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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 19 Feb 2019

Vol. 979 No. 5

Management Fees (Local Property Tax) Relief Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am sharing time with Deputies Cassells, Fleming, Thomas Byrne and O'Loughlin. It gives me great pleasure to move Second Stage of the Management Fees (Local Property Tax) Relief Bill 2018. I am looking for support for the Bill from across the House. It was first published during the last Dáil and was introduced by my colleague, Deputy Fleming. It endeavours to bring about some fairness to the local property tax, LPT, regime.

All of us in our different parties have different views on the local property tax. However, there is a large cohort of about 500,000 people who are living in multi-unit developments, managed estates, apartments, duplexes and the like. They are paying management fees as well as full local property tax. This Fianna Fáil Bill endeavours to bring about a small recognition of this and to give a reduction in the local property tax for owner-occupiers only, principal private residents who are fully paid up in their management fees. This reduction would be to a maximum of €300 or one third of the LPT. The average reduction based on our research would be in the region of €86 per annum. While this is not significant, it does provide an acknowledgement for those living in managed estates who are paying full local property tax and management fees.

I would remind colleagues that in many instances, management fees equate to an additional month's mortgage. There are elements within these fees that are unique to a particular apartment block or managed estate, such as block insurance, common areas and so on. However, other elements such as maintenance of roads, paths and open spaces, public lighting, wastewater treatment and water treatment are paid for through the local property tax. In some instances, some of the services are effectively being paid for on the double. We believe this is a fair approach. It also opens up a wider discussion about the 500,000 people who are in multi-unit developments with owner management companies. My colleagues from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputies Ó Broin and Jan O'Sullivan, are in the Chamber. That committee has raised on a regular basis the ticking time bomb that is owner management companies and the lack of financial sustainability of many of them, particularly in the areas of defective estates and latent defects.

The effect of the Bill is twofold. It acknowledges that for some services, people are paying on the double, which is not fair. It would also act as a small incentive for ensuring that management fees are paid up to date. I have consulted widely on this legislation over the last years and it has been broadly welcomed. I think it is very doable. Fianna Fáil included it in its submission to the review of the local property tax. The report from that review of the LPT has been outstanding for a long time now. I understand it has been with the Minister for Finance since last summer, or since September at the latest. Our party made a detailed submission, as I am sure did others, to look at areas within the local property tax that need to be changed to make it fairer. This Bill is one element of that, while another is ensuring that there is a lower rate of interest charged on deferrals. Another element concerns income thresholds. When is that review going to be published? We need to ensure that it comes out very soon as it needs to be debated here, to ensure that people's local property taxes are not doubled next year. That is effectively what will happen. I keep reminding Government that we are against the clock. I do not understand the inordinate delay.

It is timely that we are debating Second Stage of this Bill this evening. It is part of a suite of measures that we would bring forward for people living in apartments and managed estates, recognising that they are paying on the double in some instances. That is one of the changes we want. I seek support from all Opposition parties and from Government to let this Bill go to Committee Stage at the very least. I firmly believe that it makes sense and would bring some fairness into the situation. We also have to consider what statutory provision there should be for management companies to provide sinking funds.

Another area in which we can provide assistance would be an ombudsman for the sector. There are a lot of lay directors out there, of about 5,000 to 7,000 owner management companies. Of the 500,000 people I mentioned earlier, most are in other professions and do not have legal backgrounds to deal with complex company law with regard to the operation of management companies. Fianna Fáil believes they should be given support and that there should be a section within the Property Services Regulatory Authority to provide assistance to them. That is another Bill that we have published. This is one of three Fianna Fáil Bills in this area aiming to recognise the issues and assist people who are living in multi-unit developments. I ask colleagues to look in detail at this legislation and seek their support in allowing it to go to Committee Stage. It is a modest reduction but it is an important acknowledgement that in many of these estates people are paying on the double for services.

I welcome the proposals in this Bill. My colleague has made a very valid case for the modest reductions that are being sought. There is an inherent unfairness for citizens who are living in apartments or multi-unit developments and are subject to management company fees which, in effect, form a kind of double taxation when they are hit by the local property tax as well. The reality is that these people pay their local property tax, which is collected by Revenue and goes to the local authority, while they are also hit with a substantial management company fee. The fact that there are different collectors at the door is of little consequence to them. They do not care which fund it is going into, whether it is going into the public purse or the private one. All they know when Zacchaeus comes to the door is that their purse is going to be a lot lighter when he is gone.

There definitely needs to be a more progressive way. We need to look at how people are being charged for services and should ensure that they are not charged on the double. There should be some provision, as outlined by Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to ease the burden that is placed on them, especially when we see the type of developments that are being constructed. Such developments have changed massively over the last 20 years, predominantly in our cities in terms of the number of apartments being built in Dublin, as stated by my colleague. However, these patterns are also changing in our towns. As a result, management companies are more prevalent in our towns, especially in commuter counties. I see it in my own county of Meath, in towns like Navan and Trim in my constituency and Ashbourne in Deputy Thomas Byrne's constituency, where development is under way again, that the mixed type of development is predominant, with duplex and apartment developments sitting side by side with estate development. That is what has been demanded of developers by planners, because of the densities that councils are seeking in these commuter counties. In Clonee in County Meath, just a few miles down the road, two out of every three households live in apartments.

On the subject of management companies and the value that people get, in many cases the fee they pay results in a great deal for them in their estates. They can see the net benefit in their area as the fee goes towards upkeep and maintenance. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, talks to people who live in estates where there are no management company fees. Residents' associations go around collecting subscriptions so that they can conduct the grass cutting in the estate for the year, get some planting done and generally keep the estate in good order. The job is getting harder and harder each year and I know from working with many residents' associations that the level of subscriptions continues to fall. They are hit at the doors with the line, "Why would I pay a residents' association fee when I am paying local property tax?" Of course the council will not come around and cut the grass or maintain the estate. However, the seeds for that misconception were sown when the Government had the household charge and sent glossy leaflets to every home in the country giving the perception that this is exactly what it would pay for.

Fast forward one year; the local property tax was introduced when it was realised that the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, could not collect the money for the household charge. Revenue appeared on the scene, Zacchaeus hit the streets and the money was collected. There was sleight of hand, conveniently around the same time that the Government butchered local democracy and killed town councils. The general purpose grant system was eliminated. It was a significant amount of funding for anyone who was on a council. Instead of councils being in a healthier financial position after the introduction of the local property tax and being able to achieve all that was promised in the glossy leaflet sent at the time of the household charge, all that was accomplished was one fund coming in and another going out the back door. Councils were no better off and unable to accomplish what was being promised. It is only right and proper that we ease the burden on those faced with management company fees by virtue of the types of developments being sought in counties, where such developments are wanted. The proposals put forward by Deputy Darragh O'Brien are modest, fair and equitable.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Management Fees (Local Property Tax Relief) Bill 2018, and I thank my colleague, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, for bringing it forward. These fees were brought in to fund things such as the maintenance of public lighting, roads, paths and grounds in an area. We should stand back and look at some of the estates that have been built in the last number of years, and consider those which will be built in the future. In Portlaoise there are a number of estates with 600 or 700 housing units and populations of 2,000 people in them. Those estates are effectively large towns in rural Ireland in their own right. The entire cost of maintaining such an estate will fall to the management company in terms of the area that is owned by the residents in that estate. We are not talking about small estates with ten or 20 house, but significant urban areas. It has to be looked at in that way.

The amount of relief being considered in this legislation is very modest. It is a token recognition for the work that is carried out by these management companies and will work out at less than €90 for each of those locations. It will only apply to people who are owner-occupiers rather than those who rent houses, and is designed to prevent, in some way, people from having to pay tax on the double.

People will be concerned about this. The collection rate of the local property tax is approximately 97%. In Laois it is 98%, which is one of the highest rates in the country. This is being done by the Revenue Commissioners, and so it does not impact on the workload of the local authorities. If Revenue has a system whereby credit can be issued against the local property tax it could be implemented seamlessly, without any interference. Revenue is very sophisticated and would be able to do that. It would also have a great side effect. Everyone living in estates would want to pay their management fees in order to get this credit from the Revenue Commissioners. That would help to ensure that the management companies, which in effect are managing small towns, would have sufficient funds to enable them to continue to do that. That would be a very important side effect.

People will also be concerned that this will have a bigger impact in major cities such as Dublin and surrounding areas where a lot of local property tax is collected. That tax goes towards a fund that is distributed to other areas where a smaller amount of local property tax is collected. This legislation would have a minimal effect on some of the smaller counties that do not have large collections from the local property tax and where there are not as many big management companies in big estates. It would be very fair and balanced. I ask people to be very fair and very balanced when considering this. We can tease out the details on Committee Stage. I believe there is the germ of a good idea that should pass into legislation.

Management fees have been a creeping feature of the housing estate scene in the last ten or 15 years. While people who are not familiar with them may think they are confined to apartment developments, in fact they are not. There are many estates in my constituency in County Meath that are not entirely apartments - they mostly have houses - which have management fees. These include Dunboyne Castle in Dunboyne, The Briars in Ashbourne, Steeplechase in Ratoath, and large estates such as Grange Rath in east Meath. We want to ensure that people are not paying double tax, and this legislation covers that. It makes sure that we give some sort of recognition, in a small way via tax refunds, that they are paying on the double for services. While it is the case that on some of these estates the management companies provide some advantages, as well as disadvantages, it is also the case that it adds another financial burden on those who are living there. In many of these estates, the financial burden from management fees is in addition to the substantial mortgages many of the homeowners took out.

It is important to remember that this legislation solely relates to people who are owner-occupiers of houses. This is not a subsidy to landlords or tenants who are not liable for the property tax or management charges in general. This matter needs to be brought forward, and there has to be greater recognition of the situation that homeowners find themselves in when they are paying on the double. The Bill deserves the support of this House and should be brought in as quickly as possible. I sincerely hope the Government supports it.

I want to briefly mention the Multi-Unit Development Act 2011 on the record of the House. It was a necessary piece of legislation, but there is a provision within it on house rules. I would be grateful if the Minister of State could inform the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment of that. The house rules provision in that legislation is being interpreted in a very wide sense by some of the management companies, particularly in housing estates. The companies see that they have the right to make rules, which members can approve of, that relate not just to the landings in apartments or how one conducts oneself, but how people in houses, roads and streets operate. That really is a usurpation of the functions of the Oireachtas to make laws, and indeed the making of by-laws by local councils. I would certainly be in favour of the Department regulating where those house rules can apply. There is an extremely broad application of these rules at the moment. If they are interpreted to the extent that some people want to interpret them, the management fee really becomes a type of poll tax which enables residents to vote on these house rules. I would like to see some action taken in that regard. House rules are necessary in developments where people are living side by side, but they are not necessary to the extent that some people believe or as the legislation permits, as far as I can see.

The legislation before us is positive, helpful and relates to a small set of people who are paying on the double. It involves a maximum payout from the Revenue of approximately €17 million nationwide to some of those who are hit hardest by these charges.

I commend Deputy Darragh O'Brien for bringing this Bill forward. It is a very practical piece of legislation and is very positive. It could make a real difference to a significant number of people, perhaps as many as 500,000. In the census of 2016 there were 206,000 apartments in the country, and a number of other types of multi-use and terraced buildings that would fall under this area as well. It would be very significant. Local property tax funds very important services within our towns and communities, such as public lighting, roads, footpaths, maintaining green areas and providing public parking. It is regrettable that as soon as the local property tax came in - with the aim of enhancing the existing services provided by councils - much of the grant that local councils were getting from central government was taken away. Local property tax funding was not increased funding to help support those necessary services, but instead replaced that funding. Local councils were stymied in terms of the extra work they wanted to do.

Examples have been given of different areas within our constituencies. There are quite a number of such developments in my area, particularly in Newbridge. Millfield is an area I have spoken regularly about, in terms of the issues and challenges it has faced. Once there is a management company in place in a particular area that area cannot be taken in charge by a local authority. If there is an estate which is only partly covered by a management company the whole estate cannot be taken in charge while the company is functioning. It causes many problems.

As Deputy Darragh O'Brien said, this is one of three Bills Fianna Fáil has introduced which seek to support those living in apartments and multi-owner developments.

Too often, owners and residents of multi-unit developments have been absolutely forgotten about and left behind. We want to ensure that we have a fair property tax system that is equitable. We do not want people to have to pay double for the same services, which is what is happening. The Fianna Fáil Party committed to ensuring that there is no increase in the local property tax for homeowners and that a fairer, more equitable system is put in place when the review is finalised and the report finished.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann resolves that the Management Fees (Local Property Tax) Relief Bill 2018 be deemed to be read a second time this day six months, in order to allow for completion of the Inter-Departmental review of the Local Property Tax; to enable the Government to consider the conclusions and recommendations of the review; for the measures proposed in the Bill to be costed; and for the identification of means by which the yield foregone can be made up.”.

I am pleased to speak on this Private Members' Bill tonight. I understand the Bill proposes to make provision for a partial relief from local property tax payable by a relevant owner whose property is located in a managed estate on which the owner of the property is liable to the payment of management fees. Specifically, where a liable person is obliged to pay an annual management fee in respect of a relevant residential property and the management fee is paid in full, such person would be exempt from having to pay a part of his or her local property tax in a relevant year. The amount of the exemption would be the lower of one third of the management fee, €300 or one third of the local property tax.

The premise of the Bill appears to be that people in the circumstances described are effectively paying twice for services in their estates or apartment complexes and that they should therefore receive a partial relief from local property tax. I imagine Deputies will agree with me that when we set out to consider the design and implementation of any proposed taxation measure it is important to employ an appropriate set of guiding principles. This is the approach that informed the Government strategy for the original design of the local property tax. In 2012, the interdepartmental group, chaired by Dr. Don Thornhill, examined how best to structure a property tax. Acting on the recommendations in the group's 2012 report, the Government introduced a local property tax that is designed on the principles of equity, transparency and simplicity. Under the local property tax, a liability applies to all owners of residential property with a limited number of exemptions. By limiting the exemptions available, scope is provided to keep the rate of the tax to a minimum for all those liable persons who do not qualify for an exemption. There is no specific relief in the payment of management fees but those liable for such fees may be exempt or eligible for relief from local property tax for another reason or may be entitled to avail of the deferral arrangement under the legislation.

We must have at the heart of our consideration of taxation proposals the fundamental requirement of any tax measure, namely, that it is equitable. There are two dimensions to tax equity. The first is the principle of horizontal equity, which requires that taxpayers in comparable situations should pay comparable amounts of tax. The importance of applying this principle in the design of taxation measures is self-evident. However, the proposal in this Bill would appear to be inequitable vis-à-vis the bulk of local property taxpayers who do not pay management fees. When a person pays a management fee, he or she receives services such as bin collection, maintenance of common areas and a sinking fund for any needed repairs. These are costs that those who do not pay management fees or those who live in housing estates that do not pay management fees must meet from their own means. The contention that people paying management fees are somehow paying on the double does not stand up to scrutiny. In consequence, the Bill may fail to satisfy the fundamental test of horizontal equity.

As with any tax relief proposal, it is vital to assess the likely costs involved. In the course of introducing the Bill on First Stage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien indicated that he had fully costed his proposal.

We did so as best we could without having the resources of the Revenue Commissioners at our disposal.

The Revenue Commissioners have indicated that it is not possible for them to cost the Bill's provisions as the returns made to the Revenue do not contain information that would enable this to be done. I would be interested to hear more from the Deputy on the question of cost as I am sure he will agree it would not be appropriate to introduce a taxation measure on the basis of a stab in the dark estimate.

It is not a stab in the dark estimate.

We are dealing with State revenues after all and it behoves us to be as rigorous as possible in our assessment of costs. I note in this regard that for tax exemptions with an annual estimated cost of between €10 million and €50 million, the Department of Finance guidelines for tax expenditures state that they must be subject to a detailed ex ante assessment, entailing a scenario-based analysis or similar, and are also to include a statement of proposed methods and data requirements for full ex post cost-benefit analysis.

I also note that the Deputy's colleague, Deputy Fleming, introduced the Management Fees (Local Property Tax) Relief Bill 2015 which contained provisions identical to those of the Bill now before the House. Deputy Fleming estimated that the cost of that Bill's measures was approximately €17 million in a full year. He also indicated that this estimate had been made on the basis that approximately 200,000 dwellings would benefit in the amount of €86 each on average. Having accepted that local property tax is an important element of local government funding, where does Deputy O'Brien now propose that this significant funding gap be made up? What particular categories of taxpayer is he proposing should pay more to make up the shortfall? Perhaps he has ideas on the particular services in communities that would suffer cuts as a result of his proposal.


Another point requires clarification. I note that during First Stage, Deputy O'Brien made reference to the relief proposed applying only to principal private residences. However, that restriction does not appear to be provided for in the text of the Bill. It is an important point as many landlords would be liable to pay management fees. Under the Deputy's proposal, they may be in a position to deduct the cost of those fees from their tax liabilities. Perhaps the Deputy would clarify precisely what his intentions are in this regard. For instance, does he favour landlords being able to benefit potentially on the double from his proposal?

Please, Deputies. You may not agree with each other but it is normal to listen. No one interrupted you, Deputy O'Brien. Please refrain from interrupting the Minister of State.

Tá brón orm. Gabh mo leithscéal.

Another important dimension of taxation equity is described as vertical equity. Essentially, the concept is that people who are better off should contribute more than those who are less well off. The local property tax fulfils this important principle as the owners of the most valuable properties pay the most. Properties valued at more than €1 million are subject to a higher rate of local property tax, at 0.25% on the excess over €1 million. The local property tax legislation also provides appropriate measures on ability to pay and is now established as an important element of our taxation system. For individuals on low incomes, the local property tax legislation provides for the possibility of deferring the charge to local property tax in certain circumstances. To qualify for a deferral the residential property must be occupied as a sole or main residence. The income thresholds for such a deferral are €15,000 for a single person and €25,000 for a couple, regardless of whether they are married persons, civil partners or cohabitants. A higher income threshold applies where a residential property is occupied as a sole or main residence and subject to a mortgage. In such cases, the gross income may be increased by 80% of the mortgage interest payments.

Deputies will be aware that another review of the local property tax has been under way involving a number of Departments and the Revenue Commissioners. The review has been focusing on the impact of property price developments on local property tax liabilities. The review is informed by the desirability of achieving relative stability, over the short and longer terms, in local property tax payments of those liable for the tax and the need to provide clear direction on the likely payments faced by households in 2020. A number of submissions were received in response to a public consultation process that was conducted as part of the review and these have provided important input to the review. The Minister for Finance will receive this report and make recommendations to the Government thereafter.

The local property tax introduced in 2013 is achieving high compliance rates and providing a stable source of funding for the local government sector. Introducing further exemptions erodes the tax base and shifts the burden onto other taxpayers.

The Minister for Finance is conscious of the need to make the position on the future of local property tax clear in order that householders will know in advance, up to November of this year, what the Government's plans are for that tax.

In view of the concerns I have raised regarding the costings relating to the Bill's provisions, I commend amendment No. 1 to the House.

I will be sharing with Deputy Ellis.

As Deputies are aware, Sinn Féin is opposed to the LPT. When one considers the LPT, one realises that it is probably one of the worst or most poorly designed taxes in the history of the State. It is a tax not only on assets but also on debts. Anybody who was or who continues to be in negative equity is still charged the same as if he or she were sitting on an asset. It results in a charge on people who are asset rich but income poor, particularly older people in rural areas who may have properties with higher values but who simply do not have the income to pay the tax. The LPT also leads to those who are unable to pay being penalised. The Minister of State conveniently forgot to mention that there is a 4% annual interest charge on deferrals and that this accumulates year on year. That seems to be a particularly callous way to allow people to defer paying the tax.

Crucially, contrary to what was claimed when the LPT was introduced, no additional money has been given to local authorities. Those of us who were local authority members at the time saw that - euro for euro - as grants for roads and housing were taken away, they were replaced by the local property tax. During that period, a number of key services, such as those relating to water and waste management, were removed from local authorities. Not only are people paying more, they are paying more for fewer services. One of the reasons we will be enthusiastically supporting the Bill is because people in multi-unit developments are paying on the double.

The Minister of State's comments on how people who pay management charges are paying for other things that regular homeowners have to pay for out of their own pockets are wrong. Some of the insurance costs incurred by people in multi-unit developments do not exist in the context of standard, stand-alone houses. The average cost of management charges, in Dublin and the commuter belt in particular, is three or four times the average local property tax charge. While management charges sometimes include collection of waste, for example, those things are included in addition to the costs to which Deputy Darragh O'Brien rightly referred.

Our view is that the LPT should be scrapped. We have argued strongly that it should be phased out over three years. The cost of doing so would be €155 million annually. I am sure the Minister of State will be delighted to know that we have set out, by means of parliamentary questions, exactly from where that revenue could obtained. We could, for example, start to fairly tax excessively high earners and impose the right tax credits on incomes over €100,000. This would yield something in the region of €185 million a year. A 5% income levy could be introduced on incomes over €140,000, which would yield €310 million a year. We could, as is the case in many other successful European economies, impose a wealth tax on net assets in excess of €1 million. Deputy Noonan stated in the House some years ago that such a tax could yield in excess of €500 million a year. When one has a bad tax, one does not keep it; one scraps and replaces it with something better. That is what Sinn Féin will continue to propose.

As to the Bill, which is good and which Sinn Féin is happy to support, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of occupants of multi-unit developments, many of whom are, in addition to the LPT, paying between €1,000 and, in some parts of Dublin, €2,000 annually in management fees. Many of these are people struggling to pay mortgages. They are also struggling to meet the rising cost of living, childcare and healthcare costs, etc. This is simply an additional burden which they have to unfairly bear.

It is important to understand for what these people are paying. When a person pays his or her management fee, it covers, for example, the maintenance of open space, which includes the cutting of grass and things that the council would ordinarily do in residential council estates and private estates. It also covers street lighting and repairs to paths and roads, which, again, would ordinarily be dealt with by the local authorities in standard urban housing estates, public or private. On that basis, it is legitimate to state that there is an element of double charging here. People who are paying management fees and the LPT are paying for services which they do not get because the council does not provide such services in large multi-unit developments. In some of the mixed developments, householders are paying lower management fees and the LPT, which is equally unfair. The provision in the Bill to the effect that it will apply only to principal private residences is very sensible. Landlords obviously generate income for themselves and they can pay the LPT from that.

I echo Deputy Darragh O'Brien's point in stating that many of the people who are paying this charge are struggling in other ways. The issue with latent defects is a case in point. We are seeing a significant increase in the number of homeowners who, through no fault of their own, are in properties with latent defects - whether they relate to fire safety, water ingress or whatever - that are going to cost them somewhere between €10,000 and €40,000 to rectify. While the Government continues to state that this is really a matter for the home purchaser and the seller, those latent defects were only possible as a result of a regulatory regime which, essentially, involved self-regulation and which this House approved and stood over for far too many years. The Government has a level of responsibility and culpability in that regard. The fact that it continues to bury its head in the sand and refuses to provide some level of support in respect of those properties with latent defects is deeply regrettable.

As Deputy Darragh O'Brien and I have pointed out at meetings of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, there is a need for a fundamental review of the way in which the management companies of multi-unit developments operate. The Apartment Owners Network, a fantastic voluntary network of apartment owners, has made multiple submissions to the Government and joint committee in which it has urged the former to examine how those companies can be better equipped and supported to do the job bestowed upon them under the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011. It is not all about money. Some of what the network is seeking involves support. It wants training, professionalisation and assistance in terms of ensuring that when its members are on management companies, they will be able to deal with the complexities of governance and management. Such supports could easily be facilitated by the Government. The network also wants assistance in the context of accessing finance. It is not looking for handouts. Rather, it wants low-interest finance to be provided through Home Building Finance Ireland in order to fund remedial works or to assist in the provision of sinking funds. Obviously, they go beyond the scope of the Bill but it is right to raise these broader issues.

Small and all as the measure provided for in this legislation is, it would send out a clear signal that the Government actually recognises that people in multi-unit developments need assistance and that a small bit of financial support would be the right way to start.

There is nothing in what the Minister of State said that stands up to any sort of credible scrutiny. That is why Sinn Féin will be happy to support the Bill. We will be supporting Deputy Darragh O'Brien in ensuring that the Bill passes all Stages as quickly as possible in order that we might give struggling homeowners a bit of a hand up.

This Bill, which Sinn Féin will be supporting, addresses a fundamentally unfair situation, which gives rise to people in managed estates being adversely penalised and which could be considered a form of second tax. The Sinn Féin position is that it would abolish the property tax. We made this clear in our alternative budget. The property tax is effectively a tax on family homes and because of the mismanagement of the economy by Fianna Fáil and subsequent Governments, many families, often paying high rates of property tax, remain in negative equity. Sinn Féin councillors have been to the fore in reducing the property tax, where feasible. While this is not a complete remedy, it can be seen as an interim measure towards the ultimate abolition of the property tax. Residents in managed estates can legitimately argue that they are getting no effective financial relief when, in essence, they are being taxed on the double. Residents pay management company fees for lighting, roads, streets, cleaning, maintenance and so on. Such services fall within the remit of local authorities. They are provided by the latter in those areas not under the care of management companies. This is the purpose of a property tax and it is why funding from the property tax is ring-fenced for local authorities. If local authorities were properly funded, however, there would be no need for a property tax.

Some here like to equate the property tax with the payment of rates in the North, as if those paying property tax in the South are somehow getting a better deal. Those who try to make that this comparison between the two are fundamentally wrong. They are either deliberately in denial or do not understand how the system in the North works. People do not pay property tax in the North; they pay rates that are progressively levied. What they get for paying their rates is a quality of service that is just not provided in the South. People in the South are expected to pay rates and a local property tax. In addition, many of the services previously provided by the local authorities have been farmed out to private companies. As a result, people often have to pay additional fees for the provision of these services. The fees for bin collection are an obvious example.

In some areas, people are paying ridiculous annual bin collection fees while also paying weekly collection fees. Previously, that service was provided by local authorities. It should be returned to them.

Sinn Féin is committed to scrapping the local property tax and to the proper funding of local councils. We should not have to rely on a regressive family home tax in order to provide essential services for local communities. Give proper funding to local authorities and abolish the property tax.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this Bill, which I support. Many people who bought houses are caught up in this situation, especially in larger towns and cities, and must pay property tax as well as these fees. Something must be done, as many of the people in question bought their houses at a time when prices were high.

The property tax is the most unfair tax. It would at least be something if people got a service out of it. Some people have their tongues out repaying their mortgages. Property tax is a tax on the family home and one's bed.

I would like Deputy Darragh O'Brien to take something into account. While I support his Bill and my sympathies are with people who have to pay these exorbitant fees as well as the property tax, someone applying for planning permission in a rural area pays the same contribution as someone within a town but does not get a sewerage service. If the person was in a larger town, he or she could connect to the sewerage system. The person in the rural area has no street lights or footpaths. I heard the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, speaking earlier this evening about lights, footpaths and the various services in different areas. Unfortunately, if a person is, as some call it, out in the sticks in rural Ireland - we call it the most beautiful part of the country - he or she must pay property tax and contribution levies. Apart from the Bill, the Government should consider this matter and stop crippling people living in rural Ireland.

Equally, people in cities are being shafted by having to pay twice in this way. One would have to sympathise with them. House prices are increasing for the simple reason that we do not have enough houses. A pensioner's father or mother might have bought or built a house years ago when some part of Dublin, Limerick or Galway was out the country before the city grew up around it. It is not the pensioner's fault that the house became more valuable. At the end of the day, all anyone can do is live in it if it is his or her home.

I agree with some of the points that have been raised by Deputies, but we have problems with the Bill. I will explain some of the issues that concern me.

There is a problem with people having to pay management fees and what management companies can require of residents in managed estates needs to be regulated. I acknowledge the interdepartmental review. The multi-unit developments legislation needs to be amended. I have met the Apartment Owners Network which has genuine concerns about, for example, people who are not owner-occupiers not paying their management fees and sticking the owners with the entire amount. Other concerns relate to sinking funds and how the long-term, more expensive elements that can arise might simply become unaffordable. These genuine concerns need to be addressed via regulation.

My problem with the Bill is that it does not distinguish between apartment blocks and housing developments that have management fees.

I cannot see why payers of local property tax who live in housing estates that are maintained by local authorities should have to subsidise people who live in private housing estates that should be taken in charge instead of remaining private indefinitely. As someone who believes in equity, I do not see why the majority of housing estates where homes are privately owned and people maintain their own back gardens and driveways should be subsidising gated communities, for example, that they cannot even access. There is a problem in that respect. Apartment blocks are different and genuine issues relating to them must be dealt with in a way that is fairer to those who have to pay. However, the Bill's focus is on what can sometimes be expensive management charges without addressing the question of, for example, whether communities are gated or have concierge services, gyms and so on. Are such facilities to be subsidised by the public purse?

I will respond to that.

I would be interested in the Deputy's response. I am not completely knocking what he is trying to do.

I am not aware of it personally, but I have been told of a development that has its own private gate, one that cannot be accessed by other people, to the local Luas stop. If this Bill essentially subsidises people who are very well off - I believe it was Deputy Fleming who originally stated the cost would be approximately €17 million - using public funding that would otherwise go to parks, libraries, public roads, footpaths and playgrounds, I would limit it and not have it open to whatever the management companies want to charge and provide. The Bill limits the amount to one third of the management fee or €300, whichever is the lower, so there is some control.

If one third of the management fee is more than €300, then we are talking about pretty expensive homes.

No. The maximum is €300.

Perhaps the Deputy will explain that part. It seems to leave too many loopholes through which elite and exclusive developments can benefit from something for which poorer people in less fancy houses have to pay. That is my main concern with the Bill, although I recognise that there are serious issues for people who pay management charges.

I have to agree with the Minister of State on another matter. If Deputy Darragh O'Brien can point to where the Bill applies to owner-occupiers, then fair enough, but I genuinely cannot find it. I have read through the Bill-----

It is not in it.

-----but have not been able to find where it applies to owner-occupiers. I am not sure it could be done anyway. If a property's owner rents it out, I do not know whether we could-----

Of course one could.

-----force him or her to pay the full amount when someone else did not need to pay in full. By no means am I making an argument for landlords to be subsidised, but I cannot see that provision in the Bill. Perhaps the Deputy will clarify the matter at some stage.

The question of management fees raises many issues. In some cases, estates are pushed into remaining in private ownership even though the norm in most parts of the country is for local authorities to take estates in charge after a certain period of time and then maintain their open spaces, grounds and so on. That is a better principle. Where a number of people live together, the roads and public spaces should be public.

They should not be only for the people who happen to live in that area. As a principle, I am concerned that we would consolidate that practice. I am particularly concerned if they are gated communities, that is, if the public cannot go in and out of them. By all means, let one's private home and what is inside one's front gate be one's property but an entire estate that is only for people who live in the area seems to be dividing communities. That is not a good principle.

I understand there are issues. I do not believe people are against the principle of a property tax. I find it confusing to hear the opposite view from people on the left. My view, as a left wing person, and the view of left wing parties in European countries generally, is to take some of the tax burden away from work, whereas in Ireland a high proportion of tax is taken from our income, but we need to spread that to include wealth, and in some cases homes are wealth, particularly expensive homes. The principle of having a tax on property makes sense from a left wing perspective. There are other left wing parties in this Chamber who do not take that position but they are quite out of step with left wing parties in Europe generally. I have no problem standing up and saying that I believe there should be tax on property, simply because there is only so much tax to go around to pay for all the public services we want. If we want good public services, they have to be paid for by tax. By all means tax the wealthier people, and I have no problem with increasing tax on wealthy people, but other forms of wealth as well as income also need to be taxed, and that, in some way, has to include property. That is where I am coming from on this issue.

I can understand there is a problem and that Deputy O'Brien's Bill is designed to deal in some way with that problem, but it is spread too widely. Basically, it encourages the idea that if people have private expensive homes that have management fees then we are never going to ask the council to take them in charge and make them equal to the types of housing estates the rest of us live in.

The next offering is from the Rural Independent Group and I call Deputy Danny Healy-Rae.

I am glad to have this opportunity to contribute on this important matter. I thank Fianna Fáil for highlighting the anomaly that arises in estates where residents to have to pay twice to live in whatever house or apartment they are in.

The property tax is a contentious matter in some areas, especially in rural areas where homeowners do not get much in return for paying it, not even a water service. People do not have a public water supply in many parts of the county I represent and have to provide their own supply. We all know that the property tax was to be reviewed in recent years but that has been deferred by the Government because it was afraid it would get roasted in the local elections and in the next general election. It is delaying this review until after those elections.

We have an anomaly in Kerry in that all along the Kerry border with Cork, the people in Kerry pay way more in property tax than the people in Cork for property of the same value, however that has come to pass. We have highlighted that often enough in the chambers in Kerry County Council but that is still the way it is.

I did not think that people in Kerry would let the Cork lads get one over on them.

They are getting away with it so far.

We have a problem in rural villages and towns where business people and those who pay commercial rates and property tax have to fight hard to keep even the street lights lit or the streets swept. More often than not it is very hard to get the local authorities to attend to some of these villages. They are doing their best with the limited resources they have. People are angry in rural areas because they have to pay this and that charge, their property tax, their insurance premia and all their other expenses but what are they getting in return for that? They are being told now that they cannot drink a pint or eat a bit of meat. They are still driving over the same little bridges and small roads that were built 200 years ago. Some 800 applications have been submitted for local improvement schemes in our county. I do not know when we will get funding for the 800th one but it will be a long way down the road.

We cannot build a hospital for the children of the country or houses for the people. People did not have anything in the 1800s but a railway was built from Killorglin to Caherciveen in two years. That is the truth of it. They have every kind of a system now, every type of machine, every technology for drawings, other types of equipment for taking deliveries and all the modern gear. Traffic was held up on the M50 for six months because no one could give those doing the work a plan. The middle of the road was taken over and the traffic was slowed down. No blame attaches to the company that was doing the job, as it was waiting for six months for someone to land with a piece of paper setting out what those in charge wanted it was to do. Lorries were drawing waste soil from the new children's hospital as the big hole was been dug out on the site. Only two loads of waste material a day could be brought by some of those involved in the project to the facility in Monasterevin, and that facility was limited to taking in 100 loads a day because Kildare County Council would not let it take any more than that. If Members are wondering where the money has gone, it has been spent on things like that. Another 100 loads of waste material was being brought to a facility in Longford. That happened because some environmentalist said the material could not be levelled out in some hole that could have been found and surely there was hole in this county to which that waste material could have been brought.

A wind farm project was being developed in Kilgarvan but all the waste soil from that site had to be brought to an infill site in Killarney and some of it had to be brought to Kenmare. What is the cost involved in that?

I am intrigued at the relevance of all of this to the Bill.

The relevance of it is that people are being asked to pay property tax. They are told they cannot drink a pint or eat a bit of meat, that they would be better off to cycle or to walk, and that they should leave the turf in the bog regardless of whether they get cold. That is truth of it. They are told not to cut the briars and let them meet in the middle of road to avoid upsetting the birds. They do not give a damn about the people who are driving up and down the road.

What about the insects?

There also is a concern about insects. We are also being told to get rid of the cattle and save the foxes. We had a horrible situation last week where a hunt group collected money for the Irish Cancer Society and, lo and behold, that group was told that, because its members were killing foxes, the man in charge of that committee would not take the funds for the poor people that it might help in a palliative care centre. There is example of where the foxes are being put before the people. That is what our little country has come to.

My adviser has advised me that the Deputy should revert to management fees.

At the same time people are being asked to pay property tax but what are they getting in return? These people are getting increasingly angry. People may be laughing at me-----

-----but they may have the smile on the other side of their face when they will go knocking on the doors looking for a number one for the council or for the general election because people are breaking under it all and they are very hurt and angry.

They are being asked to pay all of these taxes and are being stopped from doing the things they would have done traditionally over the years. They may not have had much back then but they did not have to pay so much either. I always contend that the landowners and farmers of Ireland are the best custodians of the land because they never hurt it. It was handed down to them and all they want to do is hand it down in a small bit better shape to the people who are coming after them and to try to live in the meantime. We have all these smart alecs saying we should save the planet and to hell with the people in the meantime. I say that people must live. They will do their best to pay their taxes but the Government must be fair with them and allow a small bit of latitude so they can survive. Rural Ireland is a very dull place at the moment. The social fabric has been blown to smithereens without giving it a little thought. Pubs and shops are closing and-----

The Deputy has 40 seconds remaining.

-----the churches will be closed soon. I will not say where but gardaí held up a poor man coming from church two weeks ago. After he had struggled to put his poor wife into the car, they asked him to blow into a bag. When he asked whether they thought people were drinking inside the church, they replied that he could have been drinking the previous night. He told them he had not been drinking and took the test. What is happening in this country is shameful. It was needless. Our Garda resources would be better deployed in more worthwhile places where they could help the elderly. Our Garda stations are shut. That is another service gone.

The Deputy's time is up.

Most of rural Ireland is closed down-----

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae-----

-----and we are still here talking about paying property tax. That is what is going on.

Very little of that contribution was relevant. I am being criticised for allowing the Deputy to wander.

How do I follow that?

I do not want the Deputy to follow that.

I will not to do so. Deputy Healy-Rae is entitled to his view.

He is telling the truth.

In case Deputy Danny Healy-Rae thinks we are laughing at him, we are not. Everyone in this House is entitled to his or her viewpoint and opinion. I and my colleagues will listen to everyone. I can understand where Deputy Healy-Rae's concerns are coming from, especially with regard to rural areas.

I commend Deputy Darragh O'Brien on the considerable amount of work he has done on the Bill. We have a new problem in that many people who bought homes at the height of the market are paying substantial management fees of up to €2,500 per annum. These fees apply in cities and many other urban areas and are a major cost for the 500,000 people who pay them. There are more than 7,000 management companies. Deputy O'Brien is right to bring this Bill forward and it is right that we are having this conversation on legislation that would ease the burden on these people who must pay twice.

As has been noted, the local property tax was established to fund services such as maintenance of public lighting, roads, footpaths, groundskeeping, management of public parks and so on. Apartment owners and residents of managed complexes, however, already pay for many services, including lighting maintenance, road surfacing, footpaths and public green spaces, through their annual management fee. This means that some homeowners are paying for the same service on the double. My constituency colleague, Deputy Fitzmaurice, referred to property taxes and planning fees as they apply in rural areas. People query politicians about the reasons they have to pay such large fees and ask what these fees are used for. When we tell them they are to pay for services, they tell us they do not have footpaths, public lighting or public green spaces in their area. I acknowledge that people use libraries and parks and most of them do not have an issue with making a contribution towards the costs.

We need to address this issue and advance the legislation. I am sure Deputy O'Brien will be open to suggestions from any side of the House. I welcome that Sinn Féin has given strong support to the Bill through Deputies Ó Broin and Ellis. Deputy Fitzmaurice has also been very supportive. It is acknowledged and accepted that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. This legislation is about ensuring we have a fair property tax system where nobody pays on the double for the same services. We hear a great deal about double taxation. That is not on and Fianna Fáil is committed to ensuring there is no increase in the local property tax for homeowners. We want to ensure a fairer more equitable system is put in place when the review is finalised and the report published. We will work with all people and other parties to achieve this objective. I accept that there is a cost factor and money has to be found for services. We should tackle this issue head on and sort it out. I compliment my colleague, Deputy O'Brien, on introducing the Bill.

I commend Deputy Darragh O'Brien on bringing the Bill forward. The Bill provides for property tax relief for homeowners who are paying management fees and is one of a suite of measures that Fianna Fáil proposes to help people living in multi-unit developments. This is practical and long overdue legislation. The Government has continually neglected these owners and their issues, despite the fact that more than 500,000 people live in these types of properties. Under the legislation, apartment and homeowners would receive a discount on property tax, which would be worth one third of their management fee or property tax, whichever is lower. The discount would be capped at €300 a year provided the owner has paid the management fee in full. The local property tax was established to fund services such as maintaining public lighting, roads and paths, groundskeeping and management of public parking. Apartment owners and residents of managed complexes already provide many services themselves, including maintenance and upkeep of local recreation areas, through their annual management fee, yet they have to pay the same level of local property tax.

I have been contacted by people living in an estate who pay management fees that cost more than €2,000 per year in some cases. These residents should at least have a reduced fee because it is completely unfair to be charged twice for the upkeep of their area. The legislation is about ensuring we have a fair property tax system and nobody has to pay on the double for the same services. According to the Thornhill report on local property tax, based on an average local property tax of €257, the average benefit of the tax relief to a recipient would be €86 and at least 200,000 households would benefit, at a total cost of €17.5 million.

Many people who bought homes at the height of the market are paying high management fees of up to €2,500 annually. This can be the equivalent of two months of mortgage payments. The uncertainty surrounding the delay in the review of local property tax is causing major stress for homeowners and local authorities nationwide. This legislation will offer some comfort to those affected who do not know whether to prepare for an increase in the payment. Fianna Fáil made a detailed submission to the review in which we firmly outlined our opposition to the introduction of any increases in local property tax. We are committed to ensuring a fairer, more equitable system is introduced once the review has been finalised and published.

It is important to note that the provisions of the Bill would apply to owner occupiers only and would not apply to investors. Many owner occupiers bought apartments in the boom and paid high prices of between €250,000 and €350,000.

That is what the prices were at the time and there is no doubt that they are struggling now and need any help they can get. Hopefully, it will also encourage people to pay their management fees in full. There is a problem in that regard and a great deal of money is owed to management companies in circumstances in which people, quite simply, cannot afford to pay. They have to live.

Another issue was raised by Deputy Murphy O'Mahony. People applying for planning permission in rural areas face development charges of €10,000 or €12,000, even though they provide their own site and sewerage. They have to pay for their own water, of course, but that is not the problem. They have to pay these extraordinary development charges which are said to be for libraries, lighting and footpaths, but those people get little benefit. There is a great deal to be done.

Next is the Government slot and Deputy Michael Healy-Rae is speaking.

It is not clear but he is speaking in the Government slot; whether it is on behalf of the Government, I am not sure.

I will be brief. I appreciate the Government Whip allowing me to use a small bit of time. I record a declaration of what might be perceived as a conflict of interest in the debate. I refer to the concern I have for the constituents I represent who are dual paying, as Members have said. They are struggling to pay management fees in complexes and pay their local property taxes. They are very fearful about what will come in future following reviews. Any effort that could be made here, whether through this or another proposal, would merit support due to my concern for my constituents who have raised the matter with me on numerous occasions.

I thank all Members for their contributions to the debate. It is important to bear in mind that the objective of the local property tax is to broaden the domestic tax base and to replace some of the revenue from transaction-based taxes with an annually recurring property tax. We know to our cost how, in the past, our reliance on transaction-based taxes proved to be an unstable source of Government revenue. In contrast, international experience has shown that property taxes are a secure and stable source of funding. I need not remind the House how important stability in our public finances is to the success of our country and economy, particularly as we head into a period of uncertainty. Given that context, it is surprising to hear calls from certain Opposition benches for the removal of the local property tax.

The LPT is producing a stable revenue yield for local authorities although both yields and tax rates are modest by international standards. The charging structure for LPT is progressive. The basic rate of 0.18% applies to property values of up to €1 million with a higher rate of 0.25% applying on the portion of value above the €1 million threshold. In addition to the progressive rate structure, and to the extent that those with higher income or wealth tend to own properties with higher values, this is a progressive tax, particularly over the life cycles of taxpayers. From 1 January 2015, local authorities have had discretion to vary LPT rates by plus or minus 15%. A number of local authorities have exercised this option. Where a local authority decides to reduce the rate, it forgoes the equivalent amount of the reduced LPT yield from its allocation. If a local authority votes to increase the rate above the basic rate, it receives the full amount of the increased yield. I understand that five local authorities voted to increase the tax above the basic rate in 2019 and that four decided on a reduced rate.

By the end of 2018 and since its inception, local property tax has contributed €2.7 billion to the funding of local authorities. The Revenue Commissioners publish comprehensive LPT statistics on quarterly and annual bases, which include information on collection and compliance, exemptions and deferrals and payment types. Some of this is broken down by local authority. The compliance rate for 2018 was 97%, which is line with rates in previous years. Another positive feature of the LPT is that, as a tax on assets rather than employment, it will not adversely affect job creation. Regarding ability to pay, the LPT legislation has a number of features providing that in certain circumstances a person can defer or partially defer the payment of local property tax. Deferral arrangements are available where there is an inability to pay and certain specified conditions are met. These deferral arrangements were outlined in some detail in earlier remarks.

The LPT is an annual self-assessed tax charged on the market value of residential properties. The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the administration, collection, enforcement and audit aspects of LPT. The property valuation must be determined on a specific valuation date and it forms the basis for the LPT charge until the next valuation date. The first valuation date for LPT was 1 May 2013 and the valuation of a property set on that date remains valid until 31 October 2019. The 1 May 2013 valuation is not affected by any subsequent improvements or extensions to a residential property. Likewise, where a property is sold during the valuation period and the value of the property has increased, there is no additional LPT liability, provided the initial 2013 valuation was accurate. The local property tax is now a well-established element of our overall taxation system and I consider it important that its position be maintained, as research and experience internationally consistently show that taxes on immovable property are among the taxes that are least detrimental to economic growth.

Deputies will be aware that following a review in 2015, the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, proposed to Government that the revaluation date for the tax be postponed from 1 November 2016 to 1 November 2019. This postponement meant that homeowners continued to have their homes valued for LPT purposes on the basis of their 1 May 2013 declared valuation and so were not faced with significant increases in their LPT in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as a result of increased property values. If there was no change in this position, the valuations of properties on 1 November 2019 would be the basis for calculating LPT liabilities in 2020 and beyond. That is why the Minister for Finance considered it essential that the terms of reference for the review of the LPT that is concluding should include the principle of achieving relative stability in LPT payments of liable persons both over the short and longer terms. In conclusion, the report on the current review of the tax is being finalised and the Minister for Finance will then be in a position to make recommendations to Government about it.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae referred made a comparison between Kerry and Cork in respect of similar properties. I understand that Kerry County Council applied a 5% local adjustment factor or increase to LPT, which may account for some of the difference for homes of similar value. A number of Deputies raised issues regarding the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011. It is not correct that in paying their annual maintenance fees and LPT, owners in multi-unit developments are paying on the double for the same services. They are two distinct and separate charges. The annual maintenance fees associated with multi-unit developments are used to meet the costs incurred in maintaining, managing and refurbishing developments within their boundary walls as well as all related ancillary services for the exclusive benefit of the property owners concerned. LPT proceeds, on the other hand, are used largely to provide and maintain infrastructure, services and other amenities in a general locality which are of benefit to all residents, including the owners in multi-unit developments.

A number of Deputies referred to the taking in charge of estates.

Both Ministers of State, Deputies Canney and Kyne, kept talking about the review. When will that review report be published? If the Minister of State is answering questions, that might be helpful.

I do not have that information.

The review is due and the Minister for Finance has, I am sure, been asked about it on numerous occasions. I refer to the taking in charge of residential developments, the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2019, and the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011. Normal housing estates fall under the provisions of the Planning and Development Acts while multi-unit developments are covered by the Multi-Unit Development Act. The taking in charge of estates is provided for in section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and there are a number of stipulations on roads and so on. The procedures for taking in charge are to begin promptly on foot of a request by the majority of residents in a development or by the developer, as appropriate. Protocols, including timeframes, must be put in place by the planning authorities in response to requests for taking in charge.

While a number of issues were raised by Members, the basic charge that people are paying on the double is not borne out. People in multi-unit developments pay for the exclusive use of their properties whereas LPT relates to the use of facilities by the public, including the occupiers of multi-unit developments.

I call Deputy Murphy O'Mahony followed by Deputy Darragh O'Brien to conclude. They will have a total of ten minutes.

I am interested in the fact that the Government facilitated Deputy Michael Healy-Rae's contribution. Perhaps it is a sign of a courtship or love relationship coming down the track.

It is a sign of a nice Chief Whip.

Fianna Fáil is supporting the Government fairly well too.

My colleagues have highlighted the reason for this Bill and I am delighted that such a positive and proactive step being taken. I commend my colleague, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, for bringing the Bill forward.

We hear a great deal about the squeezed middle and this is a perfect example of where that squeezed middle is continuously being exploited. Management fees, by definition, are fees that property owners pay for services provided by their development's management company. Essentially these fees cover services such as maintenance, lighting, green areas, footpaths and parking. Those costs are generally also contained in the narrative associated with the property tax. In many cases the people concerned purchased an apartment as a step on the so-called property ladder but were forced to remain in the apartment due to spiralling house costs, regardless of whether they wanted to. They are now paying on the double.

One of my constituents in Cork South-West pays €1,500 in management fees and a further €300 in property tax. This constituent bought the apartment at the height of the property boom and the management fee is equivalent to two mortgage repayments. Under our proposal this constituent would make considerable savings on the property tax, which can only be deemed fair in the circumstances. Clearly, this option will only be made available to those who have paid their management fee in full. The Bill provides for this. Such situations will be more prevalent in major urban areas, but the number of apartment complexes is increasing. At this stage many of the larger towns and villages in west Cork are dotted with apartment complexes. Obviously, there are other situations where management fees are also paid. I am seeking to look after these constituents. What makes the situation more difficult in west Cork is the fact that salaries are often lower. While this is relative, it is, nonetheless, an additional burden and expense that could be lessened.

It is estimated that this measure could benefit approximately 200,000 households. These homeowners deserve a break, and I ask the Minister to give it to them.

I thank colleagues who contributed to the debate. I will respond to Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's queries shortly. The Minister of State, Deputy Kyne's, contribution was a type of history lesson on the LPT and an outline of the review. We know that, which is fine. However, this Bill is a genuine attempt to right some wrongs.

I was taken aback by the contribution from the Minister of State, Deputy Canney. It was not just the fiscal gymnastics in which he engaged when he spoke about matters such as the principle of horizontal equity and the principle of vertical equity. I have never previously heard him speak in such a manner on this. I learned new phrases this evening so perhaps every day is a school day. I am trying to right a wrong and make the LPT a little fairer. Thousands of homeowners in my constituency in Fingal County Council are not living in big mansions or big gated communities. I refer to teachers, gardaí and nurses living in apartments. Many of them bought them at the top of the market and they are paying between €2,000 and €2,500 in management fees.

I contest the response of the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, that this relates to the horizontal equity test, which he was teaching us about earlier. He said the contention that people paying management fees are somehow paying on the double does not stand up to scrutiny. He should ask anyone who is paying LPT in full, particularly in areas where property prices have risen and the person is paying a decent amount from net income. The property tax does not take account of people's income, nor do management fees. They are paying for items such as wastewater treatment, parks in the estate, open spaces - I am not referring to shared landings or the like - and the roads they use through their LPT. Management companies are in a very difficult position right now because there is an overall issue.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan referred to what the Labour Party would do. I have published three Bills on this and I was not a Minister of State with responsibility for housing in the Department. There are actions that must be taken to rectify this. One relates to fairness and that is what this Bill is about.

The Minister of State, Deputy Canney, gave the Government's response after he asked us to park our Bill for six months during which time he said the Government would have a look at it in more detail and cost it properly. I was open to that initially before he gave what was a condescending, dismissive, trite and petty response on behalf of the Government. To be fair, he is not like that, but that is the official Government response. That is how it treats Opposition legislation. Frankly, it is disgraceful. They should talk to the thousands of people concerned across the country. Some 200,000 homeowners or approximately 500,000 people say this is an issue. These are owner-occupiers, not landlords and investors, and I take Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's point that we should be far more specific about that on Committee Stage. I know it is an issue, despite the Government's response to a Bill, which is a proposal by an Opposition party that does not have the Revenue Commissioners' resources to cost all our proposals, yet another criticism that was made. Of course, it is an approximation and we have done the best we can. That is something that would be done on Committee Stage.

On foot of the Minister of State's response, it would be impossible for me or my party to accept the request from the Government to delay the Bill for six months to allow for more detailed consideration. That should be done at the housing committee. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan has one of her Bills before the committee tomorrow. Let us do it through the committee because I do not trust the Government to do it within six months. When the Minister of State's colleagues in Fine Gael are out and about over the next few months they should talk to people, mainly in urban areas, and ask them if this is an issue and if they are paying €2,500 a year in management fees. It is an issue when they are paying full LPT. This Bill is a recognition of that. There is a maximum of €300 and, incidentally, that would be in a minute number of cases. We are looking at an average reduction of approximately €86.

This is an acknowledgement that there are managed areas, managed estates and apartment blocks that are providing the services themselves whereas in other areas the local authorities do so. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan raised a fair question when she asked if this would be a way of ensuring that some estates which should not be private estates would remain private and not go under the council. That would not be our desire at all. I believe more estates should be taken in charge. Indeed, in my area of Fingal, the council is moving to take some estates in charge. However, we should not forget why these are private estates. The reason is that in the original planning permission it was a condition of the local authority that they would be managed estates. We have to look at estates that can be brought back under the local authorities by taking them in charge.

This is a measure to recognise the fact that thousands of families need a break on these. These are the people who, to quote the Taoiseach, "get up early in the morning". They are working families. Many of them bought their homes and apartments at the height of the boom and they are paying management fees. The Minister of State mentioned the review of the LPT. We are still waiting to see what the Government will do with the property tax. At present, if nothing is done LPT will be doubled across the country. I cannot understand the reason for the continued delay by the Government in publishing the review. I have a fair idea, however, that it is down to pure politics. The Government wants to produce it in April or May in advance of the local elections. It wants to say what all of us want, which is that there will be no increase in the LPT. Fianna Fáil's position is that there should be no individual increase in the tax. Why not produce it now? What is the delay?

With all due respect to the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, I would have expected him to give us an indication of when that will be, but we do not know. Instead, we have people in the Department of Finance and in the Revenue Commissioners writing a script for the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, that does not warrant any further comment. If the Opposition brings forward Bills with its limited resources, at the very least the Government should show some respect for the spirit of the legislation.

I agree that changes to the Bill are needed and I hope to work with colleagues in this regard. I welcome the support of Sinn Féin, the Rural Independent Group and others for the Bill and I hope I will have Labour's support for it in order that we can move it on to Committee Stage, deal with some of the very valid questions Deputy Jan O'Sullivan raised and work on the specifics.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 21 February 2019.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 February 2019.