a great length of time.

The interests of landlord and tenant are not mutually exclusive. They are compatible with each other and there should be harmony in this area. Up to now the State has been the tenant as being in a kind of twilight area, perhaps, between marriage and the acquisition of a house. The attention of this Government has been largely concerned—and rightly so in many respects—to ensure the maximum number of privately owned houses. There are, however, people who for one reason or another decide to live in private rented accommodation and will do so indefinitely. We must introduce a set of conditions and standards according to which they will be treated as they are entitled and not as birds of passage. The latter attitude is reflected in this Bill and in other such legislation. There should be statutory minimum safety and other standards for the letting of accommodation and equality of treatment by the various supply services, such as those mentioned in the charter of rights to which glib commitments were made in June 1977 by the present Government, then in Opposition.

We believe legislation should be introduced outlawing discrimination in this area on the grounds of family size, colour or creed. The Minister will not deny that it is little short of a social scandal that there is at present major discrimination against people simply because they have children. I know that landlords have problems in regard to families because they can cause more difficulties, but it is surely unacceptable in our society that a person having a child or two children is discriminated against per se? A process of checks and balances could be operated whereby that discrimination would be outlawed and the landlord would be compensated to the extent compatible with recognition of what families in occupancy mean in terms of cost.

I am also aware that coloured students are treated in an inequitable fashion by some people. It is only fair to say that there are thousands of landlords and landladies who deal in a fair, just and Christian fashion with people who come to the door. Often law is a reaction to a crisis and in this case the Government have said that they are unequivocally opposed to this type of discrimination. I want to know if we will see some action. Such a move would be hailed as just and wise and would not entail any capital expenditure or great outpouring of revenue. It would be a commitment to social justice.

There is also the matter of increasing the number of private rented units and I would ask the Minister to recognise the need to build blocks of flats containing small units, perhaps in traditional flat dwelling areas. I do not see any reason why local authorities should be disbarred in this area. Presumably such developments would be revenue generating and this would assist the local authorities in social housing. It appears at present that the cream of the market is taken by one sector of the community and the local authorities carry the can for difficult areas. Some attention to the landlord and tenant area in the context of housing stock and housing policy is fundamental. This is not an isolated case which can be dealt with on its own; it is part of the housing programme.

There are trends on the Continent which indicate that we may have a situation in which more and more people will not see a flat in terms of a short-term occupancy while looking for a home. There are many people who want to live in flats. I am told we have the highest rate of home ownership in Europe. This is a good thing and anyone who wishes to buy a home should be encouraged. We should not, however, be lax in our standards in relation to people who wish to live in flats.

The Landlord and Tenant Commission have been sitting since 1951 and I join the Minister in saying that their contribution in this area is extremely useful. I am at variance with the Minister when he appears to indicate that the general thrust and commitment of Government policy and the vision which permeates this is somehow related to any deliberations which the commission may have. I would not like to see a commission used, as has been the case in the past, as an excuse for inaction or inertia. The Minister must govern, not just adjudicate on options presented by commissions at unspecified times. He must face up to his responsibilities now and make decisions which he believes to be right. The commission may help in that job but it would be unacceptable to wait an indefinite length of time for deliberations, which might not be in the form the Minister desires, before action would be taken. We should get away from the idea of using commissions, review bodies and boards of inquiry as a crutch for inaction. There is a little of that thinking here, particularly when we visualise the amount of legislative attention given to this area since 1951. It might be psychologically harmful to the presumed desire of the Government for action in this area that we have a commission who have not been given a final date by which they should report or on which they should expire.

Some bodies—not this one, perhaps—tend to perpetuate themselves beyond the time when they may be necessary. The work this commission is doing is good and is useful and I do not wish it to be used in this House, particularly when the commission cannot defend themselves as an excuse for omissions or for lack of inspiration or insight on the opposite side. Such commitments were no problem two years ago.

None of the essential items I have referred to, and which are the major causes of concern in this area, has been dealt with in the Bill. That is regrettable. The Minister has an opportunity here to reconsider the matter and, if necessary, to introduce other legislation at an early date. Perhaps he would be good enough to refer to that point when he is replying.

There are strong reasons for believing that the research that went into the background of the Bill, both qualitative and quantitative, was inadequate because apparently it is the final instalment of a trilogy of legislation which I assume was meant to deal comprehensively with this area. It does not deal with the central issues and some of the underlying assumptions on a statistical level are of dubious calibre. For instance, if one considers the question of the supply of dwellings and the use of the 1971 Census and its definition of a housing unit, one will see that the housing unit referred to is a self-contained individual dwelling. That is used as a statistical base for the thinking behind the Bill. Unfortunately, the housing unit of the 1971 Census is no longer the predominant social feature in this area. Most of the housing units now are multi-dwelling units where there are bed-sitters and a number of flats. The size of the problem may be greater than we expect and the indications are that that is the case.

Recently we heard of crises in relation to student accommodation and the 1979 Census indicated we were out of line in this area. I believe the scale of the problem is much more substantial than the Minister may think, due to the lack of accurate statistical information available to him. The fact is that the supply of flat accommodation is not keeping pace with demand, and if we look at the figures that are available we will see that.

In relation to the supply of rented accommodation, in 1946 there were 161,092 unfurnished dwellings. This figure fell to just over 100,000 in 1961 and to 65,000 in 1971. The reasons for that are not difficult to establish. There was an increase in the number of furnished dwellings from approximately 12,000 in 1946 to nearly 16,000 in 1961 and to almost 32,000 in 1971. Obviously the rent implications there are germane. The total stock has fallen certainly in relation to the growth in population and the development in the area of private rented accommodation has been allowed to go ahead on a free-wheeling basis as if it was just a question of pure laissez-faire economics when, in fact, it is an intrinsic and essential part of housing policy, or at least should be. People who live in flats are living in their homes. The State has certain obligations here and it is not good enough for us to refuse to face up to them. The State has tried to face up to them in the local authority sector, and in the private sector various commitments have been entered into and financial resources have been applied. However, this has been the Cinderella area and that must be changed. It must be considered as an essential part of the total housing policy.

Total private rented accommodation as a percentage of the total stock has fallen dramatically from 30 per cent in 1946, to 21 per cent in 1961 and to 15 per cent at present. Obviously, some of this is due to the healthy development that more people are buying their own homes, but much of it is due to other reasons. One of those reasons is that it is more difficult to get private rented accommodation. There is not enough available and standards may have declined, because where the resource is scarce there will be a more casual approach by Government with regard to the implementation of standards. At present it is a backwater and that should be changed. On the other hand, having regard to our increasing population and the question of emigration——

I have been waiting for the Deputy to deal with the Bill. He is dealing with the question of housing generally and it is not relevant at this point.

I accept the ruling of the Chair. I merely wanted to say that the Bill does not deal with the issues because it does not have the insight that is necessary. Private rented accommodation is a major area of concern and this Bill does little about it. The effect of the Bill will be to finalise the decontrolling of rents and I refer the House to section 60. The Conroy Commission indicated that, if anything, rent control should be extended. Presumably the details of the Bill will be discussed on Committee Stage and I do not intend now to go into the matter in too much detail. The effect of the provisions in the Bill will be that a landlord can obtain vacant possession more easily. In section 60 (5) the compensation is a question of monetary award which, I have no doubt, will be seen as a charge or a cost to be passed on to whoever takes up the development.

Whether one is for or against decontrol is not fundamentally important. We just want to know what will be the effect.

If the effect is to terminate by 1981 decontrol in areas that are presently controlled, we should know about it. It should not be done almost by nondeliberate subterfuge; I presume that is not the intention. We have here a substantial windfall for the landlord. I am not against windfalls for anybody but we must also be concerned about security of tenure. I do not see that in the Bill. There are one or two references to it but they refer largely to tenants who are fairly well established. What will happen to tenants who are on very short leases? The vast majority have such leases but there is no concern for them in the Bill.

If one looks at the supply of furnished and unfurnished accommodation, one sees that there is a major social and economic problem that is not being dealt with. In that respect this Bill is a thing of little substance. The question should be whether in two to four years this and the other two Bills will have made a significant difference in all the areas involved. I do not think there will be any such change because the Bill avoids the main issues.

I have explained that there has been a large percentage drop in the furnished and unfurnished dwellings available. The demand for housing has increased significantly in the past ten or 15 years with a rise in the number of households from 676,000 in 1961 to 726,000 in 1971. A recent estimate of population trends carried out by a Mr. T. Keating of the Central Statistics Office indicated that, in the absence of a renewal of emigration, the population could rise. We know from the recent census that that is almost certain to be the case. Therefore, the Bill should do something positive to encourage the creation of more private rented accommodation and to encourage certain standards for both landlord and tenant, so that the landlord will have a certain return on his investment and the tenant will have certain standards in relation to security of tenure and type of accommodation. These basic issues are causing concern, but the Bill before us does not show any concern for them.

This morning the Minister in his introductory remarks interposed a paragraph which he did not refer to in the Seanad. The Minister said:

I think I should make it clear at this point that, while we will in Part III of this Bill be dealing with ground rent leases, we will not be concerned directly with leasehold enfranchisement or the purchase of ground rents. These matters are the subject of the 1978 No. 2 Act; what we are concerned with in the Bill is the renewal of expired ground rent leases and the general law of covenants in leases. The 1978 No. 2 Act represents the Government's considered response to the ground rents problem and I do not envisage any proposals for substantial changes in the forseeable future in the system of acquisition of the fee simple that was introduced by that Act.

In the Seanad the Minister said at column 461 that:

It was never the intention that ground rent legislation should manoeuvre tenants into the position of being forced to exercise their rights of purchase.

Will the Deputy give full reference.

It relates to the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Bill, 1979, as debated on 7 March 1979, at column 461 of the Seanad Official Report for that date. None of us would want anyone to be forced into doing anything but the Minister knows the meaning of language as well as I, and the proposal or commitment of the Government in the manifesto was that the Government would introduce a scheme which would lead to the abolition of ground rents. That was a positive, unequivocal, unambiguous statement—that it would lead to the abolition of ground rents. That is not being done and the Minister in his comments in the Seanad clearly said that he accepts that this will not do away with ground rents, because they do not want to force people into it. The commitment in the manifesto does not allow for the existence of ground rents after a certain length of time. This is evidence again of double standards. By the reference the Minister made in his speech this morning he cannot duck the responsibility here. This is another promise which has not been kept. The legislation introduced to deal with this was helpful and was of use to some people, and possibly was a good measure, assuming that one accepts the morality of the concept of ground rents, but it does not do what the Government said it would. The statement in the Seanad to which I referred is an admission by the Minister that there is no intention to introduce a scheme which will lead unequivocally to the total abolition of ground rents. We all know that it will not happen and it was a shame to raise it in that way.

One of the issues which is not dealt with in the Bill is the lack of basic information. There are probably 350,000 people in private rented accommodation and many are living in unfit conditions. It seems that when a measure is introduced they do not get the benefit of it. I understand that the cost to the taxpayer of rates abolition on houses let in flats was about £8.5 million in 1978 and most of that money was not passed on to the tenant. The Government would perhaps have liked that to happen, but it did not happen. It was a subsidy to a small minority and it did not benefit the people, as promised by the Government. Judging from the statistical information in relation to the problems in the area provided by the 1971 Census and its definition of a housing unit, or the national pattern of numbers of dwellings where there is apparently no adequate research, there appears to be a great laxity in our approach to this. A survey was carried out recently by the National Flatdwellers' Association in the Grove Park area of Dublin showed some pretty horrific statistics in relation to, for instance, fire prevention measures. Fire extinguishers were not provided in the vast majority of these dwellings. The vast majority of the flats were not registered and the flats were provided without reference to the planning laws. It is time to try to deal with this issue, but not to using a sledgehammer on landlords. If the landlords closed their doors to tenants tomorrow and put them out on the streets, the Government would be faced with an insurmountable problem. It is time to say that this is a legitimate area of housing policy. Let us therefore respond to it in the way in which we have tried to respond in other areas. Let us put the resources into it and introduce a system which will ensure certain standards for both landlord and tenant.

The Bill before us is basically responding to fairly minute areas of concern at this stage. That remark is based on my discussions with the various interest groups during the last few days. They are quite adamant that the Bill is irrelevant and that there are other more important things that they need which should be covered under the Bill. In Dublin alone there are in excess of 120,000 tenants living in private rented accommodation and the scale of the problem is not reflected in the Bill. This is a wonderful opportunity for a Government to do something dramatic, and we had hoped for that when we heard the sounds that were made in June 1977.

These problems occur both in Dublin and in urban areas. I pay tribute to the Carlow Branch of Young Fine Gael who carried out a survey on rented accommodation in Carlow town in May 1979. Even in a place like Carlow, where one would imagine that the scale of the problem would not be enormous, Mr. D. McDonnell, the Chairperson and Mr. Richard Daly, the National Chairperson of Young Fine Gael, say that flats in general were in the main unhygienic and unsafe and were certainly not of the standard expected in modern times. They did a thorough professional survey and credit is due to them for making an effort in this area. They made a full list of recommendations and those recommendations are almost without exception the same recommendations that came up in the charter of reforms sought for by the National Flatdwellers' Association, and which were so glibly described as being absolutely acceptable to this Government when they were seeking the votes of the people just over two-and-a half years ago.

Whether it be Carlow or Grove Park the problems are the same and they are no mystery. No public representative can be blind to them. Housing is undoubtedly the major problem for any urban Deputy. Housing is a question of people living in flats, in bad accommodation. I have met landlords who are genuinely good people wanting to provide decent accommodation and who are often living in penury themselves, who have houses and do not know what to do with them; they cannot maintain them. They are on various kinds of restricted rent and so on and there is a whole area here needing attention which is not being dealt with.

There is a positive role for the landlord. There was a time—I hope it is going—when the landlord was a figure of oppression. I think it is time that concept was ended. The landlord provides a basic amenity and that is how it should be. In my view there is no need for the State to take over total responsibility in this area. As in relation to private builders there is a role for private enterprise in the area of the provision of homes, whether private houses or rented accommodation. The State has a responsibility to ensure that such provision is hedged around with minimum guarantees for people even under the Constitution. When we come to the Committee Stage we can tease out more of these issues.

I am aware that the National Law Reform Group also seek many of the reforms which I refer to and which are not in the Bill. In a letter which they wrote to the Minister for Justice on 19 April 1979 they referred to seven specific reforms among them the question of revision of restricted rent, the removal of rent control from the landlord's own home, and the subsidisation of the rent of the poor and needy in the private sector. They demand that rent at least in part should be offset against tax which is verbatim the proposal in the urban affairs policy document approved at our own Ard Fheis last year—the establishment of a national private rental sector authority—which presumably is not too far removed from the tribunals we referred to—and that a national private tenancy agreement should be introduced to cover all living accommodation. Finally, they ask the Government to make grants available to restore property—very reasonable demands from a pretty responsible organisation so far as I know. These demands if implemented in the most part would undoubtedly allow for the bringing about of far more enlightened and progressive reforms in this area than the fairly meagre proposals in the Bill will introduce.

When one gets landlords and tenants saying the same thing one would imagine this was a recipe for instant action by a Government. If this Government could find it possible to have lobby groups on opposite sides of the table thinking together on many of the issues of the day they would breathe a sigh of relief. You find, for example, that they are willing to accept a national understanding of gigantic proportion,—subsequently condemned by the EEC—with a sigh of relief when we knew well it did not meet what they requested in the beginning and yet they found it possible to make progress there. Here is a case where both landlords and tenants are saying the same thing. Yet, all we get in most respects is silence from the opposite side of the House despite the promises we had. That is a pity because there is the possibility of political action which would be welcomed all around. The Government will not upset any group by the introduction of the measures we are discussing this morning. That is something significant in this society and in the context of the lobby system as it operates today. There is a positive role for the landlords and an input to be made here. There is the possibility which has not been grasped of progress being made in the area. The question of rent control is germane to the Bill. In section 60 it seems to me there is an open door to decontrol. The Minister might spend a few minutes in reply in dealing with whether or not the Government believes that the section will bring this about and if it does whether it is a good thing.

The Chair is prepared to give tremendous latitude on this Bill but the Deputy is certainly getting into fields that could not relevantly be covered on the Bill. Rent control, for instance, is a separate code, separate legislation, as far as the Chair is aware.

Prior to your coming into the Chair I indicated that my reading, naive or innocent as I may be, of section 60 is that it is likely to bring about decontrol in that area. That is what I was trying to develop when I was asking the Minister to be good enough to comment on that when he gets a change. I am not alone in this view. If the Chair looks at it more closely I think he will find I am probably right. So, I want to know from the Minister in due course whether or not my interpretation of section 60 as a decontrolling measure is correct and if so whether it is Government policy, because if decontrol is to take place or if the question of control is at issue at all, I think a more comprehensive view of it should be taken. There is not much point in controlling rents if we do not control prices in the private housing area including the price of land. That is the issue.

I am sorry, but the Deputy is now raising matters which were in legislation years ago and they are certainly not relevant to this Bill. I am giving the Deputy every latitude——

When I am being interrupted and harassed——

The Chair does not wish to harass anybody. That is not the policy of the Chair.

I was getting on fine until you came into the Chair. I suggest that if you bear with me——

I am bearing with the Deputy as far as is humanly possible.

I want to know precisely how I am out of order. Be quite specific about it, please, so that I can be guided by you.

The Deputy should continue. The Chair will draw it to his attention if he is going too far outside the Bill. I am allowing him to go quite a bit outside it.

I am not going outside it. I am quoting section 60. I shall read it out if you like.

On a point of order, so that I do not wander from the Bill, the Chair might indicate to me, for my benefit as much as for Deputy Keating's, at what stage he strayed from the contents of the Bill.

The Deputy proceeded to discuss rent restrictions in general. That does not arise on this Bill. It was dealt with in previous legislation. It is a completely separate code. I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy. I shall give him every latitude and I shall give Deputy Quinn every latitude. He may be assured of that.

I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of rent control. All I am saying is that section 60 appears to me—and I think it legitimate to say so—to allow the possibility of the ending of rent control over the next couple of years. Is that right or not? If it is right, is it Government policy? What do the Government feel about rent control or the termination of it—no more than that? There is a long history of rent control which we could go into and which I think is very relevant because it is germane to section 60. Is this a backdoor method of decontrolling rents?

The supply of large houses suitable for flat conversion has been used up in all major cities and I should like to ask if the Government have been thinking about other positive approaches in this area. Much of the accommodation has been taken away for various reasons and when you are introducing legislation to bring about reforms in this area I think it is no harm to have some revelation of the Government's thinking about positive policy in relation to creating housing stock.

With the greatest respect, I do not want to interrupt the Deputy who is going on with a nice philosophical flow about housing. I genuinely want to help the Deputy and the House in my reply but with the greatest respect to his contribution it is more appropriate, on the one hand, to the Minister for Finance and, on the other, to the Minister for the Environment.

Can the Minister not say it in his reply?

I am going to say it now. I do not want to be discourteous to the Deputy when I do reply.

The Minister of State would not be entitled to reply to a matter that is not relevant to the Bill. The Deputy should keep reasonably relevant to the Bill before the House.

Section 60 is about compensation on the termination of a tenancy in obsolete buildings. This is a new section of the law. It is very difficult to answer questions on rent restrictions when the subject is not relevant to this code at all.

It is not relevant. Deputy Keating should continue, without interruption.

The Deputy has made his bed and he will have to lie on it. I am afraid the Deputy will think that I am going to be discourteous to him and that is not my intention, but I will not be in a position to reply, to a lot of the points he raised. What the Deputy has raised is of concern to all of us.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Senator Eoin Ryan made a queer bed for the Minister of State in 1977.

It is not my intention to avoid that issue. I will deal with that point when concluding.

The Chair cannot allow the Minister of State to reply to matters which are not relevant to the Bill, and that is the only reason the Chair tries to keep every Deputy reasonably relevant to any piece of legislation.

I have never seen a problem arising whereby a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, or Ceann Comhairle, had to restrain a Minister of State or Minister from replying above and beyond that which they felt necessary. If Ministers responded to what we asked we would not mind. If the Minister of State does not wish to comment at all on my contribution I will not lose too much sleep. I know he will reply to my comments in so far as they are relevant. It is not necessary to point out to me what he will or will not do.

(Cavan-Monaghan): On a point of order, Deputy Keating is making the case that the effect of section 60 will be to de-control houses and that it will be used as machinery to eject people from houses.

That is not a statement of fact; it is a misinterpretation of the law.

The Chair has already pointed out that this argument is not relevant to section 60 and Deputy Fitzpatrick knows that better than the Chair.

And better than most Members in the House.

There is not much point in my continuing and I will not bother carrying on one whit further——

I would not like that to happen. The Deputy should not pretend to do that.

I do not intend to go too far from the Chamber. I am anxious to point out that in section 60 there is a proposal to the effect that:

(2) Where in the case of a tenement—

(a) either the relevant building is situate in an obsolete area or, having regard to the age, condition and character of the building—

(i) the repairing of the building would involve expenditure which would be excessive in relation to the value of the tenement, or

(ii) the building could not profitably be used unless it were reconstructed or altered to a substantial extent or rebuilt, and

(b) the landlord has a scheme for the development of property which includes the tenement, being development for which planning permission has been granted,

the Court may, by order made on the application of the landlord on at least six months' notice in the prescribed form to the tenant, terminate the tenancy if it considers it reasonable to do so:

Provided that the lease or other contract of tenancy under which the tenant, at the time the notice is served on him, holds the tenement is for a term...

It also provides that where a tenancy is terminated under this section the tenant shall be entitled, on quitting the tenement, to be paid certain compensation.

That has nothing to do with rent or rent restriction.

It is most unfair of the Chair to interject in this fashion. I am trying to be relevant. The last comment of the Chair was more appropriate from the other side of the House than from the Chair.

The Chair must rule on matters before the House.

I am making a point but the Chair will not allow me to finish.

The Chair is fair to everybody and is prepared to give the Deputy every latitude in dealing with the Bill. The Chair has never been harsh with any Member and is only concerned to keep Members somewhere near the Bill.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle kills us with kindness.

Is it near the end of the strawberry season?

I do not think strawberries would get us anywhere in relation to this matter but I am trying to be kind to everybody. It is my view that my approach is much different from that which I have seen in my 25 years in the House.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is a very kind person; he is a gentleman and there is no doubt about that.

I do not want to be called a gentleman or anything like that.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Let us not turn the House into a mutual admiration society.

If this Bill will make it easier to bring about the termination of a tenancy, is it not almost certain that the reletting of accommodation, if it is to be relet rather than developed in some other way, will be at a different rent or in a decontrolled rent situation? That is the question I have asked.

That will have to be dealt with under another Bill and legislative code.

The answer to the question is, "no".

Can this device not be used to bring about the termination of existing tenancies?

The negative is not adequate; the Minister should explain that is not the case.

The Minister of State will be replying. He does not have any right either to interrupt at this stage.

I remain extremely concerned about that section and I would like more than the negative to reassure me. It is my belief that the opportunity exists for a much more easily achieved termination of tenancy if this section is adopted. If I am wrong I would be pleased to hear a statement to that effect. If tenancies can be more easily terminated, it is clear that, in effect, we are talking about decontrolling rents. If the Minister is permitted to do so, and if he sees fit, he can deal with that later.

A number of serious issues arise in relation to this. I should like to mention the way in which the private rented sector are encouraged to achieve court orders for the purposes of getting effective evictions. I am not sure that this Bill, or any amendment to it, will be able to tackle that problem but it is part of the total scenario. It is a problem I have when dealing with this legislation. I contend that the legislation is inadequate because it is not comprehensive enough. It deals with an area which has extremely wide ramifications but talking about some of those ramifications leaves one open to the accusation of not being relevant. Accordingly, the Bill should be extended and if there is no possibility of the amendments which we will table being accepted I would like a commitment to introduce legislation soon to ensure a new deal for landlords and tenants along the lines I mentioned.

I hope my remarks are interpreted as being constructive and positive proposals for enlightened reform in this area which would coincide with pledges made by the Government prior to the last election. I had hoped to deal with the question of rent de-control at some length but, apparently, it is not relevant. This is a reflection on the rather blinkered thinking we have in this House on occasions when an issue of fundamental social policy such as housing has to be dealt with in a confined manner. I can recall the same attitude prevailing on similar legislation. It is impossible to get an over-view because of the alleged prior right of order in the House when, in fact, what one wants to do is to make a basic point that the narrow confines of a Bill are not adequate to deal with the problems of today. That is the epitome of the problem of this House, that we are not responding in the way we should be in general. Perhaps that is also why we seem to be more and more irrelevant.

With those sentiments I should like to ask the Minister to be good enough in his own time to comment on those points on which he can, ignore those which he sees as irrelevant, and I wish him luck with those provisions he wishes to continue to enact.

My colleague, Deputy Eileen Desmond, Labour spokesperson for Justice, is occupied in Strasbourg and I speak on this Bill on her behalf.

In a proper sense a Bill dealing with landlord and tenant law should hardly be the preserve of the Department of Justice in the first place. On balance there are many sections of this Bill to be welcomed. They fall into two categories, the first being that of business and commercial leases and the other residential leases. In both instances they regulate the market and, to that extent, are involved in the business activities of the country or the housing market activities of the country.

There is a lot to be said for decrying the fact that the Government at this late stage, despite repeated questions in this House, have not indicated the long-term or indeed short-term designation of overall, effective ministerial responsibility for housing, including the provision and regulation of the supply of flats. I know the Minister of State has confined his remarks to a comparatively short introductory speech. I share with him the view that this is an immensely technical and complex Bill which perhaps, having regard to the debate which took place in the Seanad, would have been better served by the Oireachtas had we set up a select committee to go through it on Committee Stage. I regret that the time of this House will be taken up at some considerable length on Committee Stage because the number of sections involved and the implications of any one section dictate that Committee Stage is when these will be teased out.

I should like to take up the Deputy's point and say that I shall examine his suggestion to see what could be done about it, because I thoroughly agree with him.

I am grateful to the Minister of State. It implies an extra workload on all of us, but I would suggest that the balance in favour of such a suggestion is that it would enable the Oireachtas to get on with other items of business long overdue in this House. Indeed, it would enable the Department of Justice to bring forward other legislation ready for debate. I am glad the Minister of State has seen fit to investigate my suggestion—and I accept that that is all he has undertaken to do—of a select committee, because it is necessary that we go into the technicalities involved in some of these areas.

The Schedule of repeal of enactments and the number of Acts crossreferenced throughout this Bill indicate the enormous amount of legislation centered around property over the last 100 years. The relationship between wealth, poverty and property, and the necessity for any society, particularly a democracy, to regulate it are clearly demonstrated by the numerous attempts of the Legislature to intervene and to interfere in the market in order to readjust the balance that very quickly can be disturbed due to market forces. What we are seeing in the business sector of this Bill is an attempt to redress the lack of balance brought about in the renting of commercial properties by virtue of the provision of the right of a 21-year lease at a fixed rent. That lack of balance was brought about because the legislators at that time did not foresee that inflationary forces would make nonsense of fixed rents over a 21-year period. The reason I refer to that is to state quite clearly and categorically that, as far as the Labour Party are concerned, we regard it as pointless to talk in terms of regulating the residential housing market with which this Bill is concerned by means of Department of Justice legislation unless the same Government Department charged with implementing this kind of legislation has some control over the supply of units onto the market.

Experience of attempts to achieve rent control in this country has demonstrated that part of the housing stock has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the introduction of rent control without there being a constant review of the housing market itself. The Conroy Commission have demonstrated over many years the complexity of the whole operation of trying to intervene, by means of Department of Justice legislation alone, in the area of supply and demand of rented accommodation. Indeed, there was the recent experience in Britain of legislation brought in by the Labour members of the Greater London Council, with the same kind of motivation, which attempted to regulate the conditions of the supply of residential housing to tenants without also taking into account the nature of the supply of such residential units. This very quickly made a bad situation worse.

This is a preface to the remarks I want to make about the total absence of any commitment to dealing with tenants' needs in terms of getting residential accommodation, in respect of which this Bill provided a unique opportunity. I make those remarks for this reason, that those of us in the Labour Party who propose a control and regulation of the housing market, so that injustices do not take place in the housing field, do so in the clear knowledge that it is not an easy thing to do and that certainly it cannot be simplistic or slogan solutions.

The positive provisions of this Bill should be welcomed at this stage. There is no doubt in the minds of most people with whom we have consulted that the situation brought about by it in relation to business and commercial leases constitutes a positive improvement on the law as it stands. Both sides in the commercial world, landlords and tenants alike, welcome such proposals. Indeed, in that context, the enlargement of the definition of the word "business" is to be welcomed. My direct experience as a member of Dublin Corporation when we attempted to ensure that the Olympia Theatre would not be lost to this city centred around the legal implications of the lease that Olympia Productions Limited held on those premises. The original definition of "business" was a very narrow one. The present proposal to enlarge the definition so as to incorporate charitable and, in effect, noncommercial activities in the definition of "business" is a positive one. In the final analysis what the Olympia Theatre people had to do in order to retain their rights to tenancy renewal was to maintain what was in effect a kind of farce, the running of the bar of the theatre in those premises in order to continue to survive and hold on to their rights of tenancy under existing landlord and tenant legislation.

Committee Stage—whether that be in Select Committee or elsewhere—is when the full implications of this Bill can be examined by this House. Indeed, we are indebted to the other House where much of that work has been done already. In that context I would be concerned at the possible lack of flexibility in the nature of rent reviews that may be in the 35-year lease, in the idea of confining it to five-year rent reviews. Since we are moving into the market of property a landlord and tenant should be enabled to have the flexibility to opt for seven-year reviews, three-year reviews and so on because of inflation in property values. Legislation intended to preserve some degree of equity within a market which literally is fluctuating from month to month should provide within that parameter of an objective for social equity and justice a flexibility that does not have people tied down in distortions of the market value of a property.

Where the five-year period is fixed it is fixed by the court. For example, if a landlord and tenant want to come in for a review for a lesser period that is a matter for agreement between them. The five-year period operates only where the court comes in.

I accept that. My reading of it is that only in the absence of agreement do they resort to court. I will take whatever correction comes.

The Deputy's interpretation is correct.

Perhaps the court should be enabled to have more flexibility in the range of years that it dictates and not be tied to five. There is already such inflexibility in the landlord and tenant laws that there are great distortions because the market value of property rises and falls so quickly that it is hard for any law passed to keep pace with it unless that law has inbuilt flexibility.

Let my remarks not be misunderstood in principle. This is an advance on what was here before. The enlargement of the definition of the word "business" and the rights of tenancy, the access to tenancy, the way in which tenancy is determined and the rent review clauses are improvements. Perhaps the Minister of State will be able to comment on my one regret, which is that this necessary legislation has taken so long to come to the floor of both Houses. To my knowledge the business and property community have been looking for it for a long time. I do not know who is against it. It is not contentious legislation, it is in the interest of everybody. Under the old system, while the landlord was penalised by having a low rent towards the end of the 21-year period, tenants who got a new lease at the beginning of a 21-period had to pay over the odds in their rent because the court attempted to adjust in some fashion the value of the landlord's interest. Therefore, it was not satisfactory to either party. It was a deterrent to commercial activity and business.

As Labour Party spokesman on the Environment I must state that it was a positive instrument in bringing about planning blight in parts of our towns and cities. The impact of landlord and tenant legislation on our towns and cities in planning terms has never been properly evaluated. In the commercial sector as much as in the residential sector much of the visual blight that exists around the cities and towns is a direct product of the inflexibility that has existed in the past. In so far as this legislation will remove that inflexibility and enable landlords to obtain a reasonable rent from their property and, more important, enable secure tenants to carry out improvements without fear of objection or lack of compensation in the event of losing the tenancy at some future date, it is a positive measure.

In principle, therefore, on the commercial side of the leases with which this legislation concerns itself there is a general welcome for this Bill. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said on the residential side, and the problem is much greater than this Bill encompasses. The problem relates really more to the fact that we have no Minister or Government Department with effective responsibility for the private rented residential sector. The tragedy of that is not that speakers in this House will stray away from the point on particular legislation. That is a minor irritant when it occurs and it does not occur wilfully. The tragedy is that there are an increasing number of young people looking for accommodation on the one hand and an increasing number of people of limited economic means who need accommodation desperately and who are totally at the mercy of the irrational market forces. The whole history of rent legislation in this country, both after independence and before, was and is still centred around the political necessity of the Legislature of the land to intervene in the markets when the social injustice becomes intolerable. The first Rent Acts were introduced in 1906, and the major Rent Control Acts in 1915 were introduced largely because the housing markets had gone totally berserk and the demand was greatly in excess of supply with a consequent escalation in rents beyond the normal means of people to pay and certainly beyond the average 20 per cent of income that one should allocate for housing in one shape or another.

Since this Bill was drafted originally—and it was drafted largely by the last administration, as the Minister has inferred, and that is in no way a slight on him bringing it forward in this period—and since it is concerned essentially with the commercial side of leases, the housing market in the private rented sector which is partially covered by this Bill has gone totally out of balance. The demand is totally in excess of supply and we have politically no Minister who can come into the House and say, "I am the Minister responsible for that. I have legislative responsibility to solve this problem". The tragedy of this legislation is that it misses an opportunity which, as the Minister of State has said, will not come again soon because this is the last landlord and tenant legislation that this administration proposed to bring in.

What do the flatdwellers do? To whom do they turn? On the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Bill which gave effect to the de-rating of residential property I asked a range of questions in relation to flatdwellers and how they would benefit under the provisions as was promised. In fairness to the people who drafted that Bill, an attempt was made to achieve this, but because administrative and political responsibility is divided between the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Environment, the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners at Central Government level, and at local level amongst the local housing authorities, no effective action is being taken at the moment by the State, in total contrast to the effective action taken in the past on behalf of private residents and tenants. The consequence is that great injustice and exploitation have taken place in this city. Every Deputy in this House, particularly urban Deputies, including the Minister of State in his clinic on Saturday morning, will be met by people who have not enough points to qualify for local authority housing. Last Sunday I was met by a young couple—bear with me for a moment a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I am staying on the Bill.

The Deputy is a bit outside it at the moment. The provision of local authority housing does not arise on it.

I am trying to prove that many Deputies, including myself, have as part of their problem arising directly out of the housing markets with which this Bill will propose to deal in part, cases such as the one I want to illustrate. A couple have been told that they will have to get out of a flat they are in because she is due to have a baby in January of next year. This Bill does absolutely nothing for her.

The Bill is perhaps overloaded technically in many areas and the Minister of State has said that there are no proposals for any other Bills. I believe if certain provisions in this Bill are enacted and effectively operated by a combination of local authorities and private property owners a bad housing situation will be made much worse. I share Deputy Keating's view in relation to the possible interpretation of section 60. When we get to Committee Stage we can go through it at some length.

The House should realise that one effect of this Bill when enacted is that a number of controls will be removed. A tenant in a controlled property, who enjoys his rights under previous Landlord and Tenant legislation which this Bill proposes to repeal, will find his position changed. Subsection (2) (b) of section 60 states:

... the landlord has a scheme for the development of property which includes the tenement, being development for which planning permission has been granted, the Court may... terminate the tenancy.

I am a former member of Dublin Corporation and I have a fair degree of professional knowledge of what is happening in the property world in this city. My understanding of this subsection is that it will make viable certain property development projects which previously were not because the protected tenants in those properties said they wanted to live in the areas in which they were brought up, the church they always went to was next door and so on.

Right through the Bill there is reference to compensation. We are told that the landlord must compensate and so forth. Subsection (3) of section 60 states:

Where a tenancy is terminated under this section the tenant shall be entitled, on quitting the tenement, to be paid by the landlord compensation for the termination of the tenancy in accordance with this section.

I have looked through the definition section for a definition of compensation to see what is meant by it but I could not find it. There is no reference to "compensation" between "business" and "controlled dwellings" in the definition section. It is not clear to me on what basis that compensation will be arrived at. Developers have developed parts of the city and compensated controlled tenants who willingly gave up their tenancies because the developers were able to provide alternative accommodation which met with the satisfaction of the tenants involved. Those tenants willingly moved to other accommodation. This has certainly happened in areas of Dublin too.

Subsection (5) might help the Deputy.

It still does not define it.

If people cannot agree about the matter the courts can decide.

I agree that that is where it will be decided. I would have preferred if the courts were given far more direction by the House in relation to the principle of compensation so that the section could read that if somebody is a controlled tenant of limited means and a landlord chooses to exercise this right under section 60, compensation will be deemed to be, if the tenant so chooses, alternative accommodation in an adjoining area. That would make the wishes of everybody in the House much clearer than the type of phraseology in subsection (5). We can discuss that further on Committee Stage.

This section will have a very great impact on this city. If the demand for commercial office accommodation remains at the steady level it has over the last few years — the combined RICS and the property survey of The Irish Times indicate that, and this is reinforced by the growth in services generally in the Dublin area — I can see certain parts of the city subjected to increased property development. I believe that is the reason why this section is in the Bill. When a Department of Justice make such a provision do they have any sense of what the planning implications might be of this? When the Department of Justice draft this type of legislation now do they have any further expertise about the nature of the property market and the nature of urban development than their predecessors had? Is this intervention in the property market being done without reference to other factors and without consulting with the agencies and groups who have expertise in assessing what the impact will be of some of the provisions?

The business community have survived for many years with a very bad landlord and tenant system of property relations. Some individuals have been severely penalised and others have unjustly benefited from it and got subsidies from their landlords to carry on profitable commercial business without paying economic rents for the places where they carried on their business. The business community, in the main, have survived. The damage which has been done has been largely in terms of planning. The serious political charge which can be laid at the Government, who are responsible for bringing in this Bill, is that they have seen fit to give priority to rectifying the injustices which need to be rectified without apparently giving equal status to the problems of people attempting to rent residences in the private sector. I hope that the Minister of State, who should be aware of these problems from experience in his constituency, will give a clear indication at some stage in the course of the debate of the Government's policy in relation to legal responsibilities for the private rent sector. Undoubtedly this sector is now totally out of balance with a consequent enormous degree of hardship and social injustice.

The problem is compounded by the fact that, judging from the census figures in gross terms and the details of those figures as they apply to urban areas with regard particularly to immigration to urban areas from other parts of the country, the situation will become worse rapidly. The Minister of State must be receiving representations from Fianna Fáil Deputies about this situation. I trust that he will consider again the whole question of the Government's commitment while in opposition to the private rent sector who are not protected by any degree of rent control.

The net effect of the residential provisions of this Bill will be to weaken further the control of those tenants who already enjoy some such control. If those provisions are taken up by the market a further demand will be put on the housing market in general but that market cannot accommodate any further demand unless major financial provisions are made to ensure an increase in supply. The Minister for Justice can say rightly that this is not a matter for his Department but he should not be in a position to bring in legislation of this kind without at least having a scientific and a detailed understanding of what is likely to be the impact of the legislation in terms of property, planning and housing.

In political terms the lesson for those young people who have come to this city this autumn either to start work or to follow courses in third level education must be fairly clear regarding the Government's priorities since 1977. On balance every action taken by Fianna Fáil since their return to office has profited either the landlord or the private owner-occupier to the exclusion and indeed to the exacerbation of the flatdweller or of anybody else renting accommodation. In so far as this Bill is concerned with the residential sector of rented property it will weaken the position of the tenant and strengthen further the position of the landlord. That is the net effect of Fianna Fáil in office. The widening gap between them and their commitment—a commitment made prior to the last election—is a political scandal to which they must respond. I suggest seriously and without rancour that a situation in which students are virtually camping in their class-rooms because of their inability to find accommodation and in which young couples are being evicted because of their having children for the first time will force this Government, despite the present course of action, to do something drastic and without delay. But I advise the Minister not to wait until matters become desperate to take some action. The situation is bad enough now. Is there not a way in which some of the provisions of the flatdwellers charter could be incorporated into this Bill between now and Committee Stage? Is there not a way, for example, that their rights in relation to being treated as separate customers by the ESB and by other utilities cannot be guaranteed in legislation? Is it not possible that some proposals for a rent tribunal or for a system of evaluation or of access to the courts or of a definition of the kind of courts be built in to protect the rights of tenants so that at the time of the next election the Minister's party will be in a position at least to say that they attempted to honour some of the commitments made by Senator E. Ryan on behalf of Fianna Fáil? It is not for me to suggest how Fianna Fáil should order their affairs.

Down through the years they have demonstrated their ability in that area but my concern is—and this remark might be relevant also to the Home Office in Britain—that when the housing market becomes so unbalanced as must happen in this city, the situation will be such that the Government might panic into drafting legislation which in the short term might appear to solve the problem but which in the long term would make the situation worse. The private rent sector is in a state of total collapse. Anybody who has spoken to any young person who has been seeking accommodation in this city in the past four or five weeks will know how bad the situation is. I know of one person who queued for three hours in order to see a flat.

I am asking the Minister to think again about the Department's commitment as indicated by him, that is, to draw a line on the landlord and tenant legislation and to say that is it for the foreseable future. On behalf of those thousands of people who, effectively, are homeless because of not being able to find rented accommodation, I say to the Minister that he has a moral and a political responsibility to do something to ease the situation immediately. I trust that at some stage during the passage of the Bill, but not necessarily at the conclusion of Second Stage, the Minister will indicate his readiness to deal quickly with the situation. As evidence of that the Minister should indicate what he reckons are the possibilities within the confines of this legislation of attempting to give tenants some degree of protection, particularly those in furnished accommodation, who do not even have the same rights as consumers with the ESB as a landlord has. There is an urgent need to look at that question and at how this legislation can be amended or added to in order to give rights to tenants which they do not have at present.

I should like the Minister to clarify what the Government's thinking is in relation to overall ministerial responsibility for the private rented housing sector. Who is the Minister responsible in real terms? I know that there are two Ministers involved but would the Minister not consider, in order to effectively resolve this problem, that total responsibility for this sector should be transferred to the Department of the Environment or from the Department of the Environment in part back to the Department of Justice in full?

This legislation is very long. There are many provisions in it which are positive and are therefore welcome as far as we are concerned. The implications of many of the sections can be assured only on Committee Stage. I share the view expressed by the Minister in relation to the work done in the Seanad in this regard. I regret that the position of the private tenant in a controlled dwelling is being weakened by this and no rights are being conferred on tenants in the furnished housing sector at a time when they desperately need them. In guiding this legislation through the House I hope the Minister will recognise this gap and give an indication of the Government's commitment to honour their pledges of 1977.

This is the third time since I came to the House that I have spoken on a Bill dealing with landlords and tenants. The two Acts already passed complied with commitments given by the Fianna Fáil Party in 1977 prior to the election. Some people feel that we went away from that and that it is only what is stated in writing that can be quoted today. While some people feel, two years later, that we reneged in that, the general public do not think so. At a meeting the other night at which this was discussed it was generally felt that, while ACRA still argue about the people who forced this on politicians, they admit they got a good deal.

What about the rent tribunal?

What we said in the manifesto was that we would provide a scheme that would lead to the abolition of existing residential ground rents. This is the third Bill we have had about this. The first one did away with future ground rents, the second made it easy to lead towards abolition and the third deals with the technical detail. I cannot recall the Minister saying that there would be no further amendments. I recall him saying that the Deasy's Act could be amended and that there could be further amendments arising out of that. He did not close the door, as other speakers said.

This Bill is intended to give effect to the Government's proposals in the area of tenant and landlord law. Some of the points raised were irrelevant. As regards the problem of students getting accommodation, some of the students admitted that if they had come to the city earlier they could have solved those problems. I am not saying that is the total answer. I am not sure how a Minister can write into a Bill dealing with landlords and tenants how people can get accommodation if they come to the city early. Very few students are now living on the campus or on the roadways in Belfield. They have been fixed up.

Contact the Kevin Barry Cumann in UCD to check the accuracy of that.

There is no foundation for what the Deputy said.

The Bill is only dealing with leases and tenants. We are not dealing with the provision of accommodation.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister did not have to escape through a window?

No, I got out through the door.

A point raised was the fees involved in trying to buy out the fee simple. People wanted that and it was provided for in previous Bills. It is wrong to say that no system was set up to make it easy. It is quite simple now, as Deputies are aware. Deputy Keating is well aware that people in his constituency are buying out their ground rents. I live in his constituency and I have bought mine out. I did not vote for him, but perhaps next time. One pays £5 to the Land Registry. In the past if one could not locate the landlord there were numerous problems. It was almost impossible for an individual to study what he had to do. He would have had to refer back to previous Bills. It is now a simple process and the residents' association in Deputy Keating's area are very happy with it.

It is not what they tell me.

It is a wonder the Deputy did not mention the roadway as that is the problem in his area. The Minister pointed out that one of the reasons why this is not a consolidating Bill is that he would be delaying the matter and people would then criticise the delay. The Landlord and Tenant Commission are still meeting and have not yet come up with their final conclusions. The point was made that we should not bother with commissions, but surely if matters were not gone into in detail we would not have good legislation. The Act of 1931 was the first one dealing with landlord legislation. There was another one in 1958. This is the third in two years which this Government have brought in. Surely that is progress.

As regards the terms of the conditions attached to the renewal of occupational tenancies, I understood from the Minister—we are talking about people who live in a house but do not own the bricks and mortar—that this Bill will secure their interest in those houses and extend the period of time they can stay in the houses. In another part of the Bill we are giving compensation for any improvements they have made. Up to 1931, and more recently, people could improve their homes and if their leases expired they could be thrown out. A landlord must now adhere to the wishes of his tenant and take account of improvements done.

As a tenant can now bring the matter of renewal of tenancy to court, he is likely to get a much better deal than in the past. The Minister referred to the 21 year limit of lease extension which has now been extended to 35 years. If the matter goes to court and is fixed as day one, the result could be an astronomical rent, but this could be reviewed every five years instead of seven, which is much fairer to the tenant. The rent will be linked in some way to inflation rather than imposing a large rent which may be out of touch with the times. In regard to business tenants, a new tenancy is given for three years, regardless of the terms under which the existing tenancies were granted. This would also apply to people with short leases. It has been stated that the Bill deals only with long-term tenancy agreements but under this section, though I may be wrong, a person on a short lease could at least have a renewal for another three years with some right of holding on to the premises he is occupying.

This Bill deals fairly with landlords. In the case cited, of an hotel or some such business where the tenant is unsatisfactory, or something detrimental to the business is being carried on in the premises, the owner has the right to examine the person's fitness for that tenancy and if he is not satisfactory the landlord may discontinue that lease, thus enabling him to obtain a satisfactory tenant. In the Bill the right is given to a tenant with 20 years' continuous occupation of a dwellinghouse to a new tenancy up to 30 years. This protects the tenant. If a person inadvertently, through illness or old age, loses the right to a tenancy, the landlord can no longer put him out. Under the old Act, a tenant could be put out if his rent was 12 months in arrears and the later legislation provided that he could be sued for non-payment of debts. This present Bill strengthens a tenant's hand. For example, the landlord must give an extension of the lease to an elderly tenant on a long lease who inadvertently misses the running out of the lease. Under the 1931 Act there had to be absence from a house for five years before anything could be done, but now prior to termination of a tenancy the question of a tenancy under new conditions, giving more security of tenure, can be examined.

Regarding tenants building extensions or making improvements in houses, in the past unless an approval notice was served on the landlord they could not expect compensation. There is one section I did not understand. It concerns the landlord being prejudiced by non-service of notice. Perhaps the Minister would explain later. In the case of a landlord trying to evict a tenant and refusing to allow a planning application that landlord can now be overruled, except under some conditions, and the tenant can go ahead and renovate the house.

Under Part I of the Bill, if a house owner tries to hold out in an area where this means a blocking of necessary improvements to many, refusing compensation offered, there are stringent conditions to make sure that there will be no loopholes in the law. It would be unfair for someone to be able to stop a major development, which could be in the interests of many, by refusing adequate compensation. The conditions mentioned of six months' notice and adequate compensation are fair enough.

In section 69 of the Bill the State should have the right to buy the fee simple of dwellinghouses under the purchase scheme of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act, subject only to the public interest. There are technical points involved here which may be dealt with in a further Bill.

The Minister has paid a well-earned tribute to the Landlord and Tenant Commission. This is the third Bill which the Government have brought before the House and they are examining further ways of improving landlord and tenant legislation, whether by amendments to this Bill or in a future Bill. This is not a closed shop situation. The two Bills already passed are recognised as being of tremendous benefit. There are provisions safeguarding the rights of tenants and, in some ways, the rights of landlords. It is only fair that landlords should be considered to some degree and not taken always to be wrong; they are not all bad. In years gone by they got their bad reputation probably because of loopholes in the law but the Bills passed and being passed in the House have gone a long way to repairing that position.

One of my colleagues mentioned the problem of tenants attempting to get or getting court orders being evicted and being compelled to take whatever accommodation is offered. This is a major problem. There are frequently such cases under Dublin Corporation and other corporations where people are being evicted and homeless people are squatting.

We are in another field now, Deputy.

I am sorry. I am sure the Minister is well aware of this in his own constituency. I would welcome anything done to solve those problems.

(Cavan-Monaghan): By and large this Bill updates the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931. It is based largely on recommendations made by the Landlord and Tenant Commission. I should like to join with the Minister of State and other speakers who thanked Judge Conroy and the other members of that Commission for the work they did over the years within their terms of reference. They worked hard on the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1931, and updated it as proposed in the Bill before us.

In dealing with the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1931, which it is now proposed to repeal, it is appropriate to say a word of congratulation to the people who put that Bill on the Statute Book a long time ago. It was then very enlightened legislation. It often occurs to me that, in those days, very good work was done in many fields. As I say, it is appropriate to congratulate the people who enacted the 1931 Bill.

The Bill before us is good so far as it goes, but it does not go nearly far enough. Nor does it deal with a variety of problems which have arisen. I have thanked Judge Conroy and his commission, but it is necessary to point out that the commission were appointed in January 1966, and that the two reports we now have before us were submitted by the commission to the then Minister for Justice in 1967-68. The terms of reference given to the commission are limited. There are three of them: to inquire into the working of the law relating to landlords and tenants other than the Rent Restrictions Act, 1960, and to recommend such amendments in the law as the commission think proper; to furnish a report on the provisions relating to the grant of new tenancies under Part III of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, and on other aspects of the law which, in the opinion of the Commission, should be given priority; whether persons other than those given a right to a reversionary lease by the Landlord and Tenant (Reversionary Leases) Act, 1958, should be given that right.

It is pretty clear that the commission regarded their terms of reference as an invitation to look into the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, and to update that Act, and to look at the entitlement of persons to reversionary leases. They dealt with those two matters, and broadly they are what we are dealing with now. Over the years there was a tendency here towards private ownership. That seemed to be the trend developing over a good number of years. People wanted to own their own houses and their own business premises. In recent years that tendency seemed to be disappearing. In years to come we will see a situation developing where more and more people will be living in rented accommodation. More and more people will be living in flats or in apartments.

I say that because it seems to me that the purchase or acquisition of a house is rapidly going beyond the capacity of young people. I will not get into a lengthy or detailed discussion on the price of houses, but I think what I am about to say is relevant. If a climate is being created where more and more people will be living in rented accommodation, the contractual relationships between landlord and tenant will increase. Furthermore, if we are to have an increase in the number of apartment residences, or flats, that will create a different sort of problem with which our present landlord and tenant law does not deal. That development will take place because houses have doubled in price in the past three or four years. The policy of the Government at present appears to be against building local authority houses. That is indicated in White Paper after White Paper. If you will bear with me, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

The Chair is doing its best, but we are straying from the Bill which does not deal with the provision or the cost of houses. I have allowed the Deputy to make his point.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The landlord and tenant law will have to be updated and modernised to meet the new situation with which we are confronted. I am not putting the blame for the increase in the price of houses on any shoulders. I am simply saying the price of a house has increased on average from £12,076 to £22,000, according to official figures. That will put the acquisition of a house beyond the capacity of the average man, or woman, or married couple wanting to acquire a house. I will say no more about that.

Government policy as enunciated in multi-coloured papers over the past few years appears to be that there is less necessity for the building of local authority houses and that people should look after themselves. If that is so—and it appears to me to be the case—the landlord and tenant law needs to be updated. It is not good enough to update an Act introduced in 1931 and not deal with the modern situation as we know it. I mention in particular the flatland situation in Dublin, the multi-apartment buildings, and so on.

The terms of reference of the Landlord and Tenant Commission need to be updated. They need new terms of reference and a request should be made to them to deal with present problems. Deputy Keating went through a letter written by Senator Eoin Ryan on 7 June 1977 to the National Flatdwellers' Association. It is a very detailed document. It seemed to have a solution for every problem that might beset tenants. It would be a good idea to submit that document to the Landlord and Tenant Commission as a term of reference and ask them to study it and come up with proposals to discuss it. It dealt with the problems that prevail in Dublin and other cities and in many of our towns, which should be dealt with by the Landlord and Tenant Commission in the year 1979. They reported promptly on the terms of reference given to them in 1966, but they need new terms of reference now. It would appear as if Senator Eoin Ryan had at his disposal some back-up services. He seemed to have all the solutions in 1977 but none of them appears in this measure, which is a great pity and will be a great disappointment to those who accepted his proposals in 1977 and expected that they would be implemented.

This measure is simply an updating of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, dealing largely with the renewal of business tenancies which have expired.

As Deputy Quinn said, it does a good job in that area. We can discuss it in detail on Committee Stage. It goes some of the way towards altering the terms of renewal of residential leases, but it does not deal with the young people who are housed in unsatisfactory flats in Dublin. There is nothing in it for the people who cannot even get these flats because they have children.

If the position is as I see it, that is, a move from ownership to rented accommodation, the law of landlord and tenant must be equitable to both sides and must give a fair return to landlords. If a fair and reasonable return is not given to landlords they will not make accommodation available. If the Government are not going to make accommodation available in the form of local authority housing and if people who want houses cannot provide them out of their own funds, the people who need houses will be in a bad way if the law of landlord and tenant discourages or prohibits the building or provision of houses by the private sector.

It has been said and accepted by the Minister of State that this is a complicated measure. It is a highly technical Bill. It can truly be said that it is a Committee Stage Bill. I do not propose to go into it section by section. I intend to refer to a few of the major provisions which need amendment. I respectfully suggest to the Minister of State that he should postpone Committee Stage for at least three or four weeks, if he does not refer the Bill, as he is thinking of doing, to a select committee, as some Deputies, including himself, are engaged on other matters at present. I have a list of amendments but it will take some time to get them down. We would not be prepared to take Committee Stage and do justice to it earlier than three weeks from today.

The Minister of State referred to a discussion in the Seanad on section 4, the section which exempts the State from the obligation to give a new tenancy. In other words, a person who takes a lease from the State for five, ten or 20 years and builds up a business is not entitled to a new tenancy on the termination of the lease. If he had taken a lease from a private individual or a company, he would be entitled to a new tenancy. The same difficulty will arise for a person who rents or leases his dwelling from the State and resides in it for 20 or 25 years, that is, he will not be entitled to a new tenancy as he would be if he had taken the letting from a private individual. That exemption is wrong. There was no such exemption in the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931.

This special treatment for the State first crept into an Act introduced by the present Government a couple of years ago. The first time it appeared in statutory form was in the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act, 1978. The Minister of State said that this was always the law; that the Senators seemed to think that it was an innovation but that that was not so. My understanding is that it does not appear in the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, that it never appeared in any statutory form before, and that the Landlord and Tenant Commission have not asked or recommended that the law be changed. When he said that the State enjoyed this exemption since the foundation of the State, I imagine that the Minister of State had in mind some old maxim that it is not possible to prescribe against the Crown or that one cannot acquire a squatter's title or a title by prescription against the Crown, or that the ordinary man had no rights against the Crown. That must be the rule that the Minister of State is relying on.

If a Government Department rent premises as business premises to a citizen, they are enjoying rents that ordinary landlords enjoy and should be bound by the law in the same way as everybody else. Indeed the State is in a much better position to find alternative accommodation than the tenant it ejects. I propose to put down an amendment on Committee Stage to deal with this. A great hardship will be caused if section 4 is allowed to stand because a person might take a lease from an ordinary private citizen for 50 years and the State could come along and buy the landlord's interest. Then the tenant would find himself dealing not with the landlord he contracted with but with the State and he would have lost whatever rights he would have been entitled to exercise under this Act, and that is unjust. The Minister of State says that he proposes to introduce an amendment dealing with one part of section 4. I think what the Minister intends to do is to take away from the State the right to this exemption if it purchased the landlord's interest. I may be wrong but that is what I think he is going to do because as it is now it is so outrageous that it could not stand up at all. The only way to deal with this problem is to delete section 4 from the Bill altogether. That is the right way to do it and we will have more about that on Committee Stage. It is entirely unjust and wrong.

Section 5 defines a tenement. That definition is not wide enough. For example, it defines a tenement as land covered either entirely or partially with buildings. In modern times there could be things like an arena attached to a garage for the sale of cars which, although it is not covered with buildings, is an area that is used for business. There could be a scrap yard or various other areas that are not covered with buildings but which are used in the very same way. That needs amendment and again we will deal with that.

The Minister also said that of course the Bill visualises a situation where a person would not be entitled to the benefit of the Act in regard to the renewal of tenancies and that it was not intended to prevent that. The Minister now has changed section 13 of the Bill. It is a different section now from that in the Bill as drafted in 1977. It is provided that a person who is in occupation of a business premises for three years is entitled to a new tenancy. It goes on to say that unforeseen breaks can be disregarded if the court thinks that they should be disregarded. But we all know that over the years leases for two years and nine months are given and then there is a break and then there is another lease for two years and nine months given and, in the heel of the hunt, a tenant could have several of these leases for two years and nine months and he would never be entitled to a new lease and could be thrown out by the back of the neck at any time. That is unreasonable. This two years and nine months is simply a stunt to contract out of the Act and that should not be allowed. By writing "unforeseen" into the Bill the Minister is encouraging that very thing. An unforeseen break would be a break occasioned by a fire or by illness or something else but it would not be an unforeseen break if the lease is only for two years and nine months and the person is then obliged to vacate the premises for a couple of weeks and then another tenancy is given to him. That sort of thing goes on and I would suggest that the Minister look at that. We will be dealing with that on Committee Stage, too.

Under the law as it stands a lease which expired by effluxion of time or on a certain specified event was renewed in or about the time that it expired. That has been changed in section 20 of the Bill. If I take a lease of a premises for 21 years today I can apparently, under section 20, immediately apply for a new tenancy, and serve notice that I am going to apply for a tenancy in 20 years' time. That seems a bit ridiculous. The right way to deal with that would be to give a lease for 50 years if that was the intention but it seems a bit absurd that a person who gets a lease for 20 years could immediately apply for a new lease on the expiration of that lease although the circumstances prevailing at the time of the real expiration of the lease could be totally different. That needs looking into.

Under the 1931 Act a tenant had to give notice within a certain limited time of the expiration of the lease of his intention to apply for a new lease and if he did not he forfeited his right to a new lease. That brought many injustices and something approaching sharp practice; very often because a tenant did not know that his lease had expired because it was either in a bank or a solicitor's office or in his own safe and might have been drawn up in his father's or grandfather's time, he did not serve the notice and lost his right to a new tenancy and this was very strictly observed. I believe that has been changed now and the court has been given fairly wide powers to extend the time. But a better provision would be that a landlord must serve a notice on the tenant informing him that his lease has expired. I think I am right in saying that this is in the Bill and I approve of that. On receipt of this notice the tenant must claim a new tenancy within a month. A month is too short. A person could be away, with travel being so easy even though it is very expensive. A person might be out of the country on holiday or on business and the notice might be served on him in his absence and therefore one month is too short.

There is another thing in the Bill that is wrong and needs looking into. If a business tenant or indeed a residential tenant holds under a lease which expires, then he is entitled to a new tenancy if he bring himself within the Act but if a person is a yearly tenant or a quarterly tenant, a monthly or a weekly tenant for 30 years or longer or for any length of time, he does not have the opportunity of applying for a new tenancy unless a notice to quit is served. If the landlord sits tight and does not serve a notice to quit this man can never convert his weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly tenancy into a lease. He should be given the right, if he is otherwise qualified by length of time, to apply for a new tenancy. I have outlined the position as I understand it and if I am wrong I will be told so.

Section 23 refers to gross rent and states that the rent shall be the gross rent less certain reductions. It is not clear from the section what date should be taken by the court for the assessment of the gross rent and any allowance for improvements and it is suggested that having regard to continuing inflation an appropriate date should be stipulated so that the court will not be faced with the almost impossible task of trying to assess a rent for a new tenancy commencing at some time which they must guess. A date should be fixed at which the gross rent should be taken.

We will go through the Bill section by section on Committee Stage and I have given the Minister notice of some matters of a major nature which need to be dealt with. The Bill is disappointing in that it is not a modern instrument and does not deal with the situation as we now find it. It only updates a measure of 1931 which was introduced in entirely different circumstances. We boast of the fact that we have the youngest population in Europe and we hear time and again that 50 per cent of our population are or soon will be under the age of 25. The Bill does not take account of that situation as it should. Apartments and multi-dwellings were not known to the same extent in 1931 as they are now and they should have been provided for in the Bill. It is a lazy effort and it is not an answer to say that it is a Bill which was largely introduced by an administration of which I was a member. I throw the ball back to the Minister's court because he or a very important member of his party had all the answers in 1977. He now appears to have brushed them to one side and relied on reports produced in 1967 and 1968.

This Bill, which we all welcome, is rather complex. As the Minister pointed out, it is the third part of legislation consolidating already existing Acts. The Minister must be complimented for bringing forward this Bill reasonably quickly and discharging another promise contained in the Fianna Fáil manifesto of 1977.

The whole area of landlord and tenant has always been one of contention and still is. Perhaps this is not too surprising when one reflects on our history and on the many unjust actions of landlords and their agents during the last century and in the earlier part of this century. Great feelings of mistrust and hatred which were entrenched many years ago take time to heal. Even today in modern Ireland, particularly in this city, there are still a great many injustices against tenants and some unscrupulous landlords behave as if they were totally immune to the existing laws of the land.

Most Dáil Deputies, especially in the Dublin area, will be only too well aware of the difficulties facing the average young person or married couple seeking rented accommodation. A couple who have children find it increasingly hard to obtain any accommodation except at an exorbitant rent and very often in extremely bad conditions. There is no doubt that young people are being exploited. The average young person is often too timid, frightened or quiet to do anything but pay the rent demanded or, alternatively, start all over again seeking accommodation. This happens quite regularly and we are all aware of such cases. On the other hand, it is strangely in contrast with the views and experiences of so many decent and respectable landlords who play the game fairly and honestly. Such decent landlords often feel that the law is constantly militating against them and gives them very little room for manoeuvre with their own property. The Act imposing fixed rents is probably the most unjust and immoral law existing today.

With such a large influx of population to the cities, it is vitally important that sufficient rent accommodation is available. That accommodation should be of good standard and available at a reasonable rent. It must be borne in mind that landlords letting accommodation for residential or commercial purposes do so in the interests of profit in order to make a living. That is normal. Like a tenant a landlord also wishes to have a quiet life with few problems while, at the same time, he wishes to gain something financially at the end of the day. That is a quite acceptable objective of any landlord and nobody can fault that. I am afraid that landlords may consider it is becoming too difficult to let their premises and may fear that the law may be turning a little too much in favour of tenants——

The Deputy cannot be serious.

I am sure the Deputy is aware of such cases. When I refer to this aspect I have in mind the many decent, honourable landlords in the city and earlier today Deputy Keating acknowledged that point. It is not too often that I agree with the Deputy but I do in this instance. We must be realistic and accept that very often there are rights and wrongs on both sides. The law must act fairly at all times between tenants and landlords. Otherwise there is a real danger that accommodation may become even more scarce.

Notwithstanding that, due to the developments and changes in our society it is desirable and necessary to review our laws, to make the necessary amendments and to legislate to suit the times. We have reached such a stage and we have before the House a new Bill in addition to other measures, all of them consolidating the Acts dealing with landlords and tenants. It is difficult to go through all the relevant Acts and a person would need to have a legal mind to understand and interpret the various legal and constitutional measures. As the Minister pointed out, this Bill is a consolidating measure and, for that reason, it must be welcomed by all.

One of the most important proposals in the Bill relates to business leases and what are recognised in this context as occupational tenancies. Too often in the past the courts have had some difficulty in setting new rents for such tenancies and many people found it very difficult to adjust to a new rent fixed by the courts. On the other hand, the courts had to take into account a number of considerations, mainly the compensating factor for the benefit of the landlord as fixed rents had to remain for a period of 21 years. Rents that were fixed in the late sixties and early seventies are far too low by today's standards. Likewise, during a period of higher inflation the courts could easily err on the other side and, of course, this would be to the disadvantage of the tenants. For that reason this Bill should be welcomed by all.

The provision to relax the qualifying conditions for a new tenancy is a move in the right direction. This will lead to a more responsible approach by both parties. In the past too many premises were let on a short-term basis and it was inevitable that at the end of the lease disputes would arise between the landlord and tenant. We had the situation where all kinds of legalities and technicalities were brought into play. Now a landlord must decide whether to let his property on an investment basis. This will give the tenant a fair opportunity and will achieve a better agreement and more goodwill between both parties. An element of ill-will in any tenancy agreement follows misunderstanding, whether deliberate or otherwise, relating to the responsibility of carrying out repairs to premises. At present far too many buildings, commercial as well as residential, are in a shocking state of disrepair and decay. This capital city is blighted in an obscene way in this regard. Unfortunately families are living in housing conditions that are a shame to those responsible. I have referred to this on other occasions——

The Deputy was much more in order on other occasions.

I realised the Chair would tell me if it was not relevant to this Bill.

There is a slight relevance to section 60 where compensation is dealt with in certain circumstances for obsolete buildings. However, the state of the centre of Dublin city hardly arises on this Bill.

The point I am making is that we have far too much rented accommodation in old buildings and I hope this matter will be covered in some way in the future. I look forward to the time when a penal taxation of some kind will be imposed in respect of buildings that are held for speculative purposes or otherwise. There are far too many derelict buildings in the city. I am aware of this because I deal with the problem every day of the week. The matter did not arise today or yesterday. The problem has been with us for many years.

In this Bill there is provision for the tenant to carry out repairs. This also specifies the time limit in which these repairs should be carried out. The important point in this regard is that the right be given to the courts to insert conditions in a new tenancy where they consider it appropriate, where the partners to the lease fail to agree on measures which can subsequently be inserted and be agreed upon with the assistance of the court. This is a good aspect in a very mild Bill as it adds a fair dimension to understanding between landlord and tenant.

I am very much in favour of setting up special committees and commissions to investigate matters. Some earlier speakers felt that there was no real necessity for commissions. I am rather surprised at this because as we all know commissions comprise experts and people who specialise in certain aspects of things. Judge Conroy and the Landlord and Tenant Commission are to be congratulated on their various submissions following their investigation.

This is a good Bill in general and it is not contentious. There will be a number of amendments on Committee Stage and I feel that the Bill will be more deeply debated at Committee level. This Bill is long overdue, it is very necessary and I would like it to have a speedy passage through the House.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is probably the one man present today who knows more than any other Member about the landlord and tenant legislation because he was in Government when the original was drafted. During the Seanad contributions, tribute was paid to all sides and the feeling from the Seanad debates was that this was everybody's child. When Deputy David Andrews wound up the debate he was very generous in stating, as reported in the Seanad Report of Wednesday, 2 May, 1979 that:

Senator Cooney's views in this regard have prevailed and it is only proper that I should thank him for bringing the matter to the attention of the House and, having done so, to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the authorship to which Senator Cooney's name must be attached.

Nobody could say that we did not recognise the contribution made by the former Government in this consolidation measure. As has been stated by the Minister of State this is one of a trilogy. Certain things arise under this Bill and a number of things were said this morning by Deputy Keating which require an answer. The Deputy referred to my alleged promises to flatdwellers in Rathmines. The Flatdwellers' Association availed of an opportunity to make their representations to the Conroy Commission. I would make it clear that when the Minister for Justice was spokesman for Justice in Opposition, I met the Flatdwellers' Association with him and we were most careful not to give any commitments which we could not stand over. Deputy Keating said that we gave solemn commitments to the Flatdwellers' Association and that is just not true. There is a problem in relation to flatdwellers' in the city and we know how difficult it is for students to get accommodation. However, the chief cause of this problem is none other than the Flatdwellers' Association who have harassed legitimate landlords to such an extent that they just do not want anything to do with students.

I am referring to statements affecting myself which were made by Deputy Keating this morning and I feel entitled to reply to them. The Deputy said that I had given assurances to the flatdwellers in my constituency during the last election campaign, that I had given solemn witness to the fact that we would do all sorts of things. I deny that. I did not wish to interrupt the Deputy while he was speaking but I feel that I have a right to reply to the allegations. The true cause of the problem is the Flatdwellers' Association whom the Deputy represented here this morning, who put up a candidate in the local elections in the Rathmines area but failed to get him elected. These people are mainly responsible for this tremendous problem, the shortage of flats in Dublin. Because of the harassment of the landlords, they are increasing their rates and are pricing students out of the market, because they do not want students who seem to have a tendency to go to the Flatdwellers' Association when they have a problem.

The Deputy should not introduce a subject that could——

I am not introducing it, I am answering Deputy Keating.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

The Deputy is also displaying a total difference of opinion between himself and Deputy Ahern.

Deputy Ahern was allowed make his speech but I must speak from my experience as I have always done. Some people might say I speak foolishly, others might say courageously. I have stated the position and I am not intimidated by the Flatdwellers' Association who have a tendency to intimidate. I recall receiving a phone call from them at 1.20 a.m. in relation to an eviction case in my constituency. They said that I had said that they could call me at any time. I inquired as to the problem and asked how long it had been going on. It had been going on since 2 o'clock the previous afternoon. I asked why they had called me at that time and they said it was because I had said that they could call me at any time. I went around the next morning to the place in question and the landlady complained to me that the female tenant was bringing in boyfriends and that she objected to it in her house. She also showed me where her electricity meter had been scratched and marked and alleged that money was being taken from the meter.

Deputy Brady suggested that the tenants had too many rights, and they cannot even invite guests in.

Tenants have their rights——

(Cavan-Monaghan): That is a democratic party over there.

Fair is fair. I wish to see landlords renting property to students and I wish to see students being able to avail of it. I do not wish to see landlords refusing to rent to students because of harassment. That is the point I am making. The best advice I can give to the Flatdwellers' Association is not to harass landlords and to try to get something done.

Landlords who are not carrying out their duties as landlords should be taken very strictly in hand. There are some very bad landlords in this city. I would put them in the criminal class. Only recently I was in Rathmines to see an old man and his wife. The wife was confined to bed. The house was reeking with damp. They are paying a rent of about £11 per week. The landlord who lives in the country comes up to collect the rent. I have already reported the misery of the people living in these conditions to Dublin Corporation with a view to having proceedings taken against the landlord to compel him to make the house habitable. This is an example of a situation where a landlord——

I cannot allow a continuing debate on the whole policy regarding flats in Dublin.

The Bill does have provision to strengthen the hand of the corporation to do exactly what is suggested.

It may be a matter for Dublin Corporation but it is not relevant to this Bill.

Deputy Keating dealt with it irrelevantly or irreverently.

(Cavan-Monaghan): He was suggesting what should be in the Bill and was unfortunately omitted from it.

I shall obey the Chair. I would not take away from Deputy Keating's sincerity but sometimes he is sincerely wrong and in many instances here he appears to be wrong. One must accept that there are rights and wrongs on both sides. The previous Government recognised this. I should like to see the Minister using his utmost energy to hasten the setting up of a rents tribunal which is badly needed. There are poor landlords as well. There are people renting houses on a 99-year lease at a rent of £4, £5, or £6. Landlords cannot maintain houses like that. The tenants, as Deputy Fitzpatrick as a practising solicitor will know, can do as they like. The responsibility is on the landlord to maintain his property, maintain the outside walls, the roof and so on. A landlord can go bankrupt. To use the words of Seantor Alexis FitzGerald who put it so well in the Seanad, a landlord may be held up to ransom and may have to get rid of a house at any price because the longer he holds on the nearer he will be to "going broke". So, he will sell a house for £3,000 or £4,000 which would normally fetch £20,000 or £30,000 on the market just to get rid of it. The tenant who is being advised of his rights knows this. Such problems also exist and this Bill tries to put to rights some aspects of the situation.

The Bill deals with two main areas, one, as the Minister said, concerning the terms and conditions attaching to the renewal of occupational tenancies and to the award to a departing occupational tenant of compensation for improvements he may have made. The other area concerns the renewal of ground rent leases, the area covered by the Act of 1958. These are the two main areas. Deputy Keating said that the short-term tenant also had certain rights. I agree but let me equate the short-term tenant with the case of the company that takes on an employee for a three-month period in an arrangement where either side can give notice to the other. If a landlord takes in a tenant and loses his rights over the property thereafter within a certain period, if the tenant turns out to be unruly, that is just too bad for the landlord; he made a bad choice. That discourages more and more people from renting property. We must encourage landlords to let property by ensuring that they also have rights and that all the rights are not on one side. If you provide for the rights of the tenant and not for the rights of the landlord you will throw out the baby with the water.

Without dwelling on it I am very sympathetic to the point that Deputy Keating made that income tax relief should be allowed to people renting property in the same way as in the case of somebody buying a home. The Deputy seemed to be confused when he talked about the bebefits of the abolition of rates not being passed on to the tenant. This is not true in all cases. There are many cases where the benefit has been passed on to the tenant, particularly where the rents were separate from the rates. Many landlords, quite rightly, kept the two items separate so as to ensure that when the rates were savagely increased they did not suffer the brunt of the tenant's anger. I would think that a large proportion of tenants got immediate rates relief.

There is no evidence of that.

With due respect, I saw many a bill paid by a tenant which had the rates set out separately from the rent. As a former flat dweller, my rates were separate from my rent. Deputy Quinn knows this system exists in many instances.

All too few in my experience.

I agree that there are unscrupulous landlords who batten on unfortunate tenants but I think that the Deputy would agree also that there are certain tenants who rule out the possibility of landlords letting property because of the tenants' conduct. If Deputy Quinn had a house to let in flats he would be very particular about the kind of tenants he took in, himself being an architect and a man who would go to great pains to make sure when he had good accommodation to offer at a reasonable rent that it would not be abused, that there would be no bottle parties there. He would be fairly selective. If it turned out that some unfortunate tenant, corrupted at university or somewhere else took drugs and drink and held parties there and if the Deputy came in and saw his carpet and wallpaper being destroyed he would be very glad to know that he had certain rights. He would have all sorts of agreements drafted by solicitors to protect his rights.

We want that protection. We are talking of perhaps 5 per cent, or less, of students who cause many problems. I am deeply concerned about the problem in Dublin caused mainly by the Flatdwellers' Association harassment. Unless they stop, the situation will become worse. They are creating problems; they are throwing the baby out with the water. Many people are now seeking permission to convert their property into offices because they have "had enough" of flats. Good flats and houses are beginning to fall apart because of the treatment they are getting. I could bring Deputy Quinn or Deputy Keating to a house straight away and show them what happened to it; it has been literally wrecked by tenants. The rents being charged by the landlords are such that they would never recover the money it would take to rapair the house.

Is the Deputy blaming the Flatdwellers' Association?

They have caused great problems in regard to the shortage of flats because of the harassment of landlords. I do not want to go back over it because the Chair was generous in allowing me to answer some of the points made. The Chair was a little more lenient with the Deputy in some of the comments he made.

Deputy Keating referred to the rights of tenants under short leases. It is very important, just as it is for somebody who seeks a job and the employer, to have a right to end an arrangement on due notice by either side, or after a trial period. A landlord must also have a trial period after which a tenant, if he or she behaves, has certain rights. A number of measures which we introduced were welcomed in the House. The legislation dealing with the abolition of ground rents, for example, was one of the big issues dealt with by the House.


The setting of £5 as the legal fee for buying out a ground rent. I have not seen any questions to the Minister as to the number who have availed of that piece of legislation.

The Deputy knows the answer.

It is possible that there is not the same demand to abolish ground rents as existed some years ago but the setting of the legal fee at £5 was a move in the right direction. It must be remembered that under our Constitution no one has a right to confiscate. People must be compensated but that would cost a lot of money. I accept that this is irritating but it is not a big issue. My mother for years was not happy about paying ground rent but we have created a condition under which people like her can buy out that ground rent at a reasonable figure. That is an indication of progress.

I should like to join in the tributes paid to the Conroy Commission. As was stated in the Seanad, Judge Conroy has become a legendary figure in his own time for the work he put into that commission. It should be borne in mind that such commissions are available for members of the public to send submissions to. It is regrettable that Deputy Keating did not make submissions because, in the course of his contribution today, he seemed to be at variance with the work that has been done. The commission interviewed many people and listened to many complaints. I have tremendous admiration for those who address commissions in an effort to improve a situation. I should like to pay tribute to the Flatdwellers' Association who made a submission to that commission. I hope the commission will be a continuing process because we can always update legislation. I expect to be slated by the Flatdwellers' Association for my comments about them but I am anxious that my comments are seen as being constructive. They are intended to be helpful. It was not my intention to deny people accommodation. We have a responsibility to provide accommodation. I should like to make reference to some of the contributions made on this Bill in the Seanad.

I would not encourage reference to what happened in the Seanad. I permitted Deputy Keating to mention the debate in the Seanad because the Minister of State, in his opening remarks, made reference to changes that were agreed in that House. Each House deals with its own problems in relation to its own business without reference to the other.

What I am anxious to refer to is not controversial.

Ash plant in waiting will arrest the Deputy if he breaches that good old English privilege we are only too pleased to have.

I am delighted the Deputy agrees with me.

Commonsense about the relationship would dictate that if we permitted such references it would happen every day.

On a point of order, I would be obliged if this was cleared up once and for all. Is it not open to Deputy Briscoe to quote from a Senator's speech published in a newspaper? If that is the case why can he not quote from what a Senator said in the other House?

The practice is discouraged, and rightly so, because each House is a separate institution.

I was anxious to refer to something which Senator FitzGerald said, a quote that would flatter him. That Senator said that it was splendid that we have such ample opportunity to disagree on everything as everybody was accusing everybody else of having drafted the document. He said that that meant that there could not be any possible discredit to anybody accepting a proposal from the other side, assuming that the other side intended contributing to the debate. That was an excellent piece of good English. This Bill is the collective wisdom of two Governments, not just of the Conroy Commission.

Deputy Keating was a little too critical of the Bill. When dealing with section 4 Senator FitzGerald made a good case for amending it but on the other hand, the Minister made a better case for retaining it. In simple justice, one must accept that landlords of premises which are due to be torn down for urban renewal should be compensated in a reasonable way without, as Senator FitzGerald said, being held up to ransom. Courts must have guidelines to determine the amount of fair compensation. I accept that some landlords have had certain tenants over a barrel because it would be too expensive for them to move their long established businesses elsewhere, whether it is a shoemaker shop or a dry cleaning establishment. That happens when a big enterprise moves into an area because the value of property increases. A good example is Wood Quay. When the new civic offices are erected there the adjoining properties will increase in value.

Is that what the Deputy has been doing?

No. I am in this world with nothing and that is a good way to be because one has fewer problems. Just as long as I can feed myself and my family I am satisfied.

The problem of having too much is one that afflicts an unfortunate minority in our society. The vast majority struggle with the problem of not having anything.

I will not permit dialogue across the House.

The man who cannot afford to take his holidays in Spain is now regarded as being poverty stricken.

There are other areas in Dublin undergoing development. For example, great development is taking place in Moore Street and property in that region will increase in value when that is completed. Therefore, landlords will be seeking to increase very much the rents they charge. These are the kinds of problems attaching to this Bill which updates not alone certain pre-1922 legislation but I have seen also, I think, the year 1868 mentioned.

Debate adjourned.