Residential Tenancies (Prohibition on Viewing Fees) Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to prohibit the charging by landlords of viewing fees from prospective tenants; and to provide for related matters.

This is a short Bill entitled an Act to prohibit the charging by landlords of viewing fees from prospective tenants, and to provide for related matters. It is quite straightforward. It is one of a number of measures that have been introduced by the Opposition and that I have introduced on behalf of the Labour Party because of the exploitation of the thousands throughout the country who are all squeezed into the rental market and who are in desperate situations trying to find an affordable home for themselves. This is merely one of the practices that we have heard and found out about, whereby those who are renting properties are requiring those who want to view them to pay in advance.

It is not the only exploitative practice in that area. For example, as I raised previously in the Dáil, we have heard of landlords requesting more than one month's deposit, in some cases two months or three months, to squeeze out certain categories of people and to make it impossible for those on low and medium incomes to be able to raise the kind of money required to get into a home in the first place before they even start paying the kind of exorbitant rents that we have heard about recently. According to the recent reports, the average rent is €1,334 per month nationally and much higher than that in the Dublin region.

Another issue I have heard about is that some prospective landlords are looking for letters from employers, in other words, squeezing out those who are unemployed, getting information about prospective tenants, and clearly trying to exclude certain people from access to the available accommodation. There are so few places for rent that are affordable to those on average incomes that this is becoming more and more of a crisis. This is one measure that my party would like to see introduced that would protect people from exploitation.

We heard yesterday about tenants being asked to share beds. One website called the Dublin Rental Investigator, which is on Twitter, seeks out examples of situations where tenants are being asked to share beds and share bedrooms. At a debate here last year, I gave the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, evidence he sought on a website in a foreign language that was directed at students and workers coming from South America and that asked them to share six, seven or eight persons to a room with bunk beds, with scarcely room for a person to squeeze his or her shoes in between them.

There is a series of such exploitative practices that are causing significant difficulty for those who are trying to rent in the private sector, not to mention the other issues that have been the subject of Private Members' Bills, from the Labour Party and, indeed, from other Opposition parties, looking for fair rent, security of tenure and control of rent increases. We are not only talking about the current legislation of the Minister. I am aware he intends to bring forward amending legislation. The rent pressure zones only cover certain parts of the country. Even where they provide cover, there are all kinds of loopholes.

There are a variety of issues arising for those desperate people who are queuing up for maybe one affordable apartment and for which there are dozens queuing. Now those who are renting out those apartments are placing more and more obstacles in the way of people even viewing them or being able to pay deposits, and they are asking people to produce certain documentation that would exclude them from those homes. For all of those reasons, I wish to see this Bill proceed through the Oireachtas.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.