That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 and to provide for related matters.
The Bill I introduce is to establish an ombudsman for owner management companies. It will set up the body to help in training board members, assist in dispute resolution and make recommendations on the future development and management of the sector. The ombudsman will be based within the Property Services Regulatory Authority.
A recent submission by the Apartment Owners Network and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government estimated that nearly 500,000 people were living in multi-unit developments in Ireland, the majority of which are run by owner management companies. I pay tribute to the volunteer efforts of all those involved which are vital in achieving and maintaining quality of life in these developments. However, they fall between several stools and have no Department or resources backing them up. Owner management companies are governed by dense company law, with which many are not familiar, and must adhere to strict housing regulations and deal with property rights under the Department of Justice and Equality. My Bill will provide a new body within the Property Services Regulatory Authority which will help the people who run these companies for the greater good of their multi-unit developments.
Key training and information, as well as dispute resolution, will be the core duties of the new ombudsman. The office will also help to develop new policy in the area and highlight key issues of concern. As the Government seeks to build 35,000 new units per annum up to 2040, many of them will be run by such companies. We need to give them support to ensure the highest level of governance is achieved and maintained. The ombudsman will work for the 500,000 people living in these apartment blocks and estates throughout the country.
The main objectives of the Bill are to promote good governance within the owner management company sector; to provide information on the duties and responsibilities of owner management companies; to provide training for members of owner management companies; to make recommendations to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the regulation of owner management companies, including the representation of tenants in a multi-unit development; to assist in the resolution of disputes in an owner management company on a non-binding basis and to publish an annual report on the work of the ombudsman. Such a Bill will help the sector. A total of 500,000 people live in managed apartment blocks and estates. As we heard at the Oireachtas joint committee, this is an area that needs to be addressed. The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and the Apartment Owners Network referred to it as a ticking time bomb. It is important to get some of the management companies into shape, both financially and in terms of their corporate governance structures. We need to help and there is a mechanism in place to do so. The Bill is the way forward. I will be happy to work with all parties and the Government to make sure proper regulation is introduced in the sector.