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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 May 1995

Vol. 452 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Regulation of Auctioneers.

Seán Kenny


9 Mr. S. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if, under Consumer Protection legislation, he will deal with a case (details supplied) where a young couple who have received loan approval from Dublin Corporation under the shared ownership scheme have been refused as house purchasers by two estate agents. [3575/95]

Seán Kenny


75 Mr. S. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will deal with a case (details supplied) in Dublin 5 where a young couple who have received loan approval from Dublin Corporation under the shared ownership scheme have been refused as house purchasers by two estate agents (details supplied). [5343/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 75 together. I regret that I am unable to intervene on behalf of the people involved in this case as I have no statutory function in this matter.

The regulation of the auctioneering profession is a matter for the Minister for Justice.

The Minister points out the inadequacies of the current law but will he agree that the problem seems to lie in pricing in the housing market? Local authorities who provide loans through the shared ownership scheme value the property independently and try to act as a brake on rising house prices whereas estate agents who act on a commission basis have a vested interest in rising house prices. It is reasonable that the estate agent tries to get the best price he can for the vendor but it is neither reasonable nor fair that he should be in a position to determine the choice of housing finance for a purchaser by refusing to accept as a purchaser persons who have obtained approval for a shared ownership loan.

I agree that auctioneers should not be able to determine the type of house finance available to purchasers. I acknowledge that the difference between a shared ownership scheme and a typical mortgage is that the £1,000 deposit is paid directly to the local authority. I do not know if that has anything to do with the attitude of estate agents. It would be regrettable if that were the case. I asked the Department of the Environment to comment and it records that some reports were received which indicate that a number of estate agents in the Dublin area are reluctant to accept bids for houses from prospective shared owners. It is understood this reluctance is based on alleged delays by Dublin Corporation in processing the legal formalities in individual cases. In response to this the corporation referred a number of cases to private solicitors last year and has employed additional staff in the conveyancing section of its legal department. I am advised that the scheme is now running more efficiently and delays have been reduced to 12 weeks with a target of ten weeks which, I am advised, is normal practice.

The Minister of State will remember that we discussed shared ownership loans during the debate on the Consumer Credit Bill. They are progressing reasonably well in County Westmeath. The problem lies with the £1,000 deposit which is paid to the local authority, not to the auctioneer. I accept that auctioneers do not come within the remit of the Minister of State but rather that of the Minister for Justice. However, consumer protection, as Deputy Rabbitte was wont to tell me, straddles many areas. I remember one hot sunny afternoon when he berated me for not assuming the mantle of the Ministers for Finance, Justice and Enterprise and Employment. Rather than saying it does not fall within his remit, the Minister of State should use his good offices, as he sits around the Cabinet table, not voting but speaking volubly I am sure, to bring the case to the Minister for Justice. It is not good enough in a matter such as this where a couple who possibly cannot express themselves correctly are turned down as a result of accepted Government policy.

I thought it was time for role reversal and I was about to ask if I could put a number of supplementaries.

The Minister of State was asleep and needed to be woken up.

It would have been feasible for Deputy O'Rourke to take over the mantle of those Ministers in the last Government. She could have done it effortlessly.

Get off with your soft talk.

I brought this matter to the Minister for Justice and am advised that the dimension relating to Dublin Corporation, which is the question raised by Deputy Kenny, has been tackled. I am not in a position to say that the £1,000 which is put into the coffers of the local authority rather than the coffers of the estate agent is the critical issue. I hope it is not and if some estate agents refuse to implement the shared ownership scheme and act for clients because of that I hope that practice will be terminated.

I agree that there are no longer extended delays and this is not a valid reason for estate agents being reluctant to accept shared ownership clients. The point about the deposit being paid to the corporation rather than the estate agent is valid because some estate agents are up front in declaring to the purchaser that is the reason they should get lost.

The Deputy is correct.

That is not acceptable and the Deputy should bring his observations to the attention of the auctioneering body.