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.