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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 25 Apr 1928

Vol. 10 No. 12


Question proposed: "That the Bill be read a Second Time."

To the general principles of this Bill I do not propose to take any serious exception, but I would like to state what they are, in order to form a bridge between the general principles of acceptance and the very imperfect and unjust manner in which, I hope to convince the House, these principles have been carried out. Under the Act of 1908 the obligation was cast upon occupiers to pay rates on the dwellings they occupied. The argument at that time was that if the occupants were given votes they should be brought to a sense of responsibility by the payment of rates. That was the fundamental principle upon which was to be built up this rather vague and nebulous doctrine of civic responsibility. But as time went on considerable inconvenience was experienced in carrying out that principle, more especially in the case of small dwellings, the occupants of which had no very fixed domicile. They were people brought up to live from hand to mouth, and, as many members of this House who have the good, or bad, fortune to be members of a county council know, by having to revise yearly an irrecoverable list of rates, they would meet constantly the words "nulla bona," meaning that the sheriff was unable to recover the amounts, and that the loss fell on the local authority. What that loss amounts to I do not know. In answer to a question in the Dáil recently the Minister said he did not know. It surprised me, I candidly admit, that the Minister went into a measure of this kind without at least approximate knowledge of the losses involved, because I propose to show that these losses may be transferred to the owners. Anyhow, the Minister did not know the amount, but I hope, if he does not know now, that he will give an undertaking before the Committee Stage that he will get a return from the local authority as to what the losses have been, say, for the year 1926-27, on dwellings up to £6 and between £6 and £12. These are the categories of dwellings affected by this Bill, if it is passed. It is necessary that the House should know it to form an opinion fairly on this measure. It is admitted on all sides that there is considerable worry and loss, and also some hardship on people who have small means, and who have to find half-yearly what is to them a substantial sum of money. The principle in this Bill is that the landlords' organisation shall be used to collect these rates; that where the rents are collected periodically, some weekly, some monthly, and some half-yearly, there will be no extra hardship on the landlords to add to the rents a sum to cover rates. I think that is, as far as it goes, a good case, provided this condition is observed: that the position of the landlord shall be no worse than before, and possibly a little better, on account of the unpleasant task he has to do, on account of the odium he has to shoulder, and the pressure undoubtedly he will have to bring on the tenants to recover his money. I suggest to the House that a fair way to approach that would be for the Minister to call the owners into consultation and say: "We propose to do this, and we want to meet you as far as we can." I have no doubt that a great many points of difference might be solved in that way. Unfortunately it was not done, and while the Minister quite courteously received deputations from various bodies, I think I am right in saying that they were only received after the Bill was introduced. We know how changed the position is when we come to alter a Bill, once it has been introduced.

I wish to place before the House in an appropriate Second Reading form — as I am afraid I will have to ask it to give further attention to this Bill in Committee — what these burdens are that are to be placed on landlords. In the first place there are the costs of collection. I think these now amount to about 7½ per cent. on local authorities. Of course that 7½ per cent. is a flat rate on all classes of dwellings. In connection with small dwellings, the costs are infinitely greater, as any rate collector will say that there is always more worry and trouble about such dwellings. In addition to the poundage to the collector there are the legal costs, which are considerable where proceedings are taken. It is owing to these costs and trouble that the local authorities have sought, and have apparently successfully sought to place this burden on the owners. I might mention in passing that in England, under the Rates Act of 1925 where similar burdens are placed in a very restricted form under certain conditions — sometimes compulsorily by resolution of the local authorities and at other times by agreement with the owners — commission or cost of collection is allowed in some cases up to 15 per cent., and in other cases 10 per cent. I further understand, and I will know definitely by the Committee Stage, that in the city of London where owners collect rates a rebate up to 30 per cent. of the rate is allowed. I do not know if that is correct. That is my information but it seems such a large sum that I would be surprised if it is so. In addition there are other costs on the landlord besides the legal costs. Everybody knows, especially under the new conditions, that legal costs are unfortunately heavier now than formerly. In the old days when proceedings for ejectment were necessary the constabulary did certain work. I am sure the legal members of this House will know what that work was better than I do. But that work is no longer done by the police. My information is that where it cost a few shillings before to prosecute an injectment proceeding it now costs £2 to recover small amounts on poorer dwellings. That is an additional burden, to a certain extent owing to the addition of the rates, that will be thrown on the landlords. Possibly this is a point that may not appeal to the higher officials, but the bookkeeping costs are going to be considerable. I speak at first hand as an owner. I do all my book-keeping; I employ no agent. I am in close touch with what happens. Every year the weekly rents will have to be adjusted on a certain appointed day and sums of 1d. 2d. or 3d. as the case may be, will have to be added to the rents. In the case of rents that are paid half yearly the ledgers will have to be adjusted yearly, and the new rents carried down, so that there will be inevitable complications, with arrears carried forward. In addition many queries will arise if new owners will have to pay the rates. There is further the question of the irrecoverable rates to which I have referred. In one county, Co. Waterford, the total irrecoverable rates of 1926-27 was £14,000. I do not know, although I can ascertain — but I hope the Minister will save me the trouble — how much of that is on these small dwellings, but I anticipate that a very considerable portion of it is. I should hazard the guess that £1,000 of that is on these small dwellings.

On that assumption, and taking Waterford as an average county, which I think it is, you can arrive at a figure of £20,000 for the whole country. I hope I am wrong and that the Minister will be able to correct me when he gets the figures from the authorities concerned, but I hazard the guess that a sum of somewhere about £20,000 is going to be transferred, without any remuneration for costs, from the local authorities to the owners of this small property. I will come to the question of the means of recovery later, because the means of recovery that a landlord possesses are somewhat different from those possessed by the local authority in the past.

I want to make this point, that these small dwellings of up to £6 are the most irksome and unpopular form of property any owner can possess. I do not know if any of you have the pleasure of possessing them, because I have. I tried to sell eight houses the other day which were in good order and bringing me in about £40 a year, but all I could get was an offer of about three years' purchase, because my neighbours knew as well as I know the cost and worry of them, the fact that they are sometimes ransacked and the woodwork burned for firing, and all the endless annoyance that is involved in their ownership. I also want to make this point, that the house-property owner as a whole has, of all classes, benefited least by inflation in values due to the war. Whereas I think, in almost every case, with the exception perhaps of the civil servants, who might challenge this and say that they do not, those who have not been controlled followed the market and got what was going. The property owner is restricted by the Rent Restrictions Act, and whereas his charges have gone up by 100 per cent., he is only allowed an increase of 40 per cent. on the rents, so that I do not think anybody can say that this class that it is now proposed to penalise are a pampered section of the community. They are the hardest hit section of the community, and any profiteering in this class of property that there has been has been by people who have got in as tenants under the Restrictions Act and who have sub-let at enormous rents. That is well known.

The inevitable tendency of this legislation is that, of course, this class of property will get into the hands of the worst owner. Nobody who can avoid it will burden himself with such property. Anybody who can will sell out at a sacrifice, and that is largely the genesis of the slum. All this property is thrown on the slum owner, and if you are now going to perpetuate these conditions with this burden of rates and the additional burden of collection, undoubtedly there will be less attraction in this property and it will fall more and more into the hands of a bad class of landlord. You have got to set beside that very important point the argument, and rightly so, that the one measure of all others that can get to the root of proper conditions and improved civilisation is better housing. But I will be surprised if the Minister will say that he expects to solve this problem of housing by State money. It must not be forgotten that private enterprise has borne the burden in the past. If the Government wish to throw more and more of this burden of housing on to the taxpayer and to make the conditions of housing in the interim worse, this Bill is going the right way about it.

There is another point, not from the owner's point of view, but with regard to the tenant. Hitherto the tenant has not been subject to eviction for the non-payment of rates. It has not been possible to evict him; it has been possible to distrain on him, but if there were no goods he could not be evicted. Under this Bill the tenant is liable to eviction, and in that connection it would be rather interesting to hear the Minister's argument. This Bill received very little notice in the Dáil, in spite of its most disquieting provisions, but it was argued there that as it was difficult to collect rates and as they were badly collected now it was unfair to place the additional burden on the owners. The Minister's reply to that was somewhat significant. I do not think he has heard the last of it. He said: "If there are landlords who, with the powers they already possess, are not able to collect their rents, I do not think we can deal with that under this particular Bill. The relative importance of the rates as compared with rents does not warrant that we would avoid dealing in the most systematic way possible with a definite public problem simply because there may be landlords who do not collect their rents." I read that as a distinct notice to the landlords to put on the screw, and if landlords do put on the screw, I hope the tenants will note at whose suggestion it is put on. Landlords that I talk to now say: "Where in the past we have kept the money for ourselves we, at least, felt a certain compassion, and occasions of hardship were motives for consideration," and I can give you cases whereby considerable consideration was exercised. For instance, a person owes me arrears amounting to £20 at 2s. a week rent, and he is living on a few shillings outdoor relief. It is now expected that I should pay his rates. If the Minister accepts that I shall have something more to say on it. Where landlords paid the rates themselves there were in some cases reasons for consideration, but it is different now. They will merely be acting as a collecting body for the local authorities, and I shall be very much surprised if I do not see very much harsher methods used in the collection in future. One solicitor who deals largely with the collection of rents described this Bill to me by saying that it should be called a Tenants Eviction Bill — that if things panned out as he expected it would pay to get rid of the tenants, lock up the houses, and pay rates on them as empty houses.

That is dealing with the main principle of the Bill. I now wish to deal with what I call the mechanism of the measure, although this will emerge more closely on Committee. In the definition of "owner" an agent is included. I am not going to say this is the first time that an agent has been made a principal and responsible for the debts of his principal, but it is almost the first time, and it is unusual and a somewhat strange thing that, because the principal's rates are not collected and paid, the agent is liable to have his premises entered and his furniture distrained and carried off by the officers of the law. I have no doubt that the Minister will tell me that in the British Act of 1925 an agent is responsible. I read the Act and I am inclined to agree with him, but I would explain to the Minister that you cannot appropriate and reprobate within the same Act; if you are going to claim a precedent, or to shelter yourself behind some favourable clause, you should also add for us a commission of ten or fifteen per cent. for the trouble and worry involved. As the Bill stands, the main provision is that it shall only apply to dwellings of £6 valuation and under; but by a very curious clause — Section 2 — the Minister takes power, on the application of a local authority, to extend the valuation to £12. I am rather inclined to regard that clause as camouflage. I know that local authorities — I do not blame them — will all be clamant to place this burden on the landlords to the utmost extent. The Minister will find the pressure from them far more awkward than he will find it from the scattered and unorganised owners, and I am afraid in a very short time we will see this extended to the £12 valuation. Twelve pounds would take in about 60 per cent. of the dwellings in a small country town. Some of the leaseholders will be brought in, especially people of whom there can be no doubt but that they are good marks, and the landlord will have foisted and put upon him all the worry and trouble of this work. In the English Act, moreover, it only applies to rents that are not collected quarterly or at longer periods. It practically applies to rents collected weekly or monthly.

I think the Government might meet us on this. It is the weekly and the monthly tenant who has been the cause of the demand for this, and why cannot it be confined to them? Why is it necessary to bring in a number of leaseholders? Undoubtedly they will be brought in — publicans and owners of shops will now cease to pay their rates and the landlords will be compelled to readjust their rents. Then, the definition of a rackrent as two-thirds of the valuation of the land is, I suggest, an entirely obsolete value. That is from that Act of 1878. Values have completely changed now, and it would be only reasonable under the new conditions to make the rackrent at least the valuation, or more. That would relieve a certain number of these cases of landlords being compelled to collect rates for substantial, well-to-do leaseholders.

There is nothing in the Bill that I have been able to find which says that the owner is to receive a demand note in the case of every separate valuation. That is provided in the British Act, and of course it is the law here now. This Bill does not set that out. It says that "the rate shall be made on the owner." That is rather vague and loose language. But I hope the Minister will give us an assurance — and I shall put down an amendment to make it clear — that a demand note in the usual form must be served in the case of every separate valuation.

There is considerable obscurity in Section 5, sub-section (1), as to what is the meaning of "Twelve months next after the making of such rate." What the making is I do not quite understand, but after the rate is made the landlord can proceed to readjust his rents. But, of course, we will not know what the date is, because the making of the rate is a thing that takes place without any special publicity in the office of the local authority. You cannot expect the owner to make himself cognisant with what is going on in the county council offices. I put this forward, that the landlord cannot proceed to amend his rents until he receives the demand notes. He should then have complete, separate valuations specified, and then he can proceed to make the adjustments. But as the Bill now stands it is entirely obscure as to what date the landlord can proceed to make the adjustments from, and my argument is that he cannot proceed to do so until he has full, accurate and official knowledge of the position, and that is not until he receives a demand note.

The question of overlapping and readjustments would also arise. Assuming that the rent cannot be adjusted until the demand note is received, which, I think, the Minister will admit, what will the position be? The demand notes are received at totally irregular dates; rate collectors are changed, the county council acts more quickly one year than another. I have known cases where demand notes were not received until June or July in some years, so that the landlord cannot proceed to amend his rents until July, and the rent will then extend from July to July. Supposing that next year the demand note is received in May, it is quite possible that there will then be overlapping, because the new rents will be adjusted in May, and for two months the occupier will be paying rates for two years. That may be a small point, but I think legislation is a thing that must be exact, as it has to be interpreted by the courts. I hope the Minister will say exactly how this is to work, because I can see tenants having to pay as much as two months' rates for two years at the same time. Then there is the very great hardship involved as to the difference between the date when the rate is to be paid and the date when it is to be collected. That will be in the case chiefly of half-yearly rents.

Assuming that the demand is received in May in places where the gale days are in March and September, you will not be able to adjust your rent until the following September, but the local authority can demand the rate in May, which is usually not paid until September. In many of these tenancies the hanging gale system is in operation. You may say that it should not be, but landlords have not been the bad people in the past that everybody has suggested, and they have allowed their rents to hang over in some cases for six months. The September rent, which would bear one moiety of the rate, is not in many cases collected before the following March, so that the landlord would be out of his money and would be financing the local authority for six months, or even more. Is that just?

With all this burden and all this unpleasantness, who is going to pay the costs? We are now going to finance the local authorities in some cases to the extent of six months' rates. If people have not got this money we can see this running into hundreds of pounds in some cases, and they will have to have recourse to borrowing, and other things of that kind, to find the money. I have read the Dáil debates very carefully, and I notice that none of these points, which I consider fundamental and most important, was raised at all in the other House. That is as far as my criticism of the Bill goes. I only say that in spite of the fact that in some quarters my motives are suspect, I do not put this criticism forward in any spirit of selfishness or avarice. I consider that it is a healthy instinct to try to keep what you have got and to try to get justice for all classes of the community, including those who have the good, or bad, fortune to own property. I assure you that I would not take a serious view of this from the public point of view if it were only a case that A is rich and B is poor, you were simply taking something from A and giving it to B, and that the transaction ended there. I can assure you that it does not end there. People who have money are not going to allow themselves to be made a target for legislation of this kind. They are well able to protect themselves, and they will do so to the prejudice of the community. It takes very little insight to see that it is the poorer man and the consumer who invariably suffers from legislation of this disquieting character.

This is the first time really, and I am afraid it will not be the last, to bring house-property legislation into the same dangerous trend as land legislation. In the case of land legislation, we know that where an owner had £100 in the 80's, when the thing is cleared up he has now got about £30. But that is not the whole story. I do not believe that the tenant himself is better off. Demoralisation is involved, all the money is going out of the country in consequence, and to-day nobody with money will buy any quantity of land. He will buy small plots of it, but any quantity of land has no market; land as an instrument of credit is highly suspect. This is not really in the interests of any class, however maligned or however deserving they be. It is fundamental that any infringement of the rights of property will injure the wellbeing of the community and will affect all classes. I ask the House to give critical thought to this measure, and to view with sympathy certain amendments which I shall bring forward at the proper time.

Senator Sir John Keane has raised quite a number of points, and I would like to say a few words with regard to them. As far as the general principle of the Bill is concerned, as long ago as November, 1923, the Association of Municipal Authorities tackled the question of their difficulties with regard to the collection of rates on small holdings. The proposal was taken up somewhat later than that, and the county councils and the different municipal authorities throughout the country were taken into consideration. It might be said that the county councils and the municipal authorities as a whole strongly urged on the Department of Local Government that this problem should be tackled, that there was a definite problem for the poorer classes of people occupying a small class of house to get them to pay their rates in two moieties. I think the general opinion — and also the opinion of Senator Sir John Keane — is that there is a problem there. In considering how the problem should be tackled we took very carefully into consideration two principles. One is that people who enjoy the vote to elect representatives to carry on their local government should in actual fact bear the costs in their proper proportion of the expenditure on that local government, and on the other hand, that the moneys that have to be collected by the local authorities to run their government ought to be collected in the simplest and the most economical way possible. These two principles are fully safeguarded in this Bill. While it is proposed to make the owners of small dwellings of £6 valuation and under responsible for the payment of the rates in respect of these particular houses, they are being forced by the terms of the Bill to pass on that charge to the occupier, so that the occupier will still have brought home to him the fact as to whether his local government is being economically or satisfactorily conducted or not, and he will have to pay in one way, or benefit in the other, for his proper and satisfactory choice of local governors. That principle, I say, is fully safeguarded.

Senator Sir John Keane suggests that we are putting a serious duty and responsibility on owners. It is possible to exaggerate that responsibility, and it is possible to exaggerate the burden that will fall on them. I do not want either to exaggerate or to minimise it. We are certainly throwing a duty on them, and they will be called upon to do a certain amount of work — I believe it is small — to shoulder certain financial responsibilities, temporarily at any rate, but the responsibility that is thrown on them is not very great, and if, as the result of their shouldering that responsibility, we get a more economical collection of rates and less irrecoverable public debts, with a better civic spirit arising out of that, the owners of property will benefit materially in their own way by the better spirit, reflected in the cost of local government and by the development of a proper spirit among the people in making them pay their public debts. The Senator suggests that responsible owners were not consulted in this matter. In the first place, the matter has been thrashed out for quite a number of years — since 1923 — in public discussions and otherwise. The Second Reading of the Bill took place on February 23rd, the Bill having been introduced a week or so before that. I met the Irish Houseowners' Protection Association on the 14th November, 1927, three months before the first reading of the Bill, and we had a very long and thorough discussion.

I do not know to what extent they can be regarded as being representative of the class of owners affected by this Bill, but they were the only people who approached me in the matter. We had a very full discussion. At no time since I first met them in November have I declined to receive them, or have I had any further approach from them. If the owners had anything to say they had every opportunity of saying it. There was no difficulty in their way as regards approaching the Minister responsible. I hope that will be generally understood.

What I said was that the Minister had not consulted them prior to the introduction of the Bill. I may be wrong in that. Was the Bill introduced before November?

It got a Second Reading on the 23rd February of this year, and was introduced a week or ten days before that date.

Then I was misinformed. I knew that the Minister had consulted the association, but thought that was after the introduction of the Bill. I wish to withdraw any suggestion I made that the position was otherwise than as stated by the Minister.

The Senator perhaps was misled by statements made from time to time in the Dáil to the effect that the Bill was now ready for introduction. Passing from that, the Senator thinks the Local Government Department ought to be able to give the approximate amount of irrecoverable rates on this kind of property. I had occasion recently to try and find out the extent of irrecoverable rates generally in the country. I have not been able to get the figure from the Local Government records. Inquiry is being made into that particular matter. With regard to our Local Government records generally, it will be remembered that the annual publication of the local taxation accounts was discontinued at the time of the war and has not since been resumed. I am glad, however, to be able to say that there is in the press at the moment the local taxation accounts for the years 1922-23-24-25, and I hope to be able to give them to the public very soon. We are now making up for the time lost, and are organising our Statistical Department generally. I think it may be found difficult to get from the local authorities the exact information that Senator Sir John Keane asks for, but I will see what can be done.

I can get by return of post from the county council the total amount of irrecoverable rates in the county I come from. I know that because I have acted on committees which deal with these cases. In cases where amounts are struck off as being irrecoverable, a record is made of them in the county council offices. It is only a matter of taking these cases from the books and adding up the amounts to get the total.

If the Senator is able to get that information by return of post from the county council in his county, I hope it will not take long until I am in a position to have the information with regard to irrecoverable rates generally throughout the country. In view of the general case made for solving this particular problem and of the general representations made, I had in view, when speaking a moment ago, that we ought not to hold up this Bill in order to get the exact figure involved in this matter, because no one will deny that there are irrecoverable rates as a result of many poor people not being able to pay their rates in two moieties. However, I will see what we can do to get the information. As to the statements made that this Bill is going to affect the value of house property and result in a slowing down in the matter of house building, I must say that I disagree entirely with that point of view. I suggest that one of its effects will be to lead to more efficiency and economy in one important branch of our local government work. Therefore, anything that leads to more efficiency and economy in our public administration is, I suggest, going to help us to get more and better houses built as well as to do other things. If the Senator thinks that the State ought to spend less money on the provision of more and better houses, then I would be glad if he were to outline his scheme and plans for meeting the situation.

In answer to the remarks made in the course of the discussion about landlords possibly putting on the screw more on tenants as a result of anything I said in the Dáil, my reply is that I do not take back any scrap of the suggestion I made that the tenants ought to pay their rents, and that efficient landlordism in the country is as necessary as any other class of business efficiently conducted. It would be very disastrous indeed if any person in a responsible position were to suggest that rents need and ought not be paid. If, among a definite section of our people, a continuing disability to pay the rents of their houses arises, then that is a matter we ought to know about. It should be made a matter for State solution rather than for any particular penalisation of the poor or any other class. Therefore, we ought not to have dragged across a discussion of this particular Bill, or any other matter the Minister for Local Government is dealing with, scrolls that the Minister is starting out soon on a systematic eviction campaign.

Senator Sir John Keane, I think, has misread sub-section (1) of Section 2, which enables the definition of small dwellings to be extended to a house of £12 valuation in certain cases, because he spoke of what would happen in a little country village if such an extension were made. The Senator will see that the sub-section restricts any such enlargement of that amount to a county or other borough. That really it is not camouflage, but is put in for a definite purpose. As the law stands at present, the responsibility for paying certain special rates in county and other boroughs falls on the owner. There will be a desire to harmonise these matters, as well as a recognition of the fact that the valuation of houses of the same type will be very much bigger, say, in Dublin than in country towns. Under the law at present the owners are made responsible for certain rates, and the purpose of this Bill is to enable us to harmonise the law relating to the collection of rates. In the county borough of Dublin, for instance, owners are made responsible for certain rates on houses up to £8 valuation. I am not aware that at present there will be any necessity for extending this amount to more than £8 in the City of Dublin, but there may be reason for extending it to £10 in Cork, so that our intentions in this matter are perfectly honest.

The Minister has stated that I must have misread the sub-section. I do not think I have. I think that within the sub-section the Minister is given implicit power, on application being made to him, to extend the valuation to £12 anywhere. Whether he will do that or not is, of course, another matter, but the sub-section is not confined in its operation, and, as I read the Bill, it can be extended to a small village.

The sub-section reads:—"The Minister may if he so thinks fit on the application of the council of a county or other borough by order extend the limit of valuation of small dwellings under this Act from £6 to such greater sum not exceeding £12 as he shall think fit and may, if he so thinks fit, on the application of such council by order at any time revoke such order."

That is my point.

"On the application of the council of a county or other borough."

I admit that in that case I did misread it.

I admit that sub-section (1) of Section 5 is obscure, and that it will be necessary to make the matter there referred to more clear so that the owner will know from what date he is to add the additional amount to his rent. My understanding of the position at the moment is that the owner will receive a separate demand note in respect of each particular holding. That is a matter that we can verify.


I think it will be only necessary to put in there the words, "under the conditions at present applicable."

I am having the matter considered as to whether, as the section stands at present, it is practicable. I hope we are getting away from the practice, if it is true, that some local authorities make their rates at a rather late period. If it happens that an additional payment for two years' rates is collected in May or June, it only means, in the case of a weekly tenant, that instead of having to pay his 26/52's of the rate in one lump sum, he will only have to pay over a certain limited number of weeks 2/52's approximately of two years' rating instead of one. I think the arrangement embodied in the Bill is the simplest way of dealing with that matter. It will not affect quarterly or half-yearly rating at all.

On the question about the hanging gale, this, within the meaning of the Bill as I understand it, is simply a case of a particular gale hanging over or being carried over. There is no reason why a portion of the rate for a particular half-year should be carried over, so that I do not think this question of the hanging gale arises.

Take this case. A new tenant comes in in the month of March and the landlord says to him: "You must now pay the portion of the rates that you would ordinarily pay in the September rent." Would that be legal, because under this Bill you cannot differentiate the rent from the rate? The rent and rates will be one under the Bill. That is a point I would like the Minister to look into.

I think, when we are considering the Bill in Committee, it will be found that there is nothing in it which links up the rates of one particular year to the rent of a particular year. The collection of the rates is linked up with the collection of the rents, but if a landlord, for any particular reason over which he has complete control, is, say, three years behind in his rent, it is not intended that the rates will be three years in arrears. As far as the Bill is concerned, I think the Senator will find that there is no difficulty in that matter.


The Senator's point, I think, is this: that the rate the tenant has omitted to pay has to be paid by the owner and then recovered as part of the rent. His point is, that if there is a hanging gale and the owner is suing for the March rent. he can only sue for that in September. He wants to know if he can add to that the rates that have accrued up to September. That is the Senator's difficulty.

I do not think there is anything in the Bill to suggest that if the rate is struck in April and a half-year's rent is being collected in September, which is for the half-year ending March, that the first half-year's rate for that year shall not be collected with the half-year's rent in September, but referring to March.

Might I suggest to the Minister that as this is a very important point, he should further consult with his legal advisers on the matter.

Certainly. I will have the matter further looked into, but I do not think there is any difficulty in it. The Senator spoke of the definition of an owner, including an agent. He sets it out as it were an innovation brought in for the first time under some recent English Act. My advice is that the owner in this Bill is defined exactly as he is in the Public Health Acts of 1878, and that the agent comes in in the same way in these particular Acts. Our desire in this matter is to keep the Bill as much as possible in harmony with the general legislation that has gone before. If we were to have a new definition of owner for this particular purpose applied to dwellings of small valuation, we would be simply complicating the law. If there is anything that I would desire in the matter — judging by Senator Sir John Keane's remarks he, too, would have the same desire — it is this: that we should strive as much as possible to have a simplification of the law as it applies to rating and to local government generally.

Question put, and agreed to.