I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I wish to share time with Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett.
I want to explain once again how necessary and urgent this type of legislation is in order to stop what is now a homelessness epidemic. We are running out of descriptions for what we are facing in terms of housing and homelessness.
Some 6,985 people are now homeless, and there is no doubt that by the end of January, which is a grim month for evictions as landlords evict families whom they have maintained over Christmas, the figure will go way beyond 7,000. Things will get worse, not better.
There is now a very clear gulf between what the majority of ordinary people in society would like to be done in terms of the housing and homelessness crisis and what the Government and, it seems, other parties in the Dáil are willing to do. This was best shown by what can only be described as mercurial levels of support, applause and acclaim for the occupation of Apollo House before Christmas.
If we are serious about ending homelessness, as a first step we need to stop the very easy ways landlords can evict people. This Bill targets two of the easy methods of eviction, namely, the sale of a property and a family member moving into property. I will deal with those matters shortly.
The Bill also proposes indefinite leases, rather than the current situation whereby a lease automatically lapses after six years, a measure which was introduced in recent legislation. It proposes longer notice periods of up to a year for long-term tenants who have been in a property for over five years to ensure they can find a place in a school for their children, etc.
The Bill also reduces the so-called probation period, which is currently six months. A person would have full tenancy rights after two months in a property. It also makes very clear that banks, receivers and other institutions are also landlords with exactly the same obligations.
The Bill targets what are called "dubious terminations" by the likes of Threshold, which are being reported as having increased dramatically in recent times. The number of such evictions is rising in the same way that rents are rising. Families have told me that landlords are increasingly citing a family member needing to move into a property as a reason for eviction.
I know of a woman with serious medical issues who has been living in a property in the Clonee area for 15 years. She could lose her home because a landlord presents a letter stating that a family member needs to move in. That is completely and utterly wrong. We have to change the culture. If people rent out their houses and homes, they are no longer their homes. Rather, they have made a business arrangement and tenants have to have rights.
Somebody on Facebook made a good analogy. If a family member loses his or her job, an employer cannot suddenly make staff unemployed in order to employ him or her. The situation pertaining to landlords is very similar. We would not accept such a provision in employment law, and should not accept it for housing. We do not propose outlawing this provision because there are cases where landlords may need properties for family members.
Rather, we propose that landlords would have to pay compensation of six months' rent to a tenant if the landlord wanted to move the tenant out. This is the case in other countries such as the Netherlands. I could cite many instances where this reason has been given.
A young woman in the Tallaght area was made homeless on 10 January. The stress of eviction was hanging over her throughout Christmas. It is not the first time she has lost a property because a landlord has cited family reasons.
It is clear that this ground is being used in a dubious way.
The key measure in the Bill, on which I wish to focus for the remainder of my contribution, is a ban on eviction for the sale of a property. This is not the first time this particular demand has been made, but it is absolutely vital if we want to outlaw dubious evictions. Without question, the ground is sometimes used by landlords as an excuse to displace one tenant and get in a new one on a higher rent. Despite the measures introduced by the Minister before Christmas to be implemented in Dublin and Cork, this could still take place in the rest of the country. It could still take place in Dublin and Cork, too, because, in reality, who will check if a landlord has complied with his or her obligations?
We need this measure to protect those who are being made homeless by individual landlords who may genuinely be selling the property, but that does not give them an excuse to make a family homeless, as well as by receivers and vulture funds, about which we have all heard a lot in the past week. Strand Tenants Against Vulture Evictions, STAVE, in Limerick has sent a letter to all Deputies. In it it makes the point that it fully supports the Bill proposed because, even under the Minister's amendment introduced before Christmas, the so-called Tyrellstown amendment, all a vulture fund has to do is reissue the eviction notices and evict nine families at a time. The Minister has given them that power. He thinks nine families being evicted represents a fair balance of rights. He stated before Christmas that he had consulted constitutional experts.