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

The Dáil went into Committee to resume consideration of 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. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

To insert the following subsection before subsection (1):

“(1) Section 19 of the Principal Act is amended in subsection (1), by inserting the following after “at that time.”:

“Market rent is defined as the average price per square metre of a property with equivalent fittings and finish in the same municipal district or local electoral area, as applicable. The average price per square metre shall be calculated using the data gathered and published in accordance with section 151(1)(bc) (as amended by section 37 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015).”.”.

Amendment No. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 47 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18(1), in the inserted subsection (4), to delete “, for the duration of the relevant period,”.

Amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 47 put and declared lost.

As the proposers of amendment No. 4 to Seanad amendment No. 47 are not present, it cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 4 to Seanad amendment No. 47 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18(1), to delete the inserted subsection (5) and substitute the following:

“(5) Subsections (4) and (6) shall be reviewed by Dáil Éireann on the nearest date to the fourth anniversary of the day on which section 18 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 came into operation on which Dáil Éireann sits, and Dáil Éireann shall decide, 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, whether subsections (4) and (6) should remain in place.”.

Amendment No. 5 to Seanad amendment No. 47 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18(1), after the inserted subsection (6), to insert the following:

“(7) Any increase mandated by a review of the rent as referred to in subsection (1) shall not be greater than the percentage annual rate of inflation, or 5 per cent, whichever is the lower.”.”.

Amendment to amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 38; Níl, 49.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey.
Amendment to amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 7 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18, to delete subsection (3).

Amendment to amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 38; Níl, 53.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Ruth Coppinger; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey.
Amendment to amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 8 to Seanad amendment No. 47 not moved.

I move amendment No. 9 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18(3)(a), in the second line, to delete “where a review” and substitute “if a review”.

Amendment No. 9 to Seanad amendment No. 47 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18(3)(a), to delete subparagraph (i) and substitute the following:

“(i) has been carried out in accordance with that section 60 days or less than 60 days before the day on which subsection (1) comes into operation, and any notice under section 22(2) of the Principal Act served pursuant to that review shall be null, if it has been served 60 days or less than 60 days before subsection (1) comes into operation,”.

Amendment No. 10 to Seanad amendment No. 47 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11 to Seanad amendment No. 47:

In section 18(3)(b), in the second and third line, to delete “during the period for which subsections (4) and (6) of section 20 of the Principal Act have effect”.

Amendment No. 11 to Seanad amendment No. 47 put and declared lost.
Seanad amendment No. 47 agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 48:
Section 15: In page 16, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 22 of Principal Act
19. (1) Section 22 of the Principal Act is amended—
(a) in subsection (2)—
(i) by substituting “90 days” for “28 days”,
(ii) by substituting “in the prescribed form” for “in writing”, and
(iii) by inserting “and the matters specified in subsection (2A)” after “have effect”,
and
(b) by inserting the following subsections after subsection (2):
“(2A) The notice referred to in subsection (2) shall—
(a) without prejudice to subsection (2) and pursuant to the condition referred to in that subsection, state the amount of the new rent and the date from which it is to have effect,
(b) include a statement that a dispute in relation to the setting of a rent pursuant to a review of the rent under a tenancy must be referred to the Board under Part 6 before—
(i) the date stated in the notice as the date from which that rent is to have effect, or
(ii) the expiry of 28 days from the receipt by the tenant of that notice,
whichever is the later,
(c) include a statement by the landlord that in his or her opinion the new rent is not greater than the market rent, having regard to—
(i) the other terms of the tenancy, and
(ii) letting values of dwellings—
(I) of a similar size, type and character to the dwelling that is the subject of the tenancy, and
(II) situated in a comparable area to that in which the dwelling the subject of the tenancy concerned is situated,
(d) specify, for the purposes of paragraph (d), and without prejudice to the generality of that paragraph, the amount of rent sought for 3
dwellings—
(i) of a similar size, type and character to the dwelling that is the subject of the tenancy, and
(ii) situated in a comparable area to that in which the dwelling the subject of the tenancy concerned is situated,
and
(e) include the date on which the notice is signed.
(2B) The notice referred to in subsection (2) shall be signed by the landlord or his or her authorised agent.
(2C) In this section ‘amount of rent sought’ means the amount of rent specified for the letting of a dwelling in an advertisement the date of which falls within the period of 4 weeks immediately preceding the date on which the notice referred to in subsection (2) is served.”.
(2) Where, before the coming into operation of subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of subsection (1), a notice under subsection (2) of section 22 of the Principal Act has been served on a tenant, notwithstanding the amendments to that section by subsection (1), that section shall continue to apply to—
(a) that notice, and
(b) the operation of subsection (3) of that section in respect of that notice,
as if subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) had not been enacted.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 48:

In section 19(1)(a)(i), to delete “90 days” and substitute “180 days”.

Amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 48 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 48:

In section 19(1)(b), in the inserted subsection (2A), to delete paragraphs (c) and (d) and substitute the following:

“(c) include a statement by the landlord that the new rent is not in breach of subsection (7) (inserted by section 19 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015),”.

Amendment No. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 48 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 48:

In section 19(1)(b), in the inserted subsection (2A), to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following:

“(c) 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, or for a dwelling outside the Dublin area (as defined by the Private Residential Tenancies Board Rent Index) 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 since Quarter 1 2011 or Quarter 2 2013, whichever date applies,”.

Amendment amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 48 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4 to Seanad amendment No. 48:

In section 19(1)(b), to delete the inserted subsection (2C).

Amendment No. 4 to Seanad amendment No. 48 put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5 to Seanad amendment No. 48:

In section 19, to delete subsection (2).

Amendment No. 5 to Seanad amendment No. 48 put and declared lost.
Seanad amendment No. 48 agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 49 to 51, inclusive, and No. 53 and the amendments to these amendments are related and will be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 49:
Section 15: In page 16, to delete lines 3 and 4 and substitute the following:
“Additional requirements relating to termination by landlord
15. The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following section after section 33:
“33A. Without prejudice to section 33, in addition to the grounds for termination by a landlord under section 34, in accordance with section 57(b), Part 5 shall apply in relation to the termination of a Part 4 tenancy by a landlord.”.”.

Seanad amendment No. 49 is a technical amendment which clarifies that when terminating a Part 4 tenancy, a landlord must comply with both Parts 4 and 5 of the Act. The 2004 Act specifies the grounds on which a landlord may terminate a tenancy. A landlord may not serve a notice of termination on a tenant, except in very clearly defined circumstances such as a failure by the tenant to comply with his or her obligations in relation to the tenancy; where the landlord intends to sell the property within three months after the termination of the tenancy; or where the landlord requires the dwelling for his or her own occupation or for that of a family member.

Seanad amendments Nos. 50 and 51 will strengthen the protections around tenancy terminations by providing for measures that will guard against, for example, landlords falsely declaring that the property is needed for a family member, or that it is going to be sold. These measures involve (i) a landlord having to explain in a written statement to the tenant why a property might no longer be suitable to their accommodation needs having regard to the number of bed spaces and the size and composition of the household; (ii) a landlord having to make a statutory declaration as to his or her intention to sell a property; (iii) a landlord having to make a statutory declaration that the property is needed for his or her occupation or that of a family member; or (iv) a landlord providing a copy of planning permission obtained, where relevant.

Under section 66 of the current legislation, the period of notice of termination increases according to the length of the tenancy. A landlord must give a tenant a minimum of 28 days notice for tenancies of less than six months duration, up to a maximum of 112 days notice for tenancies of four years or more. A tenant must give a landlord a minimum of 28 days notice for tenancies of less than six months duration, up to a maximum of 56 days notice for tenancies of two years or more.

Seanad amendment No. 53 introduces further graduated increases in the notice period such that a landlord will have to give a tenant up to a maximum of 224 days notice for tenancies of eight years or more, as follows: a tenancy of five years or more but less than six years requires 140 days notice; a tenancy of six years or more but less than seven years requires 168 days notice; a tenancy of seven years or more but less than eight years requires 196 days notice; and a tenancy of eight or more years requires 224 days notice. This will give tenants who have lived in their rented accommodation for long periods sufficient time to source alternative accommodation and is consistent with a recommendation made in the DKM report entitled, Future of the Private Rented Sector, which was commissioned by the Private Residential Tenancies Board. A tenant, meanwhile, will have to give a landlord up to a maximum of 112 days notice for tenancies of eight years or more, as follows: a tenancy of four years or more but less than eight years requires 84 days notice; and a tenancy of eight or more years requires 112 days.

I would like to address amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 53 which reads:

In section 19(1), to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:

“(b) the duration of tenancy shall not affect the notice period required for termination by a tenant, which shall in all cases be 28 days.”.

It is about notice requirements for tenants. What the amendment seeks to do is to change the minimum notice period required of tenants. The effect of the Seanad amendment and the original Act means that the longer a tenant is in a property, the longer the period of notice they need to give. This does not make any sense. Why should a tenant who has been in situ for two and a half years have to give two months notice that they must leave? Minimum notice periods for termination for landlords make perfect sense. The longer a tenant has been in place, the more they have put down roots and the more difficult it is for them to pack up and go. The flip side is not the same. A landlord is running a business and finding a new tenant is not going to be any more difficult simply because a tenant has been in the property for two or three years. It makes sense that the minimum notice a tenant should have to give to a landlord in all cases be 28 days. This should be more than enough time for a landlord to seek out new tenants and get their affairs in order.

Demanding long notice periods from tenants prevents the type of mobility that is an advantage of renting in the first place. At the end of their tenancy, they do not own an asset but the quid pro quo is that they have a certain flexibility in their living arrangements and can move with relative ease, which is one of the reasons why some people choose to rent. This is something we should be encouraging.

Another issue the Minister of State should consider is the fact that given that the legislation only allows the subletting of a property at the landlord's discretion, giving a long notice period for tenants could see some tenants paying double rent for a couple of months if they need to move out quickly for work or some other reason and if the landlord will not let them sublet the property. This is another reason to encourage the retention of 28 days notice for the tenant. I am fully in favour of the longer notice period required of the landlord.

The Minister of State should agree to this amendment. It is a positive measure and I cannot see how anybody could disagree with it.

It is very hard to see the rationale behind this. If people are in a property for a number of years, very often they have started families and moving is a much bigger challenge than it is for someone who has only been in a place for 12 or 18 months. If a person has children, they are looking at different schools. There is far more to be taken into consideration and the idea of giving people a little more time to sort themselves out is a rational one.

If I was a landlord and was going to get three months notice, I probably would not look to let it until about 28 days before vacancy. I do not see where the merit lies in this. If someone had to give three months notice to get out of the apartment and I put that up for rent, I would be wasting money on advertising it at that stage. If I put it up for rent there and then, the chances of finding someone who would want an apartment in a particular area in three months time are slim. I would not waste my money advertising it. I would wait until four or five weeks before the apartment was to be vacated because I would not be wasting my money then. I do not see it as a serious benefit to a landlord whereas I do regard it as a very unfair restriction on the person who is renting the property.

I wish to speak on our amendments, amendments Nos. 1 and 2 to Seanad amendment No. 51. They concern the statutory declaration, which is a critical issue for tenants. The commonest reason for people becoming homeless - the people with whom I speak - is not rent increases because landlords know that it is more difficult to evict somebody on the basis of a rent increase now. In many cases, landlords are using other legal means to get rid of tenants so that they can jack up the rent when tenants are gone. There are legitimate reasons why somebody might need to have a property vacated but landlords are citing reasons like a family member having to move in. One woman was told recently that her landlord's mother was terminally ill and needed a place to go. I have heard all sorts of reasons as to why the tenant must move out and the landlord needs to have the property vacated. In all those cases, people have seen the property re-let at a later stage with the increase in rent effected because it is not possible to get the rent up to a level one wants to see, particularly for somebody on rent allowance. This is what landlords are doing.

We welcome anything that would strengthen the hand of tenants but a statutory declaration will only go so far. In addition, we want proof from the landlord that they have made inquiries and have had some communication with a prospective buyer or estate agent or have some evidence that were the property not to be sold, they would suffer significant and unfair financial hardship. An epidemic of homelessness is raging, particularly in Dublin and other cities. This is the main way that people are now becoming homeless because they are powerless to do anything legally to stop landlords using these clauses to get them out. Surely the Minister of State knows this. A statutory declaration overseen by a solicitor is not good enough. We need landlords to provide proof that it is incumbent on them to sell the house and that they have made serious efforts to do that.

It would have been helpful if the Government had seen the need to introduce a ban on repossessions in general by banks and receivers where landlords are being put under pressure to sell their properties because prices are going up. The Government has not seen fit to introduce that in this legislation, although it is sorely needed to protect families from becoming homeless. We are asking that this be amended to make it even stronger, in order to put pressure on landlords to indicate that properties genuinely need to be vacated and that they are not just legally looking for ways to evict tenants so they can jack up the rent, which we all know is going on.

In respect of amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 51, landlords have said that they were selling properties and we then find out that the sale does not happen. I have come across it as, I imagine, have many other Members. We need some penalty or mechanism to deal with that because it is ridiculous that properties are re-let after people have been virtually turfed out and they give the proper notice. Very severe penalties need to be imposed. We need proof that the landlord is actually going to sell the property and if it is not sold, we need to ensure that means are found to deal with this.

I will withdraw amendment No. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 53. It is important that we do not make it very difficult for tenants who must give notice to their landlord because it is already difficult enough. Giving 28 days notice seems reasonably fair. If we start imposing longer periods based on the length of the tenancy, it would be a disaster. We need to be sensible. People have commitments and have to move. They may have various different reasons in this regard. A landlord has more flexibility when it comes to giving tenants notice. I will support Deputy Clare Daly's amendment.

In the past few weeks, some elderly people renting properties have told me their landlords sought to raise the rent. I explained adequate notice needs to be in place for that to happen and the landlords were more than likely seeking to take advantage of the delay and vacuum that had been created by the legislation not being passed over the past year. Many of those people fear for their security of tenure if they question the landlord about this. In the event that such people lose their tenancy, can there be retrospective reporting? In the event of such reporting, will the consequences for the landlord be as outlined in various parts of the legislation to deal with that issue? It can also apply in the context of notification of ending of tenancies.

I am speaking on our amendments to Seanad amendment No. 53. Part of the resolution to the housing crisis will be to increase the rights of tenants and to create a situation whereby the legal balance between tenants and landlords is shifted so that tenants can have security of tenure without the risk of being turfed out at short notice and can develop a home and connections with their community, etc. The Government’s amendments for increasing the notice period are entirely inadequate. The period for the landlord to give notice to the tenant remains ridiculously low. A tenant who has been there for less than six months can be turfed out in 28 days. For one who has been there for between six months and a year, the period is 35 days while for one who has been there for between a year and two years, the period is 42 days. It makes it easier for the landlord to decide to get the tenants out for whatever reason and creates instability and insecurity for a tenant who, at relatively short notice, can be asked to leave. For that reason, our amendments propose a significant extension of the notice period required for the landlord. I agree that there should be no extension of the period for the notice required from the tenant but the landlord, as a minimum, should give 60 days’ notice. People should have at least two months to get their affairs in order before being asked to leave. This is a question of creating an environment where tenants’ rights come before the ability of landlords to simply choose to put people out for whatever reason.

I agree with Deputy Coppinger that it is more difficult to evict on the basis of rent increases. That is due to the protections in place and the recourse tenants have to the PRTB and the courts, if necessary. They have protective rights in legislation.

I will deal first with amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 51 which places additional requirements on landlords who are selling their dwellings. As we know, many people do not use estate agents to sell their property and, as such, a requirement to produce correspondence with estate agents would be unfair on those landlords who wish to sell their own dwellings. In addition, the requirement is that a landlord must have an intention to sell, not have sold the dwelling or have a buyer in place. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to provide that the landlord must provide correspondence from a prospective buyer. The requirement for landlords to give evidence that they would suffer significant financial hardship unless they sell the dwellings would introduce significant and unfair limitations on their freedom to make decisions about their private property and infringe on their property rights. The Seanad amendments provide that the notice of termination must be accompanied by a statutory declaration. To make a false statement in a statutory declaration is an offence. Therefore, I am satisfied that the Seanad amendments will be effective in preventing fraud in this regard.

In addition to the strengthened measures being introduced in this Bill, there are already significant protections in the 2004 Act to prevent this type of fraud. Section 56 provides that where a tenant vacates a property on foot of a notice of termination on the grounds the landlord wants to sell the dwelling or needs it for a family member and the tenant subsequently finds this was not the reason for the termination, the tenant can bring a complaint to the PRTB, which may award damages against the landlord and may make an order that the tenant resume possession of the house. Taken together with the new measures I have introduced, I believe there are sufficient protections for tenants in the Act against invalid terminations.

There are plenty of examples of tenants being successful before the PRTB and being awarded compensation. It is important we take the opportunity in this debate to say that tenants are made aware of their rights under existing legislation. There has been a successful outcome from the tenancy sustainment protocol operated through Threshold, which manages to keep thousands of people in their homes by giving proper information for tenants to know their rights and resist fraudulent terminations of tenancies. That is a fact which is there to be seen.

In respect of the retrospective reporting mentioned by Deputy Cowen, that would be a matter for the PRTB in determining its decisions. It is independent and quasi-judicial. Where the PRTB decisions or awards are not upheld by either party, there is recourse to the courts. In this legislation, we are improving access to the courts and the timelines for disputes because when this legislation is passed, the District Courts will be able to hear cases whereas before now, people were waiting to have their cases heard in the Circuit Court which was causing delays.

With regard to amendment No. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 51 where further evidence is required that a landlord needs the dwelling for family occupation. In effect, the amendment provides that a landlord may only terminate a tenancy where he or she requires the dwelling for himself or herself or for his or her family in circumstances where to do otherwise would be to cause the landlord significant financial hardship. As with amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 51, this amendment would introduce significant and unfair limitations on a landlord’s freedom to make decisions in relation to his or her private property and infringe on his or her property rights. As such, I do not propose to accept this amendment.

With regard to amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 to Seanad amendment No. 53, which refers to the longer notice periods for termination that Deputy Clare Daly and others have mentioned, these amendments all relate to the notice periods for the termination of tenancies. The additional notice periods provided for in the Seanad amendments increase the notice periods for landlords and tenants. In doing so, they have been calibrated so as to maintain the proportional relationship between the notice periods. This means, for example, the maximum notice period that long-term tenants of eight years' duration or more must give is 112 days, half as long as the landlord must give in such circumstances.

The Act is carefully constructed to be fair to landlords and tenants alike. Where a tenancy has been in existence for eight or more years, it is important that the landlord also receives adequate notice so that he or she can source the right tenant for the dwelling concerned. In amending the termination notice periods, we have maintained the principle behind the notice periods already established in the Act and for that reason, I cannot accept the amendments. Under section 69 of the Act, the landlord or the tenant may agree to a lesser period of notice being given at the time or after the time the intention to terminate the tenancy has been given.

In response to Opposition amendment No. 4 to Seanad amendment No. 53, which refers to the application of new notice periods to notices already served, these amendments seek to provide that the new notice periods would apply to notices of termination already served at the commencement of these provisions. As I have already stated, it is not possible to retrospectively apply the new provisions and, as such, I will not accept this amendment.

I know the Minister for State explained why he came up with the notice period but it does not address the fundamental problem. It does not make any sense whatsoever that a tenant would have to give a longer notice period the longer he or she is in the tenancy.

I note the Minister of State observed the landlord can shorten that period in order that the tenant is not obliged to give such notice but that is not really good enough. Members are aware that quiet or vulnerable tenants will not get into an argument with a landlord on that point and even if they do, the landlord has no obligation to concede to their demands in that regard. The Minister of State did not really address any of the practical points I made in advocating the amendment about the concept of renting and the flexibility it gives to people. When one combines this with the fact that landlords will not permit subletting in many instances, the Minister of State is placing an undue burden on the tenant here without, in a point well made by Deputy Wallace, any benefit to the landlord because no landlord will advertise a property six months ahead and no one will take it up. Consequently, there is no benefit to this provision. The amendment I tabled is really practical and does not disenfranchise landlords at all but gives tenants a right of which they should be able to avail. I urge the Minister of State to consider the amendment for all the reasons I gave earlier.

On the issue of what obligation should be placed on landlords to prove they are selling the property and that it genuinely is the reason they need to evict someone, the Minister of State is correct to note it is more difficult to evict somebody on the basis of a rent increase but many landlords are resorting to outright harassment of tenants. I have spoken to many families who have been renting for a long time and who have been subjected to text messages throughout the evening and night and to landlords calling unannounced. There are many different ways in which to get rid of someone. However, the Minister of State was wrong on one point in that if one rings Threshold, which is a good organisation that gives good advice, to tell it one's landlord has told one he or she must sell the property for a family member, there is absolutely nothing Threshold can do about it. The tenant must comply and that is why landlords are using this method because it is a much simpler way to get rid of people, particularly those in receipt of rent allowance in that if one is in receipt of rent allowance, one cannot afford to find more money out of one's own income or one will not be awarded an increase by the community welfare officers relative to what is needed. Consequently, it is a kind of ethnic cleansing of people who are in receipt of rent allowance from properties by landlords in order that they can re-let the properties to people on higher incomes. All Members, including the Minister of State I am sure, have heard the stories about people who wish to rent a property. One goes into a queue with 20 or 30 people ahead of one. It is akin to an audition for "The X Factor" where one must show references, details of salary or wages and so on. Consequently, I reject the idea that someone will have any power to resist a landlord who states he or she must sell when it is written down in the law. In the amendments tabled, my colleagues and I seek the placing of a greater onus on landlords to prove this actually is the case and that they would suffer undue hardship were they unable to vacate the property.

Yesterday, I believe the Minister, Deputy Kelly, stated there was no reason anyone in this country should not have a bed at night. I do not know on what planet he is living but when people are evicted, which I see take place in my constituency practically every day, they must contact the council immediately to let it know. However, the council essentially hands such people a sheet of paper and tells them to find their own accommodation. People frequently cannot find any accommodation because there is none and hotels are not taking people. They then are obliged to find a sofa or a car and in some cases, people have slept outdoors because of the pressure under which they feel they are putting their friends and so on. The Minister is not living in the real world. These amendments are about strengthening the rights of families to remain in a property and not to become homeless and, in a sense, a burden on the taxpayer. The Government appears to be more concerned about the rights of private property and of landlords to be able to re-let properties than it is about protecting families and the taxpayer, who must pay heavily to hotels because no council or social housing is being built. The Minister of State stated it was not appropriate to restrict landlords' freedoms but what about the human rights of people to have a roof over their heads? We have a housing crisis and the Government has failed to grapple with it. Consequently, I unapologetically am in favour of restricting landlords' freedoms. I am more in favour of restricting the freedom of a landlord than I am of restricting the rights of families and people who have been forced into the private rented sector because they have no option, as should be the Government because that is more important. However, we also have a Constitution that unfortunately seems to give absolute primacy to private property.

Ministers and Deputies probably should declare an interest if they are landlords because there is a disproportionate number of landlords in this House. I believe one in four Members is a landlord compared with 4% of people in society. Perhaps so doing would not go amiss when people are speaking or trooping in to vote on this Bill.

I will be brief. In his response to our amendments and why they cannot be accepted, the Minister of State effectively gave the game away with the line that it would interfere with the right to property and by property, one should read the right of landlords to maximise their profit, their rent from their tenants and, fundamentally, to do what they like with their properties. That sums it up and the approach of the Government is precisely as Deputy Coppinger has described it, namely, this right comes before the right of people to a home. The point is the house, flat or whatever people are renting is not just abstractly the private property or investment property or whatever of a landlord large or small; fundamentally, it is someone's home. It is a person's roof over his or her head and is all he or she potentially has between having somewhere to live or being forced, like thousands of people, into couch surfing, living in a car or a van or into emergency homeless accommodation. That is what it is; it is the right of people to a home and, fundamentally, the inability or unwillingness of the Government to come up with legislation that significantly shifts the balance in favour of tenants as opposed to landlords, which actually constitutes rent control and not just this rent certainty that merely is certainty one's rent will rise every couple of years, and relates to the fact that it prioritises, as do most interpretations of the Constitution, the right of landlords to their private property over the right of people to a home. That fundamentally is the issue. It is entirely reasonable, as our amendments propose, to place an additional burden on landlords to prove that unless they sell the property, they would suffer an unreasonable financial hardship. This is entirely reasonable when compared with the hardship that will be faced by people who are forced to leave a home and potentially are forced into homelessness. It speaks volumes about the approach of the Government and all the establishment parties that they consider that kind of burden on a landlord to be unreasonable and to be an infringement of a landlord's rights.

I revert to the point of the 28 days or to the provision that someone who has been in a property for eight years or more will be obliged to give 112 days' notice to the landlord. This strikes me as a provision that has not been thought out because it does not really make sense. For example, someone who has been in a property for eight years or more may lose his or her job. The employer is only obliged to give that person a month's notice and he or she must move on to seek another job. It is pretty draconian that such people would be obliged to pay the rent for three and a half months when they may be obliged to leave the county or the country to find a job. The proposed reduction to 28 days definitely is worth considering and I do not perceive the merit for the landlord. I am not one who thinks all landlords should be hung, drawn and quartered and run out of the country as I live in the real world but I believe the Minister of State should reconsider this issue.

I agree with the points made by some colleagues regarding the landlords when a tenant is giving notice. I believe the provision that a tenant of eight years and more must give 112 days' notice is absolutely mad.

Tenants have many commitments. They may have lost their jobs. They may have to go somewhere else, including abroad. There might be a death in the family or other reasons. In this context this provision is crazy.

With RAS we have had people tied to contracts for three or four years. Landlords have then looked to get those properties back. They have given excuses that it is a family home and they need to go back into the home, etc. They should be required to supply strong proof. The Minister of State has spoken about imposing penalties and requiring proof. However, if they do not do what they said they would do, we need to be very tough on the consequences. We need to have very strong proof from the landlord that it will happen. We have all come across people who have been on RAS and thinking that they were set for another two or three years when, all of a sudden, they are put out. Of course they are given notice but that is not good enough in many cases. Penalties need to be much stronger.

This legislation is being introduced to provide more certainty until the supply of social and private housing increases. It is to intervene in a market that is totally dysfunctional and one in which we do not have enough houses to meet the demand. That is recognised. The social housing programme and Construction 2020 are ambitious programmes that will reap the benefits once construction starts to operate normally and supply improves.

The legislation is being introduced to bring certainty and sustain tenancies, as Deputies have called for. It can only be introduced in a fair and balanced way. We cannot afford to have unbalanced interventions that would cause landlords to leave the market. Regardless of whether we like landlords, we are very dependent on them given the current state of housing.

I acknowledge what Deputy Wallace said. It is not right to blacken all landlords. Many landlords are ordinary people who took out a mortgage, perhaps as a nest egg or pension, and are struggling to sustain mortgage repayments. They are also contributing in a very important way to tenancy sustainment. Whatever legislation we introduce must be fair and balanced. We believe this legislation is fair and balanced because it gives adequate notice termination periods for landlords and tenants, assisting tenancy sustainment. If we want to achieve a functioning, sustainable property market, it is important that the legislation be fair for both landlord and tenant.

Deputy Clare Daly is concerned about the notice periods. We consider it is balanced and proportionate. We have extended the notice periods from the 2004 Act. Deputy Wallace asked where people stand if they lose their job. Under section 69 of the Act, the landlord or the tenant may agree to a shorter period of notice being given, at the time or after the time the intention to terminate the tenancy has been given. So there is flexibility within the legislation. Any landlord who has had tenants for more than eight years will know them very well and will have an excellent relationship. I believe that is the experience. Flexibility has been built into the legislation to provide for the case of sudden job loss for people in long tenancies.

Deputy Coppinger referred to the harassment of tenants, and that may be the case. However, the existing legislation protects tenants. There is a tenancy sustainment protocol with which tenants can engage through Threshold. In addition, any dispute can now be referred to the PRTB. While it could always be referred to the PRTB, we are enhancing the protections in the legislation. In cases where the PRTB decision is not adhered to by either party, we are improving access to the courts. The legislation will allow for quicker access to the courts because this legislation will allow cases to be heard in the District Court where previously it had to go to the Circuit Court. That will improve the throughput of cases. I expect we will see fewer disputes because landlords and tenants who do not adhere to their obligations will recognise that disputes will be determined in a fairer and quicker way.

Threshold is already keeping thousands of people in their homes by intervening to provide full information on tenants' rights under existing legislation. This legislation will enhance protections and sustain tenancies while supply comes up to normal levels. We want to see a return to a normal, functioning and sustainable housing market. That is why these interventions have a sunset clause.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 50:
Section 16: In page 16, to delete lines 5 to 42 and substitute the following:
“Amendment of section 34 of Principal Act
16. The Table to section 34 of the Principal Act is amended—
(a) in paragraph 1(a), by inserting “in writing” after “notified”,
(b) in paragraph 2, by inserting “and the notice of termination is accompanied by a statement referred to in section 35” after “occupying household”,
(c) in paragraph 3, by inserting “and the notice of termination is accompanied by a statutory declaration referred to in section 35” after “containing the dwelling”,
(d) in paragraph 4, by substituting “by a statutory declaration” for “, in writing, by a statement”,
(e) in paragraph 5—
(i) in subparagraph (a), by substituting “intended works,” for “intended works, and”,
(ii) by inserting the following subparagraphs after subparagraph (a):
“(aa) that, in a case where planning permission has been obtained, a copy of the planning permission is attached to the notice or statement,
(ab) that planning permission is not required and he or she has complied with the requirements of section 35(9)(b), and”,
and
(iii) in subparagraph (b)(i) by inserting “within the period of 6 months from the expiry of the period of notice required to be given by the notice, or if a dispute in relation to the validity of the notice was referred to the Board under Part 6 for resolution, the final determination of the dispute” after “available for re-letting”,
and
(f) in paragraph 6—
(i) in subparagraph (a), by substituting “intended use,” for “intended use, and”,
(ii) by inserting the following subparagraphs after subparagraph (a):
“(aa) that, in a case where planning permission has been obtained, a copy of the planning permission is attached to the notice or statement,
(ab) as to whether any works are to be carried out in respect of the change of use and where such works are required to be carried out, specifying—
(i) details of those works,
(ii) the name of the contractor, if any, employed to carry out such works, and
(iii) the dates on which the intended works are to be carried out and the proposed duration of the period in which those works are to be carried out,
and”.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 50:

In paragraph (d), after “declaration” to insert “referred to in section 35 (as amended by the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015)”.

Amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 50 put and declared lost.
Seanad amendment No. 50 agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 51:
Section 17: In page 16, after line 42, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 35 of Principal Act
17. Section 35 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following subsections after
subsection (6):
“(7) The statement to accompany a notice of termination in respect of a termination referred to in paragraph 2 of the Table shall specify—
(a) the bed spaces in the dwelling, and
(b) the grounds on which the dwelling is no longer suitable having regard to the bed spaces referred to in paragraph (a) and the size and composition of the occupying household.
(8) The statutory declaration that is to accompany a notice of termination in respect of a termination referred to in paragraph 3 of the Table shall include a declaration that the landlord intends to enter into an enforceable agreement to transfer to another, for full consideration, of the whole of his or her interest in the dwelling or the property containing the dwelling.
(9) A notice of termination in respect of a termination made on the ground specified in paragraph 5 of the Table, or the statement referred to in that paragraph shall—
(a) for the purposes of the statement referred to in subparagraph (aa) of paragraph 5 of the Table, be accompanied by a copy of the planning permission required for the carrying out of the refurbishment or renovation of the dwelling concerned, and
(b) specify, where planning permission is not required—
(i) the name of the contractor, if any, employed to carry out the intended works, and
(ii) the dates on which the intended works are to be carried out and the proposed duration of the period in which those works are to be carried out.
(10) A notice of termination in respect of a termination made on the ground specified in paragraph 6 of the Table, or the statement referred to in that paragraph shall, for the purposes of the statement referred to in subparagraph (aa) of paragraph 6 of the Table, be accompanied by a copy of the planning permission required for the carrying out of the change of use of the dwelling concerned.”.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 51:

In section 17, in the inserted subsection (8), in the sixth line after “dwelling” to insert the following “and shall also include evidence of that intention to sell, such as correspondence with an estate agent or a prospective buyer or buyers, and shall also include evidence that were the property not to be sold, the landlord would suffer significant financial hardship”.

Amendment to amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 91.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Wallace, Mick.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey.
Amendment to amendment declared lost.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.