Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012: From the Seanad

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

I understand there is a technical correction to the amendments which will be requested by the Minister of State.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity. I would be obliged if, in accordance with Standing Order 140, the Acting Chairman would direct the clerk to make the following minor drafting correction to the text of amendment No. 80: On page 33 of the principal list of amendments, there is a reference in the inserted subsection (8) to a paragraph (d). This reference should read "paragraph (c)". This correction is being made in the interests of textual clarity and does not affect any substantive amendment in the Bill.

Seanad amendment No. 1:
Section 1: In page 6, to delete line 1 and substitute the following:
“(3) The Housing Acts 1966 to 2014, sections 10, 63 and 65 and this”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 2, 47, 48, 77 and 80 and the amendments to these amendments are related and will be discussed together.

Will the Acting Chairman clarify the position as it is just so confusing? Does that mean that all of our amendments to Seanad amendments Nos. 47 and 48 are being discussed now?

Therefore, we are just looking at the Seanad amendment numbers.

Seanad amendment No. 2:
Section 1: In page 6, line 4, after “Act” to insert the following:
“, other than section 18, subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 19, section 19(2) and section 19,”.

Amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 47 reads:

To delete section 18, and substitute the following:

“Amendment of section 20 of Principal Act

18. Section 20 of the Principal Act is deleted and the following section is substituted:

20. (1) Subject to subsection (3), a review of the rent under the tenancy of a dwelling may not occur—

(a) more frequently than once in each period of 24 months, nor

(b) in the period of 24 months beginning on the commencement of the tenancy.

(2) Subsection (1) has effect notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in the lease or tenancy agreement concerned.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply despite the fact that a period of less than 24 months has elapsed from—

(a) the last review of the rent under the tenancy, or

(b) the commencement of the tenancy, if, in that period—

(i) a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation provided under the tenancy occurs, and

(ii) the rent under the tenancy, were it to be set immediately after that change, would, by virtue of that change, be different to what was the market rent for the tenancy at the time of that last review or the commencement of the tenancy, as the case may be.”.

In terms of rent reviews, the Minister has moved to a two-yearly basis as an emergency measure, with a limit of four years. What is being done is not adequate. Putting a four-year limit on this is not good enough. We need to move more towards proper, steady rental reviews on a two-yearly basis into the future rather than applying a limit of four years. On that basis, I will support some of the amendments.

As I have a load of amendments in this grouping, relating particularly to Seanad amendments Nos. 47 and 48, it will take me some time to deal with them. Our starting point has to be that housing in Ireland has been in crisis for the best part of 15 years. When the Government came to power it had an opportunity to begin to untangle some of that and deal with it but the opportunity was wasted. It was the perfect time for ripping up things and starting again but we had the continued crisis in social housing, with a complete collapse in any development in that regard. There was failure to seize on the idea of a well regulated rental sector and, I would say, minimal efforts to deal with the mortgage crisis. We have a rush job on the eve of a general election. There is talk about regulating rent but what we have before us is piecemeal. It is a bit of a stunt and could, in some ways, make the situation worse. It is a lost opportunity.

The reality is that the Government has bent to the real estate investment trusts, REITs, and the big vulture funds that have come in and begun to dominate the rental market. It has been exaggerated and aggravated by the role of NAMA in selling whole swathes of property below cost price to some of the serial renters who have operated as a cartel in this and other cities around the country in driving up rents. The measures before us are insufficient for dealing with this crisis.

I will deal with my linked amendments as they appear and hope I am getting this set-up right because it is very confusing. My first amendment relates to Seanad amendment No. 47 and deals with the definition of market rent. I am seeking to insert a new provision that defines market rent as the average price per square metre of property with equivalent fittings and finish in the same municipal district or local electoral area, as applicable. It provides that the average price per square metre shall be calculated using the data gathered and published in accordance with section 151(b)(c), as amended by section 37 of the Residential Tenancies Act. The theory behind this is that section 19 of the Residential Tenancies Act, the principal Act, sets out that in setting the rent for a property, a landlord cannot charge more than the market rent but this definition is very loose. It refers to dwellings being of a similar size, type and character to the dwelling and situated in a comparable area.

My problem is that size should be the dominant definer of what dictates a market rent. If one looks at daft.ie or similar websites, one will not see the size in square feet or metres of any rental property advertised. Nobody collects data on this in respect of the price of rental properties in Ireland. Nobody is under any obligation to state the size of a property he or she is letting out. Instead, the number of bedrooms acts as a proxy for size. However, in Ireland, a two-bedroom apartment can be anything from 40 to 100 sq. m. A two-bedroom unit can be a one-bedroom unit with a plywood partition across the bedroom because there is no real regulation of this and no enforcement of standards. One of the girls in my office came across an advertised two-bedroom property in the past few days in which the second bedroom was so small the chest of drawers was nailed to the wall above the single bed because there was nowhere else for it to go. There has been no enforcement of standards in this regard, which is not good enough. We are saying that this is market rent to which we are pegging prices but it is a charade and a nonsense. The definition I am putting forward is far better in that regard because it would enable us to regulate renting in a serious way, set prices and gather the information in that regard. In Germany landlords can charge 11% more if they add a certain amount of insulation to a building or add other benefits that improve the property. Using the price per square metre for comparable properties, as has been put forward in the first amendment in this grouping, is the only fair way to come up with a figure for market rent and would assist us in collecting the data that are necessary in order to drive standards up.

I also believe this approach would tighten things up. What is a municipal district? The Act refers to a comparable area. What is that? Is Sandymount comparable to Clontarf? How do we know what we are talking about? If the Minister of State is serious about regulation and if we are going to make it fairer, we need more data. Amendment No. 2 to the Seanad amendment would do this in a far better way.

Amendment No. 3-----

We are not dealing with that amendment yet.

No, I think we are. I am trying to clarify that it is actually-----

We are on amendments Nos. 2, 47, 48, 77 and 80.

Yes, but I think we are discussing my amendment - amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 47. I tried to ask the Ceann Comhairle. The way this is done is head-melting, but I think this is right. Unfortunately, I have a large number of amendments and I am working my way through them in this section. It is very difficult. Amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 47 belongs to the Socialist Party, but it is linked with my amendment, amendment No. 5 to the same amendment, and amendment No. 4. These three amendments to Seanad amendment No. 47 all try to get rid of the self-destruct clause the Government has placed in this legislation. The clause says that the measure around rents can only be reviewed and increased every two years instead of every year and that it will cease to have effect in four years time. This grouping of Dáil amendments deals with that issue.

I am aware that Deputies from the Socialist Party have taken a different interpretation of this, namely, to delete this section in its entirety. I seek to do something that is slightly different. I believe the idea of a self-destruct clause is ridiculous. Why is it four years? Why not three, two or one and a half years? It does not make any sense. While deleting subsection (5) is one way of dealing with it, what I am proposing instead is to put forward a review of these measures in four years time. I would be happier if this review took place in a year's time, but if this amendment is passed, we will go with four instead of one.

The review proposed in the amendment creates the possibility that the next Government will review these measures and possibly decide that they are not good enough and do not go far enough. The amendment specifically provides for this as any review must be carried out with a view to the housing situation in the country at the time, the social good and the principle of housing as a human right - none of which seem to have been considered by the Seanad amendment. While deleting the subsection entirely is one approach, I believe a review in the hope of enshrining the principle that the rental market and the housing market as a whole should be subjected to serious and regular oversight by the Oireachtas is not a bad thing. It should be comprehensive and bound up with the social good, which is what my amendment seeks to do. It is a bit rich that the Government inserts a self-destruct clause and comes up with a random four-year idea. It is completely meaningless and insulting to the Oireachtas because it is an outgoing Government. The next Administration will decide whether the legislation stays in place. I hope the next Government will abolish it and start again from scratch, but there does not seem to be any sense in this.

Amendment No. 6 to Seanad amendment No. 47 would make it impossible to raise the rent during a tenancy above the rate of inflation or 5%, whichever is lower. The figures used are based on the practice in Germany, which is widely seen as one of the most tenant favourable countries in the world. There are two types of rental contract in Germany - index rental contracts and stepped rental contracts. Index rental contracts are linked to inflation while stepped rental contracts allow for a certain percentage increase each year up to a maximum of 20% over three years in some parts of Germany and 15% over three years in other parts where there might be more rental demand. This amendment seeks to combine both approaches. It would mean that rents could not increase above inflation and that if it ever came to pass that inflation sky-rocketed, rental increases would be controlled to below 5%.

Ireland has had inflation of negative value since 2014, but at the beginning of the last quarter, annual inflation in terms of rents stood at 9.3% nationally and was 15% in Dublin in mid-2014. It is now 13.5% higher than a year ago. It is 12.2% in Cork city, while it stands at over 11% and 9% in Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Rent increases and increases in wages are wildly out of sync. A couple earning €42,000 per year who want to rent a three-bedroom house in Dublin will have to spend 47% of their after-tax income on rent at current prices. The situation is completely unsustainable. This is a couple on €42,000 who are probably doing better than many others. We need more than rent certainty; we need rents to be controlled.

We have all heard the stories of landlords upping the rent by phenomenal amounts, 20% and more, in a short space of time and saying to tenants that if they do not like it, they can move out. This is obviously contributing to homelessness, causing huge social disconnection for families, with children having to move schools and so on. In 2014 the report of the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, on rent stability in the private rental sector stated rent controls would destroy supply, something which has been echoed by various Government spokespeople since. There is, however, a very curious line in the report, explaining why, in its view, rent controls would do this. It states the difference between the control price and the market price is essentially a subsidy for consumers and that, therefore, consumers demand more of the product than is necessary. I have never heard anything like it for ludicrousness, that rent controls will lead to decreased supply because tenants will get greedy and start to want to rent more properties than they need. That is obviously utterly ludicrous and completely against the notion of housing as a human right. We know also that huge rent increases mid-tenancy have knock-on effects on the alleged market rate, that landlords can point to comparable properties nearby which command higher rents thanks to huge mid-tenancy increases and that they can start a new tenancy at an upper limit. This will not do what it says on the tin and assist tenants in that regard.

In this group of amendments we have not pushed for the type of rent controls that have been introduced in Berlin where at the commencement of tenancies rents cannot be set higher than 10% of the local area average, but that is the direction in which we need to go. The amendment has been put forward as a modest gesture to which the Minister of State could not object. I do not see any reason why he would.

Rent controls are ultimately the only way forward. We need to take our complicated housing mess into account. We have a variety of landlords operating in the State, from the big real estate investment trusts, REITs and the professional landlords to the hard-pressed person who has an apartment, cannot sell it, is in negative equity, got married and moved to another place and is letting the apartment just to pay the mortgage and is not even succeeding in doing that. There are many buy-to-let properties in arrears, but the issue of the reluctant landlord needs to be addressed. I appreciate that it is not possible to address one aspect only and that there is a bigger picture, but we need more than is being done and the amendments would seek to help to do so.

The last group of my amendments to Seanad amendment No. 47, amendments Nos. 8 to 11, try to achieve the same thing. They seek to insert a retrospective clause into the rent certainty measures being discussed. Rents rose at the fastest rate since the boom in the months before the Government’s introduction of this measure. Due to the dithering and the public row in the media the Government has succeeded in making things worse for tenants with this legislation. This group of amendments seeks to fix this a little bit and make it such that increases that take place 60 days or less before the legislation comes into effect would be null and void. The Government’s strategy and the way it handled this issue were so bad that it could not be that incompetent and divided. It is hard to draw any conclusion other than that the dilly-dallying was deliberate to allow rogue landlords to drive up their prices and in a backdoor way to appease them. Sadly, the hard-pressed tenants are the ones who will pay the price for this. These are the most important of my amendments.

I have also tabled amendments to Seanad amendment No. 48 which also, unfortunately for me, are included in this group. They are generally of a more technical nature. The first seeks to inserts a provision that a landlord must make a statement to the effect that any rent increase mandated after a rent review is not more than the rate of inflation or 5%, whichever is lower. That would help to alleviate a dispute.

I may come back to some of the other amendments included in the group.

The grouping of the amendments is unfortunate because many of the key amendments that deal with huge sections of the Bill have been grouped together and we are forced in one contribution to deal with a range of matters. I do not know why it was decided to proceed in that way because there will be quite long speeches dealing with quite different points.

We should start with what is not included in the Bill, including security of tenure, the most important measure to stop the tide of homelessness raging, particularly in Dublin and many key cities.

This is Report Stage and the Deputy cannot make Second Stage speeches.

One of my amendments will touch on this issue.

The Deputy will have to move the amendment when we get to it.

Can I not make a comment on the grouping and what is not included in the Bill and the fact that-----

What is not included in the Bill is irrelevant.

It is not irrelevant in that-----

It is, there is no such amendment.

We have been forced to deal with massive-----

The Deputy can only speak to amendments.

Will the Ceann Comhairle please let me speak? We have been forced to deal with massive issues in one contribution.

I will not let the Deputy speak if she is out of order. She cannot make a Second Stage speech on Report Stage.

It is unfortunate that we have been forced to amend Seanad amendments rather than deal with the issue.

The first set of amendments I have tabled with Deputies Joe Higgins and Paul Murphy deals with the timeframe for the Bill.

Is the Deputy dealing with amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 47 in her name?

Yes, there are two amendments. Amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 47 is to delete the sunset clause which ends the two year rent review after four years.

Are these amendments to Seanad amendment No. 47?

Yes. The first is to section 18(1), to delete “, for the duration of the relevant period,”. We are proposing the amendment because we do not believe it should end in four years. There should not be a guillotine.

Amendment No. 7 to amendment No. 47 seeks to delete subsection 3 of section 18. The Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, promised that there would be no rush by landlords to increase rents in the last few weeks before they knew the Bill was being brought forward and that, therefore, the Government would make this provision retroactive to prevent that from happening. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, said in an interview in Breaking News : “Alan Kelly will be able to do these things under law [to stop this happening, but the alert was given weeks back that rents were to be increased in the run-up to the Bill] ... He will be able to make legal arrangements to prevent (that practice from) happening." Now we have to insert amendments to get the Government to do what it stated it would do.

The rent increases forced on tenants in recent weeks have been well publicised by several high profile journalists. I met two women in an apartment block whose landlord had sent a letter to tenants in the 15 apartments in the block stating rents would be increased by 20%. This letter was dropped in last week and was obviously to bypass this law. The way to take that load and burden off people is to make the Bill retrospective. Homelessness charities and others stated landlords could increase rents immediately. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, told Galway Bay FM that that would not be a problem, that people had rent reviews on a certain date and that landlords could not choose to gazump them. He talked about people going to the PRTB.

However, this has happened and through this amendment, Deputies Paul Murphy, Higgins and I are asking the Minister of State to deal with it by not having the law come into effect the day after but to backdate it.

As for the other amendments my colleagues and I tabled pertaining to Seanad amendment No. 48, it is explicitly stated that the provisions in Seanad amendment No. 48 will not be retrospective and that any increases or evictions already notified under the old rules will stand. Consequently, in amendment No. 5 to Seanad amendment No. 48, it is proposed "In section 19, to delete subsection (2)", that is, to delete the clause specifying that rent increases notified before the Act comes into force are valid under the old notice period. The Minister of State could do this to prevent the kind of gazumping that has happened in respect of people's rents recently.

Another amendment my colleagues and I have tabled in respect of Seanad amendment No. 48 is to extend the notice period from 90 days, which is not much time for people to find alternative accommodation, to a period of 180 days. This is to allow people to remain in the home and find alternative accommodation. All Members are aware of families that have been economically evicted and a key deficit in this Bill is that although it is for this reason that most people now are becoming homeless, the Government is not really dealing with it because obviously it must be bowing the knee to the landlords in this regard.

The other amendment my colleagues and I have tabled to Seanad amendment No. 48 proposes that rent increases would be allowed only if the resulting rent would not be greater than the rent charged on the dwelling whenever rents were lowest since the onset of the recession. The reason for this provision is that even if rent certainty, as the Minister of State calls it, is introduced, it will not bring down rents and they must be brought down now. Real rent controls must be introduced that allow people to live a decent life. Rents of €1,400 and €1,500 are being demanded in many housing estates in my constituency. The Government suggests people in such circumstances can save, for example, for a deposit for a house but it is impossible to so do when one is paying such massive rents. Consequently, in amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 48, my colleagues and I have proposed, in section 19(1)(b), the deletion of paragraph (c) and its substitution with the following:

[to]include a statement by the landlord that in his or her opinion the new rent is not greater than for a dwelling in the Dublin area (as defined by the Private Residential Tenancies Board Rent Index) the rent charged on the dwelling in Quarter 1 2011 [the reason for this is that is when rents became somewhat realistic after the crash], or for a dwelling outside the Dublin area (as defined by the [PRTB]) the rent charged on the dwelling in Quarter 2 2013, with the addition in either case of allowance for the general rate of inflation according to the Consumer Price Index

and it goes on. The point is these are not really the most comprehensive of amendments because Members have been forced to amend whatever came from the Seanad rather than providing for comprehensive rent controls in the manner they would wish.

The other amendment I will mention is brief - I believe it is amendment No. 2 and think it also is listed in this group at the outset. It is just a question and perhaps the Minister of State might clarify. I will explain the reason my colleagues and I tabled this simple amendment which is to delete "being" qualified for social housing support and instead to insert "having" qualified for social housing support. The query in this regard is that voluntary housing tenants are now to be put under the protection of the private rented sector. In some cases, I believe this will give them greater protection, but my colleagues and I were afraid this clause would be used to make people in the voluntary housing sector not qualify for social housing if their income, for example, rose above a certain level. Consequently, the purpose of this amendment is to give people greater protection. For example, if a council tenant's income rises, he or she still is considered eligible to remain in his or her home. The danger of the wording, "being", is that people would no longer be considered eligible to be in voluntary co-operative housing tenancies, assisted housing bodies etc. It was more to clarify this point, as we consider this wording to be better and would give people more support.

Unfortunately, Members are being obliged to rush through many items here and to deal with them in one go. As stated, it is somewhat unfortunate the Government did not introduce many measures, but Members will come to the issue of evictions in the debate on Seanad amendments Nos. 50 and 51.

I wish to note an amendment has also been tabled by Sinn Féin to Seanad amendment No. 47 and I wish to move that amendment.

The papers are so confusing that one would want to be a genius to work it out. I do not know from where they got this.

Therefore, it is part of the motion.

I presume it is procedural, a Cheann Comhairle, but anyway we must work-----

No, but there is no indication on the front page that there were amendments to the amendments.

That is terrible.

That is what is confusing.

A Cheann Comhairle, I am working with the procedures of the House.

I appreciate that the number of amendments is substantial and that it takes substantial contributions. In return, I will try to give a comprehensive reply to each of the Opposition amendments that are proposed to Seanad amendment No. 47. The first element of amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 47, tabled by Deputy Dessie Ellis, proposes that a review of rent may not occur more frequently than once in each period of 24 months. This already has been provided for in Seanad amendment No. 47. The second element of the Deputy's amendment would remove the sunset clause provided for in Seanad amendment No. 47. The sunset clause provides that the new provision will cease to have effect on the fourth anniversary of the introduction of this provision. The removal of the sunset clause also is the subject of Opposition amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 11 to Seanad amendment No. 47. Amendment No. 5, tabled by Deputy Clare Daly, provides for a review of the provision in four years time. The inclusion of a sunset clause sends a clear signal that the 24-month review provision is a temporary measure that will expire in four years' time. An amendment to remove this provision or to introduce the notion of a review in four years' time would send a negative signal to the market and would have an adverse impact on investment decisions by precipitating uncertainty for investors. The effect of this would be to have a negative impact on supply, thereby further increasing rents and significantly diluting the effectiveness of this provision. Therefore, I do not propose to accept these amendments.

Seanad amendment No. 47 provides that rent reviews commenced prior to enactment will not be affected by the new provisions. In general, the intended effect of Opposition amendments Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, to Seanad amendment No. 47, tabled by Deputy Clare Daly, and Opposition amendment No. 7 to Seanad amendment No. 47, tabled by Deputies Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins, is to provide that the new provisions regarding a 24-month period between reviews will apply to rent reviews commenced prior to the enactment of the Bill. A landlord who has legitimately commenced a review in accordance with the 2004 Act prior to the enactment of the Bill before the House is entitled to complete that statutory review process in accordance with the law as it currently stands. The retrospective application of the new provisions to reviews that already have been commenced or completed would interfere in the substantive vested right of the landlord to continue the statutory process. For this reason and on foot of legal advice to that effect, I cannot accept these amendments.

I refer to the group of Opposition amendments to Seanad amendment No. 47 that seek to link rent increases to the consumer price index and rate of inflation. Amendment No. 6 in the name of Deputy Clare Daly and amendment No. 3 in the names of Deputies Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins generally seek to link rent increases to the rate of inflation. The proposals to introduce a limit or control on the amount of the review by reference to the annual rate of inflation would break the link with the fundamental mechanism for determining rent under the Act. The Government decided on an approach that would bring stability and predictability for the tenant but without changing the fundamental mechanism for the setting and reviewing of rent as laid down in the 2004 Act.

The Government is mindful of the need not only to protect tenants from the circumstances that currently exist, but critically also not to deter investment in the rental market. I believe Government amendment No. 47 achieves that balance. The longer period of predictable rent means that tenants who have had a review in the past 12 months will now not face a review until 2017. Based on average rents and the trends of increase, tenants will save between €470 and €1,400 in a full year depending on the location of the rented property. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendments.

Opposition amendment No. 2 to Government amendment No. 47 and Opposition amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, to Seanad amendment No. 48 propose providing new ways to define rent. Under the current law, landlords may not charge more than the market rent for a dwelling under the Residential Tenancies Act and the Government amendments reinforce this provision by obliging landlords to present information that supports the proposed new rent. These provisions, collectively, will help to stamp out instances of landlords taking advantage of tenants who may not be fully aware of their rights under the Act, by attempting to increase rents by a multiple of the current market rate. I do not propose to accept the deletion of subsection (2A), paragraphs (c) and (d).

As for the new definition of market rent, and the rent not being in breach of the proposed new subsection (7), I have outlined that the Government has decided not to alter the mechanism for the setting and reviewing of rent as laid down in the 2004 Act and has decided on an approach that balances the needs of tenants, and landlords and investors alike. Therefore, I am not accepting these amendments.

The Opposition has proposed an amendment to provide that notice of new rent will be 180 days. Government amendment No. 48 provides that tenants will now be given 90 days notice of a new rent rather than 28 days. As I mentioned, this amendment is being introduced on foot of a recommendation in the DKM report entitled, Rent Stability in the Private Rented Sector. The proposed Opposition amendment No. 1 seeks to compel a landlord to give six months notice of a new rent. I believe a 90-day notice period is a balanced and proportionate measure and as such I do not accept this amendment.

Amendment No. 5 to Government amendment No. 48 seeks to apply the new 90-day notice period to notices of new rent that have been already served on tenants by landlords. A landlord, who has legitimately issued a notice of new rent in accordance with the 2004 Act prior to the enactment of the Bill before the House, is fully in compliance with the law as it currently stands. The application of this legislation to that process would retrospectively affect the legal actions of an individual under the law as it currently stands. For that reason and on foot of legal advice, I cannot accept the amendment seeking to provide that notices of new rent issued in accordance with the law before the enactment of the Bill would be rendered null and void.

Notwithstanding my disagreement with the various mechanisms the Minister of State has outlined that may be used and tested in order to substantiate a certain rent increase in a proposed lease, I note that both inside and outside the House the Minister of State and the Minister have been quick to say discrepancies or differences of opinion, particularly on the part of the tenant, related to proposed increases and the mechanisms by which those increases are put forward and not agreed can be referred to the PRTB for adjudication. However, I am sure the Minister of State is aware that many staff have been taken from the PRTB in the past 18 months - I believe it has halved in recent years. I would be concerned that it does not have adequate funding or personnel to deal appropriately with the increased requests that may emanate from this legislation. What provisions, if any, have been made to deal with any such additional requests by the general public, especially by tenants?

Will the Minister of State confirm that the staff has been reduced by up to 50% since the Government came into office? Will he confirm that the funding and resources available to it has been reduced greatly? Will he confirm that there is a waiting list for its services? If so, how long is it? By association, how long are people waiting for adjudication on existing disagreements on leases between landlords and tenants? Will this new legislation impose a further workload? If there is to be a further workload, how does the Minister of State envisage the PRTB being able to deal with it? If he cannot clarify that this evening, it renders meaningless many of the mechanisms between landlords and tenants to agree increases where agreement does not take place because there is no way there can be adequate recourse to fair and independent assessment of them.

It is disappointing the Minister of State has dismissed many of the amendments. I do not believe amendment No. 47 is adequate in just extending the contracts to two years. Unless that is tied to the CPI, it is not worth the paper it is written on because there has to be some control. Unfortunately as new people come in, they will be charged differently from the people who are supposedly being protected. It lacks bite and will not work, as the Minister of State will see very shortly.

Amendment No. 48 increases the time period for notification for new rent to 90 days. Many people have an awful job trying to get themselves sorted out when they receive notification. I think it is a sensible move to increase it and give a reasonable amount of time. I would also support that measure.

The Minister of State's justification for not accepting any of the amendments seems to be tilted in favour of the big landlords. That is the only possible explanation for what he has said. He said the idea of deleting or, in the case of my amendment, reviewing the four-year clause would bring uncertainty for investors. I do not accept that is the case. If it does, so be it because security of tenure is more important in that regard.

The Minister of State also said the amendments seeking rent increases to be curtailed to either the rate of inflation or 5% would again be a problem, not for the tenant but for the investor and that the existing mechanism is generally better. The reason the Government is rushing through this legislation is that the existing mechanism is not better and is substantially flawed.

I am disappointed that the Minister of State did not deal with the points I made about getting to grips with a different approach to housing in the State. We should look at the price per square metre of every registered rental property and so on rather than bedroom size and we should accumulate data on the quality of units. To move forward and come up with the best ideas we have to get a full picture of where we stand now.

I accept there is more than one type of landlord in the State. I know that many people have been left as reluctant landlords simply because they have been left with a property in negative equity that they cannot sell. We know people who may have bought a property to rent it as their pension, for example. They are subbing the rent payment every time.

In the main, landlords are good, but there are some absolutely ruthless landlords who have exploited the current situation to fleece people who, in some instances, have been loyal tenants of theirs for up to a decade. They might have purchased the house years ago and do not need that increase. They are only doing so to profit. The only logic one can draw from this is that those who are calling the shots are the REITs and the big investment trust funds which now form a cartel in this city and country.

The reason the Minister is afraid to introduce anything more clear is not the ordinary Irish landlord who had a property or two and was pottering around during the years but the big boys who are coming in from abroad and dominating the market. I am sorry, but the interests of Irish tenants and decent Irish landlords are more important than that. A fixed price is not going to damage any decent landlord.

As I can speak again to the amendments, I will leave it at that for the moment.

First, I wish to comment on the lack of input from the big parties in the Dáil, with big numbers of staff and researchers who have made no input whatsoever into the Bill. The private rented sector has grown massively under the Government's watch, mainly because people cannot get mortgages and have been forced more and more into the private rented sector. It is time something was done for them. In his response the Minister of State mentioned the markets and investors, but I did not hear him once mention tenants.

The Minister of State did not, not if one considers that there are 700,000 waiting for him to do something about their plight. They are the people about whom I am more concerned than landlords, developers and others who became involved in speculation. There is considerable fear. I received many queries from people in the past two weeks about when the Bill would come into force and what would happen. We have had situations where landlords effectively doubled their increases, knowing that they would not be able to increase rents for two years. That is effectively what has happened and the Minister of State has not mentioned it at all, yet two Ministers promised that that would not happen. The Minister of State should accept the amendment. The legislation should be backdated to when the announcement was made three weeks ago, when the Government set landlords off on a course of panic and rack-renting because that is effectively what has happened.

In terms of what the Bill does not contain, the way the Minister of State has proceeded has left most of us in total and utter confusion in trying to understand what is before us.

I am following procedure.

Perhaps you might provide some clarity, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on how we will vote on the amendments. It is really confusing. When he was here, even the Ceann Comhairle did not know what was going on because of the very confusing procedures adopted. On section 3, will we be voting on the Seanad amendment with our amendments?

I understand we will vote first on the amendments to the Seanad amendments. We will vote on Seanad amendment No. 47.

In wanting to call votes, for example, we will have to be very clear on what we will be voting, if you do not mind, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

We will have clarity for the Deputy.

Thank you. It is most disappointing, as people had hoped the Minister of State would take some action. I appreciate that there are landlords who are in over their heads, as many people became landlords from 2006 onwards when they were encouraged to do so by the previous regime and the Government. However, there is also a considerable number of landlords who own multiple properties. That was revealed in the context of the property tax payments, that people had massive and multiple properties in this country. It is somewhat unfortunate that the Government seems to have catered more for their needs rather than those of people who are facing economic eviction and rent increases.

I wish to reply to some of the concerns Deputies have raised. I also wish to correct what Deputy Ruth Coppinger said. I did mention tenants as a very important element of the legislation. The reason the Government has introduced the Bill is to provide for a balanced approach and an integrated and appropriate set of changes to the sector designed to give rent certainty to the tenants referred to by the Deputy, to better protect tenants in their homes and to provide clarity for both tenants and landlords, whom the Deputy also mentioned, in terms of their rights and obligations. What is required is a balanced approach that does not negatively impact on the supply side because, as we all know, increasing supply is vitally important to meet existing demand.

Based on current average rents and the average annual rate of increase, extending the period of review to 24 months, as we are doing, will save the average tenant €750 in 2016. For a renter in Dublin, the savings will amount to €1,400 over the course of next year. It is not correct to say the provisions will not have a positive impact on tenants because they will.

Deputy Clare Daly inquired about the accumulation of data on housing needs, demographics and the type of accommodation that will be required. I agree with her. That is why the Housing Agency will be engaged in carrying out a deep housing needs assessment early in 2016 and every year thereafter in order that we can match supply and demand and inform policy properly. It is important that we do this, but until supply increases, we will not be able to meet the need in the way we want. That is the reason the Government has launched the €3.8 billion social housing strategy that we have debated in the House and which we will continue to debate. It is important that we do so.

On rents increasing in advance of the legislation, I wish to make it clear that a landlord can only review the rent payable once every 12 months. Therefore, any landlord who has reviewed the rent on a property in the past 12 months cannot review it again now. That is simply not possible under the current legislation. Following the enactment of these new legislative provisions, landlords will be precluded from reviewing the rent again until 24 months have passed since the previous review. Any landlord who has not increased the rent payable in the past 12 months is still precluded from increasing the rate to more than the market rate. As such, landlords cannot seek to negate these measures by pricing in or doubling up, as Deputies have suggested, a rent increase to a level above the current market rate. If they do and Deputies are aware of it, the Government encourage tenants to bring their disputed cases to the PRTB for attention. The rent will remain at the current level until the PRTB adjudicates on the matter. It is important that the House note this because there are protections under the current law in that regard.

That leads me to Deputy Barry Cowen’s question about cases that might be referred to the PRTB. I consider this to be a fair question. The reduction in staffing in recent years, as the Deputy outlined, was not in the context of cuts but due to a new online tenancy registration system and dispute application services and the outsourcing of certain activities. In 2012 the PRTB awarded a contract outsourcing its call centre activities and the processing of hard copy paper registrations which allowed the board to focus on its core activity, namely, its dispute resolution function. For the information of the Deputy, currently, 30 people are employed on the PRTB account by the outsourced service provider. Given the increase in demand for the PRTB’s services which have been correctly outlined, approval was provided in 2014 for an additional nine permanent staff. The board is in the process of recruitment to fill these posts which will bring the number of personnel up to 42. Most recently and in the context of the Government’s publication, Stabilising Rents, Boosting Supply, sanction for a further five staff to establish the deposit protection scheme and three additional staff to administer the new rent stability arrangements was secured. Additional resources are being provided for the PRTB. That will bring the staff complement back up to 50 and ensure the board will be well resourced to perform its functions. My Department will continue to keep the resources available to the PRTB under close review and engages regularly with the board on this matter because it is a very important component of dispute resolution for both tenants and landlords.

Some Deputies raised the matter of delays in PRTB adjudication hearings. In 2014 some 80% of cases were processed or closed within five to six months. Only 7% of the most difficult cases took longer periods of up to nine months to process. The PRTB continually reviews measures to further reduce processing times and in 2015 the position continued to improve, with half of all cases dealt with in two months or less and 83% completed in four months or less. Only 2% of the most troublesome cases are taking in excess of six months to complete. Substantial progress has been made in reducing the timescales for adjudication hearings, but the Government is committed to keeping in contact with the PRTB to ensure it has adequate resources to deal with the demand it faces.

Deputies Clare Daly and Dessie Ellis have indicated that they want to speak to this group of amendments.

On this group of amendments, we must step back and reflect on why this legislation is even before us at the eleventh hour of this Dáil. It is precisely because the rental market has gone mad. The price of even a modest dwelling in any town is beyond the limits of those who have what we call a decent job. This legislation is supposed to be an effort to deal with that scenario, not to mind help those who are below the middle income category, for want of a better phrase, who are really struggling and cannot come up with the money to keep a roof over their heads. The reason the issue is so critical is successive Governments over-relied on the private sector to deliver housing to put a roof over people's heads, a social need which should be treated as a right.

We are supposed to be dealing with the issue of rent certainty in this legislation and the reason we supposedly cannot talk about rent controls is a previous Supreme Court ruling but that ruling was not about rent controls, it was really about rent freezes in a scenario where people would have security of tenure indefinitely. Rent control or rent certainty is a different element. What we should be trying to do in this legislation and what I am seeking to do in my group of amendments is to allow for increases but to stop a free for all. Increases have to be gradual. They have to be pegged to the rest of the indicators in the economy such as, for example, the rate of inflation. I do not see what is unreasonable about this. That must be the starting point. This legislation is being dealt with against a backdrop where this has not been happening. We have had a scenario, in some instances, where rents have risen by 50%. We know that, on average, rents nationally have increased by 30% since 2011. Rent control involves a tacit acceptance of a few factors, namely, that a house or one's home should not be seen as a commodity, rather it should be seen to fulfil a social need; that the rental market leaves renters in a vulnerable position and that there should be regulation in that regard; that an uncontrolled rental market is bad for landlords and tenants and that permitting massive rent hikes does not really suit anybody. We are trying to acknowledge these factors in this group of amendments.

There are two types of rent control - there are controls within a tenancy and controls on the commencement of a tenancy. Let us take the example of Germany which is held up as the gold star model. It provides for rent controls within tenancies for many years and they have worked quite well. For example, much more stringent rent controls were introduced in Berlin this year to control rents at the beginning of a tenancy, precisely because a massive influx of foreign capital looking for a safe haven in the wake of the financial crash caused an imbalance in the rental market in the city. That is precisely the situation with which we are dealing, whereby rents are being driven up beyond people's capacity to pay. In Berlin landlords cannot now set the rent for a new tenancy at more than 10% of the prevailing local average, as contained in the rent mirror produced by the local authorities. In Ireland we need both types of rent control, but in these amendments we are only providing for mid-tenancy controls. We are being incredibly modest; we are not even dealing with the full picture. The reason for this, which I understand and appreciate, is that the market here is a little more complicated because of the numbers of accidental or reluctant landlords or those who bought buy-to-let properties for pension purposes. Some landlords are even renting elsewhere, which is ridiculous.

Controlling initial rents at a particular percentage above the prevailing local average is something we must aim to achieve, but that is not factored into the legislation. We must have a comprehensive review of the market to ensure controls would be balanced and would not have unintended consequences in the economy, but we need to engage in that research. That is why a review provision that I put forward for consideration in the amendments is necessary. We need to take account of the need for control of initial rents also, which is not provided for in the legislation. My amendments are relatively modest in their objective. They seek to ensure people would be a little more secure in their homes and also to put a break on the most unscrupulous of landlords, but we should be conducting much more detailed research into how we can ensure the situation would be far better across the board.

The Minister of State referenced a few times that the biggest problem was supply, but I cannot take this seriously from the Government when I note what it has allowed NAMA to do. In the past month it has allowed the Project Arrow portfolio to be sold to Cerberus for less than €1 billion - €800 million - when it knows that 50% of that portfolio comprises residential units. On the other hand, it is telling NAMA to use money to build 20,000 units over five years in the private market. Again, there will only be a 10% social housing component, which is utterly ludicrous. What is needed is not an increased supply but more certainty and an increased supply of social housing. The private sector cannot deliver and meet people's housing needs, which is why, even under the capitalism system, in the rest of Europe the situation can be regulated and managed. Surely to God we could do the same.

I refer to the Minister of State's comments about the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, which is the biggest joke in this society. It is a disgrace, whether by design or ineptitude I do not know, but it has been toothless in defending tenants and decent landlords because of the way in which it has been set up. Possibly it is as a result of the fact that it has been set up without enough teeth to compel people to come around the table to enforce judgments being made, not only in respect of tenants. Tenants are, in many instances, hard done by, but a large portion of small landlords are incredibly hard done by also. There are instances where people who receive rent supplement payments from the State fail to give them to landlords or where people who trash a dwelling are then left in it for months at a time and do not attend PRTB hearings and so on. That is not good enough. We need to tighten up on the security element and foster decent relationships between landlords and tenants. Unfortunately, the legislation in this area favours unscrupulous landlords and tenants, but the bulk of people are not in that category. Most tenants are decent and just want to have a roof over their heads. Many landlords are okay also; they just want to have their investment protected and receive a certain return on it.

The moral of the story is that we want to meet people's housing needs, we cannot rely on the market. Sadly, these measures will not give them the certainty that they need and deserve.

The average monthly rent in Dublin is €1,400, or €350 per week. That level of rent is not sustainable and is way above what it should be. We see this across the board. We can talk about keeping people in their homes and increasing rent supplement, but the reality is that the rental market needs to handled in the proper way because it is has gone out of control. These rents are out of reach of the vast majority.

We need a root and branch review of the rental system. That is part of what we have proposed in some of the amendments. The German or Berlin model under which the rent charged by landlords is based on the size of a property - they charge per square meter - is the one to which we should be looking. There are 27 sq. m units in the inner city which could be called dog boxes for which the rent payable is €800 and €900. What is the justification for this? It is ridiculous. The average rent in my area of Finglas and Ballymum is €1,200 to €1,300.

I agree with the Minister of State that supply is a big issue, but there is a supply of properties available. I will give him an example. A total of 22 modular units are being built in Ballymun at a cost of €191,000 each, but it is possible to buy properties in the area for less than €120,000 and there are units for sale. We are missing opportunities. Nearby in Hampton Wood the owners have 30 units for sale which are cheaper than the cost of building modular housing and they have not been approached properly. It does not make sense.

There are options. The Minister of State and his party, in general, are opposed to rent controls or "rent certainty", as they like to call it. They believe in the private sector setting the rate. That is not working and people are paying through the nose to rent accommodation. We will have to examine this issue in the future because the Minister of State's method, whereby contracts will be increased over a two-year period while maintaining a certain rent level, will not work.

Deputies will agree that in the current economic environment there is a dysfunctional property and rental market. That is readily evident, and pressure on rent will continue until housing supply is increased. That includes the supply of both social and private housing. A substantial increase in supply and investment is needed, with the Housing Agency identifying the need for at least 21,000 units per annum. That is why this package of measures was introduced by the Government on top of the commitments made in the social housing and Construction 2020 strategies, which will take time to deliver the construction projects that are badly needed. However, in the meantime, these measures will bring certainty and enhance the rights of tenants and the notice periods that are required for tenants. The package also ensures that the PRTB is best placed to resolve disputes and manage the much sought-after deposit protection scheme, which no Deputy has welcomed yet. This has been welcomed by Threshold and other agencies and they have acknowledged that the scheme will help alleviate the pressure on people to find homes when they move. The scheme will introduce protections for tenants, who will have access to their deposits in order that they can rent again. That measure alone will improve matters, but I did not hear Deputies welcoming it. I thought I would because they called for it.

I welcomed it.

I mentioned it.

They welcomed it previously but it is important to mention it in this debate.

We were told we could not mention anything that was not related to the amendments.

I do not agree with Deputy Daly's assertions against the PRTB. The figures speak for themselves and I have read them into the record. The board's adjudication times have improved in dispute resolution. The PRTB is an important agency in ensuring a fair and balanced dispute resolution process is in place.

Another provision in the legislation permits the referral of disputes under the board's remit to the District Court instead of the Circuit Court. That will improve the time it takes the courts system to deal with disputes, and quicker decisions will be arrived at.

The legislation also introduces and strengthens provisions to deal with anti-social behaviour. Deputy Daly mentioned the issue of people trashing houses. There will be stronger provisions in this legislation, once enacted, to deal with anti-social behaviour in a fair way and in a way that ensures people take responsibility and are accountable for their actions.

The Deputy also raised queries about NAMA and its contribution. The agency has delivered 1,600 houses and apartments to local authorities and AHBs for social housing use and it has invested more than €40 million in making those properties ready for purpose. NAMA is committed, and is firmly on track, to delivering 4,500 new residential units in the greater Dublin area by the end of 2016, and in 2014 the agency funded more than 40% of the total new housing output across the four Dublin local authorities. However, NAMA alone cannot meet the lack of housing supply. It is important that the property sector returns to normal and functions properly.

I have outlined the reasons we cannot accept the amendments. We need a balanced approach until supply improves. We believe this legislation is fair and it ensures added protections for tenants and certainty until the property and rental markets normalise. That is seen as a fair approach.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 8, inclusive, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 100, and the amendments to those amendments, are related and will be discussed together. In response to Deputy Coppinger, there is an amendment to amendment No. 4 and that amendment will be discussed first, before we come to amendment No. 4.

Is that to section 3 on page 2?

It is the group of amendments I outlined. Amendments Nos. 3 to 8, inclusive, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 100, and the amendments to those amendments, are related and will be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 3:
Section 3: In page 6, line 21, after "authority", the following inserted:
"and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, including a dwelling provided by a public authority to an approved housing body other than a dwelling referred to in subsection (2A)".

The main purpose of this group of amendments is to clarify the relationship between local authorities and approved housing bodies where dwellings are let by local authorities to AHBs and subsequently let by them to a social housing tenant. These provisions were included in the published Bill, but amendments Nos. 3 to 6, inclusive, redraft those provisions to make it clear that for the purpose of the application of the Residential Tenancies Act to dwellings let by AHBs, the Act does not apply to the tenancy between the local authority and the AHB but does apply to the tenancy between the AHB and the social housing tenant.

Amendment No. 4 clarifies that the relationship between the AHB and its tenant is that of landlord and tenant and is not a sub-tenancy. Amendment No. 5 provides for the application of the Act to AHB tenancies. Amendment No. 18 is a technical amendment to the definition of "approved housing body" to provide for this relationship and amendment No. 100 is a consequential amendment to section 65 of the published Bill. Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 15 and 16 are drafting amendments to correct errors in the published Bill, while amendment No. 19 is a consequential amendment.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 4:
Section 3: In page 6, to lines 24 to 33 deleted and the following substituted:
" "(2A) Where—
(a) a public authority provides a dwelling, of which it is the owner, to an approved housing body under a contract or lease between the public authority and the approved housing body pursuant to paragraph (ea) of section 6(2) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, and
(b) subsequent to such provision the dwelling concerned is the subject of a tenancy between the approved housing body concerned and a household within the meaning of section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 that has been assessed under that section of that Act as being qualified for social housing support (within the meaning of that Act),
for the purposes of subsection (1) and without prejudice to paragraph (c) of subsection (2)—
(i) this Act applies to that dwelling (including any such dwelling that is the subject of a tenancy created before the coming into operation of this subsection),
(ii) any such tenancy shall not, for the purposes of this Act, be treated as a sub-tenancy arising out of such lease or contract between the public authority and the approved housing body, and
(iii) references in this Act to a sub-tenancy shall not include a dwelling that is the subject of a tenancy between the approved housing body and the household within the meaning of section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009.".".

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 4:

In the fifth line of subsection (2A)(b), to delete "being" and substitute "having".

I thought I spoke on this earlier when discussing amendment No. 2.

The Deputy mentioned this in her earlier contribution. With regard to the Opposition amendments to amendments Nos. 4 and 5, the purpose of amendment No. 4 is to provide for the tenancy relationship between an AHB and a tenant who qualifies for social housing support where the dwelling let by the AHB to the tenant is owned by a local authority. Amendment No. 4 provides that, in those circumstances, the relationship between the local authority and the AHB is not governed by the Residential Tenancies Act but the relationship between the AHB and the tenant is, which is important.

The reason we tabled the amendment is that this provision could be misinterpreted to mean that somebody in a tenancy of an AHB would be considered eligible for housing as long as they qualify for social housing support.

We wanted this to be changed to say "having" been approved already for social housing support. There have been lots of references in Government documents to the fact that people should not be long-standing or permanent social housing tenants and that the Government would like to move to a situation in which somebody might be a social housing tenant for a short period when their income is extremely low but that if their circumstances improve they could be moved to the private sector. The purpose of this amendment is to guarantee security of tenancy for people in social housing. It exists for council tenants because if one's income changes, one just pays a higher rent and a higher percentage of one's income. I am wondering why there is a differentiation for people who are tenants of approved housing bodies.

What are the rules of engagement with regard to the mechanisms by which a landlord can increase the rent? When one applies it to local authority tenants in approved housing bodies, they have their own mechanisms under which rent may be increased, as Deputy Coppinger has said. I hope and expect that there is no overlap or legal issue with this. The Minister of State has said that the provisions within the Residential Tenancies Act will be applicable in the context of it being enforceable for tenants of approved housing bodies but there are means, methods and formulas by which rent is increased or decreased, whatever the case may be, in whatever circumstances, for which local authorities have the wherewithal within existing laws.

In recent weeks, having done away with the tenant purchase scheme in 2012 it was reinstated. A new scheme has been put in place, which I welcomed at the committee meeting last week. I further welcome the fact that the funds derived from each local authority can be reinvested by that same local authority. Has the Minister of State consulted with housing agencies and associations on applying a similar scheme to those housing units? Unfortunately, it is applicants to local authorities who are assigned these units and they do not have the same rights as local authority tenants will have when they are more than a year into a tenancy agreement. That is something that I and others have been calling for over the last number of years. I would have thought that at this stage there would have been ample time for the Government, the Minister and the Minister of State to engage with those authorities with a view to coming up with a scheme that offers those people the same opportunity as others to own their own home, take advantage of the scheme that is in place and the discounts that would be applicable, and also generate activity in local authorities for funds to be raised to be reinvested in housing.

I thank the Deputies for raising these issues. When Government is drafting legislation, it takes advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the wording. I recognise Deputy Coppinger's attempt is a genuine one to strengthen tenancy protection in terms of who is qualified for social housing support, which the Deputy's amendment phrases as "having" qualified for social housing support. The amendments that Government drafted were drafted to ensure conformity with the wording of the Housing Acts in respect of qualification for social housing support. I have been strongly advised that the current draft uses the correct wording and achieves the policy objectives. I do not propose to accept the Opposition amendments for that reason.

In this legislation, the Government is not proposing anything that changes the local authority tenant relationship. As the Deputy will know, the local authorities operate their own differential rent schemes. There is no attempt to interfere or change that in any way. We have ensured that the legislation makes clear, as I have already outlined, the tenancy landlord relationship between tenants and the approved housing bodies.

That leads to Deputy Cowen's next question which is an old chestnut. Can a tenant purchase scheme similar to that being introduced for local authorities be introduced for approved housing bodies? The information I have is that the approved housing bodies are organisations that are approved under section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 to provide social housing support in conjunction with local authorities. Under the terms of the various capital funding schemes, approved housing bodies are the de facto owners of the properties and are required to make them available for social renting for the duration of the mortgage or, as the case may be, the availability agreement. My Department cannot unilaterally make provision for their sale to tenants. Any such decision would have to involve the AHBs by agreement and have regard to the mortgage on their property. On expiry of the mortgage period and subject to compliance with the terms of the funding agreement, the AHB becomes the owner of the property. That is an important point to note. There are currently no proposals or plans for a tenant purchase scheme for the existing AHB housing schemes.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. Do I understand from it that there has been no effort on the part of the Government or its representatives to engage with those housing associations with a view to devising such a scheme? It would be of mutual benefit with regard to the mortgage they are expected to dispose of and would also create an opportunity for their tenants, who are not in a position to avail of the same opportunities as their counterparts who came off the same list but are renting from local authorities. Is it an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Government not to pursue that?

I want to clarify what the Minister of State has said. Is he saying that if the approved voluntary housing groups were to see out the mortgage on the properties, they could then become available? Is he saying that if the approved housing bodies see out the mortgage, they could sell them off as a result of that?

The more I hear on this, the more worried I am about it. In quarter one of 2015, there were 20 local authority and 117 voluntary and co-operative houses built. In quarter two, no local authority houses were built and 40 voluntary and co-operative houses were built. My point is that more and more social housing now comes from these approved housing bodies. I am becoming a little bit concerned, because of the wording of the Bill, that tenants of these housing bodies could find themselves told to vacate social housing as they are no longer considered, to use the words in the Bill, as "being qualified for social housing support". Words are always very important. The Minister of State may think there is no danger of that happening but it is the Government strategy - if one looks at HAPS or RAS, one is not necessarily a tenant forever; one is a tenant for a period of time. When Deputy Alan Kelly spoke previously on housing, he talked about people who are quite poor and in need of social housing. It is not like in the past when many of us lived in council housing and people had jobs and everyone worked. We all know there has been a change. I am concerned that if the Minister of State does not accept this amendment, people who are put into social houses of these voluntary housing associations could find themselves being asked to move on if they get a job which puts them in the position of no longer being qualified for housing support. I ask the Minister of State to accept that amendment and give people security of tenure and tell us that will not happen.

Several queries were raised about the core functions of approved housing bodies. Their core purpose is, essentially, the provision of social housing. Any agreements entered into are written into their articles of association to ensure that this will remain their function, namely, to provide social housing.

Deputy Barry Cowen asked if the Government is not engaging with approved housing bodies. Under the social housing strategy announced recently, the approved housing bodies will have an enhanced role in the provision of social housing. We will see further involvement from them on many fronts. The focus in tenant purchase schemes up to now has been with the local authorities. It has generally been welcomed, although not by everyone, that the scheme has been opened to long-term local authority tenants who have the means to purchase their homes to have the opportunity to do so.

Deputy Dessie Ellis asked if the approved housing bodies can sell the houses at the end of the mortgage. Technically, they can because they own the properties. However, by their articles of association and their core raison d'être, which is to provide social housing, they continue to rent them in conjunction with the local authorities, taking people off the housing list.

It is acknowledged there is a need for regulation in the approved housing bodies sector. That is why the Government brought forward the housing (regulation of approved housing bodies) Bill in September which will provide for an independent statutory regulator to be established with an overall emphasis on improved governance and financial viability for the approved housing body sector. The drafting of the Bill has just commenced and arrangements are being made for pre-legislative scrutiny of its proposals before the joint Oireachtas committee. Deputies’ views on this will be welcome.

Essentially, approved housing bodies are independent and an important component in dealing with supply for housing demand. They have the capacity to deliver housing off balance sheet. Deputies opposite ask why the Government does not spend more resources on building houses. While we are spending substantial Government funds on building housing, we have limits set by European regulations, meaning so much of it must be kept off balance sheet. The approved housing bodies are an important component which can deliver substantial capacity in the supply of houses and apartments. We are beginning to see these coming to fruition.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. Naturally, the Government has conversed with the approved housing bodies on the formulation of the housing strategy announced last year and the role they will have in providing social housing. However, did Minister of State discuss with them the possibility of the tenants of such houses having the option to purchase them in the future? Will it always be the case that they will be leased units?

Deputy Ruth Coppinger’s point is well-founded. Will the Minister of State explain if a tenant could be taken out of a unit if he or she goes above the income threshold under which he or she initially got the unit?

I was not planning to go on about this but I am becoming concerned that the Minister of State has not given any assurance on this issue. I am not in favour of selling social housing, particularly in the current economic climate when no social housing is being built. That is not in the Bill but this wording is. The Minister of State has not given any reassurance that it does not mean what I think it could mean. Will the Minister of State confirm that people will have security of tenure in these approved housing agency homes? Most people are being put into these types of housing, whether they want to be or not. If they wanted a council house, they do not have a choice. They are coming off the council list and going into the Respond Housing Association, the National Association of Building Co-operatives or whoever. Could they find themselves being asked to vacate the property if their income or circumstances improve?

This Bill extends the protection rights of tenants of approved housing bodies. In fact, it strengthens the law for tenants in that if there are any disputes over, say, unpaid rent or whatever, that they have the access to the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, to deal with them. Previously, that was not as clear and that is why these provisions have been introduced in this legislation. It strengthens the rights of tenants, giving them the protection of the PRTB, in the same way as if they were the tenant of a private landlord. They will have access and the right of referral of a dispute to the PRTB which is underlined in the legislation. It is important as it brings clarity as I outlined earlier.

The housing (regulation of approved housing bodies) Bill will deal with concerns around governance, financial viability and sustainability of approved housing bodies. As I stated on several occasions already, their core function is to provide social housing. It is written into their articles of association and agreements. When they are allocating houses, they have to do so in compliance with the local housing authority, namely, the local authority. That has been working well and will continue to do so.

This Bill strengthens tenants’ rights in legislation. As regards Deputy Barry Cowen’s queries about approved housing bodies, they are independent and own the properties. Technically, they can sell those properties but their core function is to provide social housing. What we hear from them regularly is that they want to retain those properties for the provision of social housing.

Amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 4 put and declared lost.
Seanad amendment No. 4 agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 5:
Section 3: In page 6, to delete lines 36 to 41, and in page 7, to delete lines 1 to 19 and substitute the following:
“ “(4) Without prejudice to subsection (1), for the purposes of the application of this Act to—
(a) a dwelling referred to in subsection (2A), and
(b) a dwelling, other than a dwelling referred to in paragraph (a), that—
(i) is owned and provided by an approved housing body to whom assistance is given under subsection (2) of section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, other than the assistance referred to in paragraph (ea) of that subsection, for the purposes of such provision by the approved housing body,
(ii) is the subject of a tenancy (including a tenancy created before the commencement of this subsection), and
(iii) is let by that approved housing body to a household within the meaning of section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 that has been assessed under that section of that Act as being qualified for social housing support (within the meaning of that Act),
subsections (5) and (6) (both inserted by section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015) and sections 3A and 3B (both inserted by section 4 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015) shall apply to a dwelling referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b).”.

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 5:

In the fourth line of subsection (4)(b)(iii), to delete “being” and substitute “having”.

Amendment to amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 51.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Ruth Coppinger and Dessie Ellis; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Robert Dowds.
Amendment to amendment declared lost.
Seanad amendment No. 5 agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 6:
Section 3: In page 7, to delete lines 30 to 34 and substitute the following:
“(c) the person who is the tenant of the dwelling shall be construed in accordance with subsection (6).”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 7:
Section 3: In page 7, lines 36 and 37, to delete “in subsection (4)(a)” and substitute “in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4)”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 8:
Section 3: In page 7, line 48, to delete “in subsection (4)(a)” and substitute “in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (4)”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 9 to 12, inclusive, Nos. 20 to 22 inclusive and Nos. 24 and 25 are related and will be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 9:
Section 4: In page 8, line 40, to delete “sections 19 to 22” and substitute “sections 19, 20, 21 and 22”.

The published Bill provides that sections 19 to 22 and section 139 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 will not be applied to approved housing body tenancies. Approved housing bodies generally use a differential rent scheme as applied by local authorities to determine the rents of their dwellings. Under this system the amount of rent to be paid by a tenant is based on the income of the household and the provisions in the 2004 Act, including section 19 which deals with market rent, conflict with the scheme. As the differential rent scheme is more advantageous to approved housing body tenants than the provisions relating to rent in the 2004 Act, they are excluded from these sections. Approved housing body rents for their social housing tenants are set when the approved housing body signs an agreement with the housing authority to house those tenants. Those agreements are made under section 6 of the Housing Act of 1992.

Amendment No. 20 inserts a new section 19A into the principal Act to clarify that this is how approved housing body rents are to determined. Amendment No. 21 inserts a new section 20A into the principal Act which provides that any review of rent is determined under this agreement and that where no review of rent is provided for in the agreement, that either party may request a review.

Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 12 are technical, drafting amendments while amendment No.11 is a consequential amendment to amendments Nos. 20 and 21. Amendment No. 22 provides for the notification of new rent to approved housing body tenants, while amendments Nos. 24 and 25 are consequential.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 10:
Section 4: In page 8, line 42, after “section 3(4),” to insert “and”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 11:
Section 4: In page 8, to delete lines 43 to 45.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 12:
Section 4: In page 8, line 46, to delete “(g) section” and substitute “(f) section”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 13:
Section 4: In page 8, line 48, to delete “section 3(4).”.” and substitute “section 3(4).”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 14:
Section 4: In page 8, between lines 48 and 49, to insert the following:
“Notification to Minister of designations
3C. Where an approved housing body makes a designation referred to in subsection (5) of section 25, it shall notify the Minister of such designation and consent of the public body concerned not later than 6 months after the making of such designation.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 15:
Section 4: In page 9, to delete lines 3 and 4 and substitute the following:
“accordance with section 3B(b) (inserted by section 4 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015)” after “is commenced”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 16:
Section 4: In page 9, to delete line 14 and substitute “(Amendment) Act 2015)” after “commences on or after the relevant date”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 17:
Section 4: In page 9, to delete lines 15 to 51, and in page 10, to delete lines 1 to 3.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 18:
Section 5: In page 10, to delete lines 6 to 8 and substitute the following:
“ “ ‘approved housing body’ means a body—
(a) approved under section 6(6) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 for the purposes of section 6 of that Act, and
(b) to which—
(i) assistance under section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 is given for the provision by the approved housing body of dwellings owned by it, or
(ii) assistance referred to in section 6(2)(ea) of that Act is given;”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 19:
Section 5: In page 10, to delete line 11 and substitute the following:
“1992;”,
and”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 20:
Section 6: In page 10, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“Setting of rent under tenancy for dwellings referred to in section 3(4)
6. The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following section after section 19:
“19A. (1)In setting the rent under the tenancy of a dwelling referred to in section 3(4) the amount of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling—
(a) referred to in paragraph (a) of section 3(4), shall be determined in accordance with the contract or lease referred to in section 3(2A),
and
(b) referred to in paragraph (b) of section 3(4), shall be determined in accordance with the terms of the assistance referred to in that paragraph.
(2) Where there is a subsequent setting of rent under a tenancy referred to in subsection (1) by way of a review under section 20A, the amount of
rent set following such review shall be determined—
(a) in the case of a dwelling referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (1), in accordance with the contract or lease referred to in that paragraph, and
(b) in the case of a dwelling referred to in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), in accordance with the assistance referred to in that paragraph.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 21:
Section 6: In page 10, between lines 14 and 15 to insert the following:
“Rent review for dwellings referred to in section 3(4) of Principal Act
7. The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following section after section 20:
“20A. (1)A review of the rent under the tenancy of a dwelling referred to in section 3(4) shall be carried out in accordance with the tenancy agreement relating to the tenancy of the dwelling.
(2) Where a tenancy agreement referred to in subsection (1) does not include provision for a review of the rent of a dwelling referred to in section 3(4), subject to subsection (3), either party may require a review of the rent under the tenancy to be carried out for the purpose of setting the rent.
(3) A review referred to in subsection (2) shall not be carried out more than once in any 12 month period.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 22:
Section 6: In page 10, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“Notification of change in amount of rent following review under section 20A
8. The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following section after section 22:
“22A. Where, following a review of rent under section 20A, there is a change in the amount of rent, the landlord shall notify the tenant of the amount of rent set following that review in accordance with the tenancy agreement or where there is no such provision in the tenancy agreement, as soon as practicable.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 23:
Section 6: In page 10, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 25 of Principal Act
9. Section 25 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following subsections after subsection (4):
“(5) This Part does not apply to a tenancy of the dwelling referred to in section 3(4) where—
(a) the dwelling concerned is designated by the approved housing body for the use by it as a transitional dwelling, and
(b) the consent of the public authority which—
(i) is, in the case of a dwelling referred to in paragraph (a) of section 3(4), a party to the lease or contract referred to in section 3(2A), or
(ii) provides, in the case of a dwelling referred to in paragraph (b) of section 3(4), the assistance referred to in that paragraph, has, in respect of the designation referred to in paragraph (a), been obtained by the approved housing body before it makes the designation.
(6) In subsection (5) ‘transitional dwelling’ means a dwelling that an approved housing body leases for periods not exceeding 18 months for the purposes of the approved housing body concerned.
(7) Where, before the coming into operation of section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015, an approved housing body had not, for the purposes of subsection (5), made a designation in respect of a dwelling referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) of section 3(4) that it leases to a household referred to in subsection (2A) or (4)(b) of section 3 for a period not exceeding 18 months, the approved housing body concerned—
(a) may designate that dwelling to be a transitional dwelling for the purposes of subsection (5) at any time during the period of 12 months commencing on the day on which section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 comes into operation,
and
(b) shall notify the Minister of that designation not later than 3 months after it is made.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 24:
Section 8: In page 10, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 78 of Principal Act for purpose of Part 2
8. Section 78 of the Principal Act is amended, in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), by inserting “or, as the case may be, section 19A” after “section 19”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 25:
Section 8: In page 11, line 29, to delete “by substituting” and substitute “in subsection (3), by substituting”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 26:
Section 11: In page 12, to delete line 42 and substitute “specified in section 137A(1)(b),”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 27:
Section 11: In page 13, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:
“(c) where a fee referred to in section 176(3)(ba) is required to be paid, be accompanied by that fee.”,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 28:
Section 11: In page 13, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“(d) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (3):
“(3A) Where a deposit referred to in section 12(1)(d)—
(a) has been paid to the landlord, the application under this section shall, pursuant to section 135A(1), be accompanied by the deposit,
or
(b) has not been paid to the landlord and a statement referred to in section 135A(2) is, pursuant to that section, required to be furnished to the Board, the application under this section shall be accompanied by that statement.”,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 29:
Section 11: In page 13, to delete lines 7 and 8 and substitute the following:
“(iii) by substituting “subsection (2)(a), (2)(b), (2A)(i), (2A)(ii) or (2A)(iii)” for “subsection (2)(a) or (b)”,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 30:
Section 11: In page 13, line 13, to delete “prescribed under” and substitute “specified in”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 31:
Section 11: In page 13, to delete lines 15 to 17 and substitute the following:
“(ii) in paragraph (a), by substituting “subsection (2)(a), (2)(b), (2A)(i), (2A)(ii) or (2A)(iii)” for “subsection (2)(a) or (b)”, and”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 32:
Section 11: In page 13, line 28, to delete “section 137A(3)” and substitute “section 137A(3),”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 33:
Section 11: In page 13, line 34, to delete “following subsections” and substitute “following subsection”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 34:
Section 11: In page 13, to delete line 41 and substitute the following:
“(b) in subsection (2A)(i), (2A)(ii) or (2A)(iii).”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 35:
Section 11: In page 13, to delete lines 42 to 44, and in page 14, to delete lines 1 to 3.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 36:
Section 12: In page 14, to delete lines 12 to 25 and substitute the following:
“ “(6) If an application under section 134(2) is not made within the period specified in section 134(2)(b)(ii), the fee to accompany that application shall, subject to subsection (7), be the total amount of—
(a) the fee referred to in subsection (1)(b)(ii), and
(b) an additional amount of €20 for—
(i) each month, or
(ii) part of a month,
falling after the expiration of the period specified in section 134(2) (b)(ii).”,
and
(e) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (6):
“(7) The fee referred to in subsection (6) shall not exceed the total amount of €240.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 37:
Section 13: In page 14, to delete lines 33 to 35 and substitute the following:
“(b) if the application is made after the period referred to in paragraph
(a)—
(i) unless subparagraph (ii) applies, a fee of €90, or
(ii) if the Board has, under subsection (1A) of section 138, declared a fee for the purposes of this paragraph, the fee declared by the Board under that subsection.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 38:
Section 13: In page 15, to delete lines 14 to 16 and substitute the following:
“(b) if the applications concerned are made after the period referred to in paragraph (a) —
(i) unless subparagraph (ii) applies, a fee of €375, or
(ii) if the Board has, under subsection (1A) of section 138, declared a fee for the purposes of this paragraph, the fee declared by the Board under that subsection.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 39:
Section 13: In page 15, line 21, to delete “paragraph (a) or (b)” and substitute “paragraph (a), (b) or (c)”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 40:
Section 13: In page 15, to delete lines 22 to 37 and substitute the following:
“(6) If an application under section 134(2A) is not made within the period specified in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of section 134(2A), the fee to accompany that application shall, subject to subsection (7), be the total amount of—
(a) the fee referred to in paragraph (a) or, as the case may be, paragraph (b) of subsection (1), and
(b) an additional amount of €20 for—
(i) each month, or
(ii) part of a month, falling after the expiration of the period specified in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of section 134(2A).
(7)The fee referred to in subsection (6) shall not exceed the total amount of €240.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 41:
Section 14: In page 15, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 138 of Principal Act
14. Section 138 of the Principal Act is amended —
(a) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (1):
“(1A) Without prejudice to subsection (1), where, in respect of the fee referred to in subsections (1)(b) and (4)(b) of section 137A, the Board is satisfied that, having regard to changes in the value of money generally in the State that have occurred in —
(a) any period ending on or before the date that falls 24 months after the commencement of subsection (2A) of section 134, or
(b) any period subsequent to that date,
it is appropriate for it to declare a fee of a greater or lesser amount than—
(i) in the case of section 137A(1)(b)—
(I) €90, or
(II) the amount that was last previously declared (in exercise of the power under this section)for the purposes of that provision,
or
(ii) in the case of section 137A(4)(b)—
(I)€375, or
(II) the amount that was last previously declared (in exercise of the power under this section) for the purposes of that provision,
it may, subject to subsection (2A), declare in writing, for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) or (4)(b) of section 137A, a fee of such greater or lesser amount.”,
and
(b) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (2):
“(2A) In respect of the declaration of a fee referred to in subsection (1A), the amount (expressed as a percentage) by which the amount of a fee declared under that subsection is greater or lesser than the amount of the relevant fee mentioned in that subsection shall be such as, in the opinion of the Board, approximates to the percentage increase or decrease in the value of money generally in the State that has occurred in—
(a) unless paragraph (b) applies, the period beginning on the commencement of subsection (2A) of section 134 and ending on the making of the declaration, or
(b) if the power under this section has been previously exercised for the purpose of subsection (1)(b) or (4)(b) of section 137A, as the case may be, the period beginning on the date that the power was last exercised and ending on the making of the declaration.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 42:
Section 14: In page 15, line 40, after “or” to insert “, as the case may be, subsection”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 43:
Section 15: In page 15, after line 43, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 176 of Principal Act
15. Section 176 of the Principal Act is amended, in subsection (3), by inserting the following paragraph after paragraph (b):
“(ba) the making of an application under section 134 which is not made in electronic form,”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 44:
Section 15: In page 16, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 8 of Principal Act
15. Section 8 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following subsection after subsection (1):
“(1A) Without prejudice to any provision of this Act, regulations under this section may contain such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the regulations.”.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 45:
Section 15: In page 16, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 12 of Principal Act
16. Section 12 of the Principal Act is amended—
(a) in subsection (1), by substituting the following paragraph for paragraph (d):
“(d) where a deposit is paid by the tenant to the landlord on entering into the agreement for the tenancy or lease —
(i) transmit the deposit to the Board in accordance with this Act, and
(ii) for the purpose of the effecting, by the Board, the return of that deposit to the tenant, subject to the conditions specified in subsection (4), and ascertaining, for the purpose of such return, if a default referred to in that subsection is to be taken into account —
(I) respond to the notification of the Board that relates to the return of the deposit in accordance with this Act,
(II) provide information, in accordance with this Act, to the Board of any such default,
(III) notify the Board, as soon as practicable, of any change in the information provided to the Board under section 136(1) (b) in respect of his or her address for correspondence, and
(IV) notify the Board on or as soon as practicable after the end of the tenancy with a statement, in the prescribed form, that he or she requires a default referred to in subsection (4) to be taken into account by the Board,”,
(b) in subsection (4), by substituting “A deposit referred to in subsection (1)(d) shall, in accordance with this Act, be returned to the tenant” for “Subsection (1)(d) applies and has effect”, and
(c) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (5):
“(6) A landlord shall send a copy of the notification referred to in subsection (1)(d)(ii)(IV) to the tenant at the same time as he or she sends the notification to the Board.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 46:
Section 15: In page 16, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 16 of Principal Act
17. Section 16 of the Principal Act is amended —
(a) in paragraph (m), by substituting “withhold),” for “withhold), and”,
(b) in paragraph (n), by substituting “dwelling, and” for “dwelling.”, and
(c) by inserting the following paragraph after paragraph (n):
“(o) where a deposit referred to in section 12(1)(d) has been paid to the landlord by the tenant, for the purpose of the effecting, by the Board, the return of the deposit to the tenant subject to the conditions specified in section 12(4) and ascertaining, for the purpose of such return, if a default referred to in section 12(4) is to be taken into account —
(i) to respond to the notification of the Board that relates to the return of the deposit in accordance with this Act,
(ii) to provide information, in accordance with this Act, to the Board of any such default, and
(iii) to notify the Board, as soon as practicable, of his or her address for correspondence when the tenancy has ended.”.".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 47:
Section 15: In page 16, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 20 of Principal Act
18. (1) Section 20 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following subsections after subsection (3):
“(4) The references to ‘12 months’ in—
(a) paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1), and
(b) subsection (3),
shall, for the duration of the relevant period, be construed as references to ‘24 months’.
(5) Subsections (4) and (6) shall cease to have effect on the day immediately before the fourth anniversary of the day on which section 18# of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 came into operation and, on and from the first-mentioned day—
(a) paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1), and
(b) subsection (3),
shall be read as if subsection (4) had not been enacted.
(6) In subsection (4), ‘relevant period’ means the period commencing on the day on which section 18 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 comes into operation and ending on the day immediately before the fourth anniversary of the day on which that section came into operation.”.
(2) In the case of a tenancy which commenced before the coming into operation of subsection (1), for the purposes of the amendments effected by that subsection, where—
(a) a period of 12 months, beginning on the commencement of the tenancy, has not lapsed before the day on which subsection (1) comes into operation, a review of rent under that tenancy may not occur until a period of 24 months, beginning on the commencement of the tenancy, has elapsed,
(b) a period of 12 months, beginning on the date of the commencement of the tenancy, has elapsed before the day on which subsection (1) comes into operation and a review of rent under section 20 of the Principal Act has not been carried out before that day, a review of rent may not occur until a period of 24 months, beginning on the commencement of the tenancy, has elapsed,
(c) a review of rent was carried out pursuant to section 20(3) of the Principal Act and that review of rent was the most recent review of rent carried out before the coming into operation of subsection (1), a review of rent may not occur until a period of 24 months, beginning on the date of service of the most recent notice served under section 22(2) of the Principal Act, has elapsed, or
(d) one or more reviews of the rent under that tenancy has, or have, been carried out in accordance with section 20 of the Principal Act, a review of rent may not occur until a period of 24 months, beginning on the date of service of the most recent notice served under section 22(2) of the Principal Act, has elapsed.
(3) The amendments effected by subsection (1)—
(a) shall not apply in respect of a review of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling carried out under section 20 of the Principal Act where a review of rent —
(i) is being carried out in accordance with that section before the day on which subsection (1) comes into operation, or
(ii) has been carried out in accordance with that section before the day on which subsection (1) comes into operation, pursuant to which a notice under section 22(2) of the Principal Act has been served on the tenant concerned before the day on which subsection (1) comes into operation,
and
(b) shall apply in respect of a review of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling carried out after the review of rent referred to in paragraph (a) during the period for which subsections (4) and (6) of section 20 of the Principal Act have effect.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

To delete section 18, and substitute the following:

“Amendment of section 20 of Principal Act

18. Section 20 of the Principal Act is deleted and the following section is substituted:

20. (1) Subject to subsection (3), a review of the rent under the tenancy of a dwelling may not occur—

(a) more frequently than once in each period of 24 months, nor

(b) in the period of 24 months beginning on the commencement of the tenancy.

(2) Subsection (1) has effect notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in the lease or tenancy agreement concerned.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply despite the fact that a period of less than 24 months has elapsed from—

(a) the last review of the rent under the tenancy, or

(b) the commencement of the tenancy, if, in that period—

(i) a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation provided under the tenancy occurs, and

(ii) the rent under the tenancy, were it to be set immediately after that change, would, by virtue of that change, be different to what was the market rent for the tenancy at the time of that last review or the commencement of the tenancy, as the case may be.”.

Amendment to amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 49.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Broughan, Thomas P..
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J..
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J..
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dessie Ellis and Ruth Coppinger; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Robert Dowds.
Amendment to amendment declared lost.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.