Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 23
Debate resumed on amendment No. 19:
In page 33, to delete lines 9 and 10.
- (Senator Grace O'Sullivan)

It has been agreed that amendment Nos. 19 and 20 are related and may be discussed together. Senator Grace O'Sullivan was in possession when progress was reported. I call on her to resume.

The idea behind amendment No. 19 is to retain the ordinary majority in votes on Part 8 developments. At present, councillors can amend or reject a Part 8 development through a normal vote at a council meeting. It has not really been explained to us by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, why he is proposing this change. If the Minister gets his way in this instance, there will be a requirement for a majority vote of all of the members of a council and not simply a majority of those present at the meeting. In circumstances in which councillors may be ill or otherwise unable to attend a particular meeting, this will undermine the democratic operation of the council. It tips the balance in the favour of the executive power and undermines the reserved function held by the elected members. Essentially, the amendments allows that a majority of councillors present at a meeting is enough for that vote, rather than a majority of councillors in general.

Sinn Féin supports this amendment. In recent times, with the Putting People First changes that occurred in local authorities, there have been many questions about democracy at local levels. There were some decisions made around local community development committees, for example, which resulted in many exclusions from the process of people who they were told that they had conflicts of interest, etc. In counties such as Galway, people are very concerned that some of the decisions made were not logical. Many of the local elected representatives have been very concerned about some of the decisions taken. To reiterate what we have been saying since the debate on the Bill began, we must recognise the mandate of the local councillors in particular. It makes absolute sense that any decisions made on planning applications such as these should be made by the body of the council and by the majority of those in favour of projects.

This is a worthy, practical and fair amendment. I know that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, was battled into submission in respect of a number of different amendments last night. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy English, will be able to take this amendment on board today.

The Minister of State might be a harder nut to crack. We will do our best in any event to put the pressure on.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy English.

The Government opposes both amendments Nos. 19 and 20. I am conscious of the points that both Senators have made. Unless I took them up wrong, the Senators might be on different sides of the argument.

Perhaps I misinterpreted Senator Ó Clochartaigh's comments. The points made sounded a little bit different.

The amendments proposed by Senator Grace O'Sullivan relate to the changes proposed in the Bill regarding the Part 8 process for the approval of local authority-owned development proposals, including those relating to social housing. The Bill proposes a number of key changes to the existing processes in section 179 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Senator Grace O'Sullivan's main concern is on the provisions around the majority vote, which is that a council resolution on a Part 8 proposal will require the support of a majority of elected members. The primary purpose of the overall changes proposed is to streamline the timelines for decision-making on local authority development proposals, providing certainty for the timeframe of the Part 8 process. Under the revised procedures, the maximum timeframe for the determination of local authority-owned development proposals will be 20 weeks from the date of issue where the proposal is for public consultation.

Under the current procedures, there is no maximum timeframe for the completion of the Part 8 process. This delays the delivery of the development of proposals, including social housing proposals. The amendments proposed by Senator Grace O'Sullivan in regard to the Part 8 procedures seek to dilute the intentions of the provisions of the Bill. I will speak mainly on amendment No. 19 because I think amendment No. 20 would probably have unintended consequences.

I did not speak on amendment No. 20. I spoke on amendment No. 19 only.

They are being discussed together.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan can come in again.

I will not speak on amendment No. 20 either. I gather that it might have unintended consequences separate from what Senator Grace O'Sullivan wants to achieve. Amendment No. 19 proposes to remove the provision in the Bill that will require any resolution on the approval, variation or rejection of the development proposals of the local authority chief executive to get the support of the majority of council members. In our view, it is imperative for the local authority's vital development proposals to be considered and decided on by a majority of the totality of the elected members and not just those who are present on the day. We are trying to get people to buy into this important process, certainly when it comes to social housing projects. Issues can arise in some communities when we are trying to get acceptance of such projects. We believe it is important for the majority of councillors to be part of that process. Given that the dates on which meetings are held, etc., are agreed by councillors, they should be in a position to ensure this situation does not occur. I understand the concern that Senator Grace O'Sullivan is trying to raise. A meeting could fall on the wrong day when some councillors are not around but that can work both ways. Our view is that it is important to strengthen the role of councillors in this process. For that reason, we are providing that the majority of councillors will have to be involved when these decisions are made so that those decisions receive real community backing. We want to make sure the application of deadlines as part of the new system of fast-tracking Part 8 is not seen as a way of diluting the powers of local authority members. We are trying to strengthen their role. We are conscious that it is imperative for a majority of councillors to be involved in making these decisions. We believe amendment No. 19 would have the effect of removing them from the process. I hope the Senator will understand that we cannot accept the amendment for that reason. Our intention in framing this section of the Bill is to strengthen democracy by ensuring as many councillors as possible, and not just a majority who turn up on the day, are involved in the decision-making process. I know what can happen at council meetings. I have been attending them for years.

I remind the House that we are discussing amendments Nos. 19 and 20.

The Minister, Deputy Coveney, seemed to suggest last night that a majority of members in the relevant municipal district, as opposed to a majority of the entire council, might suffice in these cases. Does that strike a chord with the Minister of State?

That will not work in every local authority. It is not our intention to dilute that. We are going to hold it as it is.

I would like the Minister of State to clarify one aspect of this matter. We spoke last night about the fast-track planning arrangements for developments of more than 100 houses. Will the Part 8 fast-track planning arrangements for councillors that we are discussing expire in 2019? As someone who served as a councillor for 20 years, I understand the Part 8 process. I wonder whether all of this will expire in 2019. As the Minister of State knows, the fast-track planning arrangements for large developments will be reviewed. I ask him to clarify the position in respect of these arrangements.

I will call the Minister of State after Senator Grace O'Sullivan has come back in.

I have proposed amendment No. 20 to provide that the decision of an elected council on a Part 8 application must be made by "the first Council meeting after the expiration of 6 weeks" and not, as the Bill proposes, "not later than 6 weeks after the receipt of the manager’s report". It is well known that local authorities typically do not meet in the month of August. Therefore, the six-week timeframe for meeting and voting on a Part 8 procedure could expire if the manager's report were delivered in July. Logically, the legislation must give practical effect to the democratic role of the elected council. Therefore, the period must last until a council meeting is held. The most effective way to achieve this is to provide for it in this legislation. Amendment No. 20 proposes that these matters should be considered at "the first Council meeting after the expiration of" the six-week timeframe.

I assure Senator Murnane O'Connor that there is no sunset clause in this aspect of what we are proposing. It will be a permanent change. As she knows, the Part 8 process can go on for a couple of years, or certainly a number of months, at the moment.

I know that. The Minister of State is saying it will be permanent.

It is a permanent decision. I think everybody will accept that.

It is good to get it clarified. I thank the Minister of State.

I know what Senator Grace O'Sullivan is trying to achieve in amendment No. 20. Our concern is that the wording of the amendment would remove from local authority members the role we are saying we want the majority of them to have. We cannot accept the amendment because, if we understand it correctly, it would actually dilute the role of the councillors in the decision-making process.

I do not agree. I am concerned that the six-week timeframe could be very short in some circumstances. If the manager's report comes out two or three days before the end of July, councillors will not really be able to study or scrutinise it because they will be away due to the council being in recess for the whole month of August. I do not see this proposal as a dilution of the role of councillors.

The concern is that the two amendments taken together, bearing in mind that amendment No. 19 provides for the deletion of the requirement for a resolution "to be adopted by a majority of the members of the local authority", would dilute their powers. We believe the proposed six-week timeframe would provide enough time. I reiterate that when a local authority is organising a Part 8 process, it knows that it needs to avoid the August period when it is planning the timeframe. It is up to local authority members to plan this process. It would be assumed that they would not land themselves in a situation like that described by the Senator, just as we have to allow for periods when the Dáil will be closed when we are planning our business. I understand the concern the Senator is raising, but I do not believe it should be or will be an issue.

It would be interesting to hear the perspective of Senator Craughwell or someone who has served on a local authority. I am not from a local authority background.

Senators who wish to comment on local authorities are free to do so.

I note the Senator's concern.

Sometimes things just slip through.

That is what we are trying to avoid.

There is some concern among councillors and the public that things could slip through because of the deadlines and timelines that will apply under the new arrangements. We are trying to make it clear that we do not want that to happen. We want to be very clear, so we are providing for a black-and-white six-week timeframe. If councillors are doing their jobs properly, nothing will slip through. We trust local authority staff to work in conjunction with councillors. It is a question of the planning of business. As someone who served on a council for five years, I have been through many of these processes. Everyone knows that August is not the best month for making large decisions because people do not attend council meetings in August. A council would not start a process that would end up with such a timeline. This is about people focusing on their work, making decisions based on timelines, looking at the 20-week period and actually planning it in. When we bring legislation through the various Stages in the House, everyone has to plan out their timeframes so that the legislative process can work. We are saying that from now on, we want all the timelines to be looked at, worked out, planned and co-ordinated when it comes to social housing and planning permissions. The system Senator Grace O'Sullivan is looking for should not be necessary if everyone does their job right. We are trying to make everything clear. I know from the council meetings I have attended in recent months that there are concerns about the changes in this Bill. We want to make it as clear as possible that this is about proper decision-making and not about diluting anyone's powers or confusing the issue. We are trying to make the system clearer and more straightforward so that people can have more confidence in it. The important part of this is that everyone will know the end time.

As a former councillor, I can tell Senator Grace O'Sullivan that I agree with the Minister of State that councils normally meet in advance, or a special meeting might be called, if something is due to come up during a holiday period. I am glad this issue has been brought up today because we need to ensure local authorities are informed, particularly in light of the urgency of this Bill. We need to make sure it is right. There is definitely a process. Local authorities are very aware of it. Meetings are called if they are needed. I assure the Senator that all the information comes and goes back. I ask the Minister of State to consider my suggestion that we could write to all the local authorities to highlight this issue. It is important for everything to get through. The Minister of State knows that transparency and accountability are important. Local authorities know about this, in fairness, but it is good to highlight it.

If I understand the Minister of State correctly, he is saying that there is a double process regarding the report that will be prepared by the local authority, that there are two safety mechanisms in subsection (c) and that for a resolution to have effect - for a report to go forward to An Bord Pleanála - it must be adopted by a majority of the members of the local authority and passed not later than six weeks afterwards. Those two mechanisms will still hold; one does not supersede the other.

Absolutely. We are trying to set out a 20-week timeframe for the process. The concern is that if one allows for the following meeting, all of a sudden there can be a delay of six to eight weeks or even longer. These additional weeks defeat the purpose of what we are trying to achieve here. We are trying to bring in very clear timelines for all involved. If there is a meeting in July and none in August, it can suddenly be the middle of September or late September. We are trying to prevent this slippage of weeks in everything we do in the action plan for housing. It is about establishing timelines for all decision-making, not just that relating to local authorities. We will try to tighten things up wherever we can because this is where the slippage occurs and that is what we are trying to avoid. I hope the Senators understand.

I very much welcome the Minister of State's explanation and clarification. As Senator Murnane O'Connor said, we are in a period of crisis. I completely understand the tightening of the timelines. Perhaps the point about communication and transparency could be explained to councillors in those terms if possible. In times of crisis, everyone must adhere to deadlines if he or she feels strongly about the issue on the agenda.

I welcome the clarification provided by the Minister of State. It will give us food for thought. If the Senator does not press the amendment, I suggest that she re-examine the position and reserve the right to contribute further on the matter on Report Stage if she still feels an amendment is necessary.

I reserve the right to do so.

If the Senator has genuine concerns even after this debate, she should let us know. Our motive in this regard is very honest. To clarify further, she is right that the process is important. We are trying to highlight its importance by holding many stakeholder events and launches of the different documents and by writing to and meeting all the councillors. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, all our Department officials and I have made ourselves very available to meet everybody because we need to get everyone to understand the timelines involved and the buy-in in this regard. We do not at all intend to infringe on people's powers, but rather to bring everybody with us and make it understood that this is urgent. Timelines focus all our minds but they do not mean poor decisions; they just mean more straightforward, timelined decisions. Everyone has enough time to get involved in this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 20 not moved.
Section 23 agreed to.
Sections 24 to 26, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

Amendments Nos. 21 and 40 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 5 (“relevant date”, “landlord”, “tenant”, “lease”, etc.) of Act of 2004

27. Section 5(1) of the Act of 2004 is amended by deleting the definition of “landlord” and substituting the following:

“ ‘landlord’ means the person for the time being entitled to receive (otherwise than as agent for another person, excepting where that person is acting as receiver) the rent paid in respect of a dwelling by the tenant thereof and, where the context so admits, includes a person who has ceased to be so entitled by reason of the termination of the tenancy;”.”.

The amendment relates to the reality experienced by many renters in Ireland. It seeks to address the concern that those who act as receivers are freed from any of the obligations and constraints placed on landlords. This will be particularly pertinent as we come to some of our later amendments which seek limitations on eviction and when we consider large-scale properties and evictions from them. I will come to that when we debate section 30. I am of the view that section 30 is deeply inadequate in that it does not serve the purpose it purports to serve, which is to protect those in middle-sized developments from eviction.

On the wider question and the reality faced by many people, we have all heard about the cases, letters arrive in our offices all the time and we read the newspapers. Families are becoming homeless and suffering evictions. I will not go through all the statistics relating to the increased level of family homelessness because I am sure we will hear them again and again during this debate. We want to ensure that some brake is placed on this and that those who act as receivers are not exempted from their responsibilities which should be afforded to landlords. They may be receivers in respect of property, but where those properties are tenanted, those tenants are entitled to protections and the same rights as any other tenants. If we are serious about protecting tenants and those who are very vulnerable in residential property, we need to make sure, regardless of whether the buildings in which they live are owned by landlords or managed by receivers, that they are afforded the same protections as all tenants. The amendment seeks to address what I believe is an anomaly. I think it is a recognised anomaly. We are putting forward our proposal. We have tried to make a separation between those who act as agents, such as professional property management companies, and those who act as receivers and are simply seeking to maximise return. Yes, a receiver has a responsibility to maximise economic return, but that should not be an excuse to abrogate the rights of the tenant to suitable protection. This is the basis of our proposal. Others have identified opportunities to bring these points in later in the Bill, and I look forward to hearing their suggestions.

I strongly urge the Minister of State to consider the amendment. We would be happy to work with an alternate wording but we need to recognise the reality that it is the receiver in many cases that makes the decision to put people, including families, out of their houses. We need to find a way to capture that.

I concur with the proposer. This is an excellent amendment. There are other areas in the Bill where it could be accommodated, but Senator Higgins makes a very good and valid point. I have received a substantial amount of correspondence particularly in the last year - the correspondence grows as the problem grows - about tenants being told they have to get out of RAS and various other housing schemes. The argument is that it is not a matter for the receiver, but for the landlord. Furthermore, landlords are contacting tenants, which is unacceptable, to put pressure on them, as opposed to going through the council. The local authorities have responsibility in this regard. We need to address this issue. The Minister of State's Department needs to address it. I have made representations to a number of councils. My council, the one from which I have come and which I know best, says the landlords have stepped in. The landlords deal with the council. They are organising. They have an obligation to ensure continuity of appropriate accommodation and housing for tenants in RAS. I speak specifically about RAS because this very day a woman and her son approached me and told me about the harassments they have received from a landlord who says the son must leave his accommodation because the landlord cannot meet his mortgage repayments. He is under pressure from the banks. However, the landlord has said that if the family give him €300 or €400 in cash under the counter as a top-up - the payment is currently €1,800 or €1,900 per month - he will not put pressure on them. The story goes that he is pressurising them because the banks are pressurising him to take his property. He has fallen into arrears on his mortgage. That is unacceptable. The experience I have picked up time and time again in recent months is that when people contact the council, it does not want to know. No RAS landlord should harangue or harass a tenant. They should refer to the arrangement, which is RAS, through the local authority.

This is a very valid amendment. There may be other places in the legislation where such a provision should be added. There absolutely needs to be protection for tenants because many people are taking advantage and saying that there is a downturn in the economy, that their properties have gone into receivership, that they are overexposed or that they cannot meet their financial repayments. By golly, that is grossly unfair to other people who consistently provide a marketable rent for that accommodation. I endorse the amendment.

I agree with much of what the previous speaker said. The example he gives is very disturbing. He is absolutely right that the arrangement is between the landlord and the council and that the landlord should not harass or interfere with the tenant. Furthermore, if the landlord's story stood up, money under the counter would not be any good to him or her because it would not be declared and he or she would be in trouble.

I want to come to the amendment itself. I hope this will be addressed. I know it is a little bit premature and the regulations are coming out in the next couple of weeks. I appeal to the Minister to react and accommodate the spirit of what is being put forward by Senator Higgins in those regulations. As I listened to the debate I began to think back to The Grapes of Wrath and the big nameless entities behind the bulldozers that moved all the people off the land. I do not want to get over-emotive or over-descriptive but we have to protect our citizens from the faceless, nameless people who say they are only acting on behalf of somebody else who told them to do it. When people are evicted from their homes there is nothing in it for us as a society. Individual landlords can have difficulties, including, for example, the accidental landlord. We will discuss that later as there are amendments around that issue. I hope the Minister will take on board the sentiment behind this amendment in regard to the regulations to be brought forward in a number of weeks' time. On that basis I ask that the Senator withhold or withdraw the amendment. In light of the fact that most of us in the Chamber agree on the spirit of the amendment, it is premature and pre-empts the regulations that are coming in soon.

I would like to take a step back. We have all, through our offices, dealt with families who have been in huge distress. I am reminded of one particular family who this time last year were being forced out of their home. It was a mother with three children and they had absolutely nowhere to go this time last year. It was this specific situation where the house had gone into receivership and was being sold off to the highest bidder by the receivers. What the amendment is trying to do is swing the pendulum in favour of the families. We have been hearing much talk from the Minister of State and from the Minister that this is all about protecting families and keeping them in their homes. That is exactly what this amendment is trying to do. There are families who through no fault of their own find themselves in the situation where the house has gone into receivership. Or the owner, for whatever reason, has got into trouble with the bank or a vulture fund has bought the mortgage and families are being told that they have to move out. This is a very practical, necessary and crucial amendment.

I respect what Senator Reilly has said but now is the time for passing legislation and for agreeing to amendments. If some subsequent legislation comes in to strengthen or to supersede this legislation, then let that be so, but we are here today to do a job which is to amend the legislation. We have often heard about legislation coming down the road and sometimes that road can get very long. Lots of cans are kicked down the same road so I would be conscious that we need to agree to these amendments here and now. I do not see any reason the Minister of State cannot accept the amendment. Hopefully, he will take it in the spirit it was made. We are coming up to Christmas and we may have families who find themselves in a similar scenario to the families I saw last Christmas. If we can do one good job here today, it would be to accept this amendment and to close off this loophole which would mean that the continuity of tenure that a family has in their home would be sacrosanct. We would be saying, as a basic principle, that families need to be kept in homes. If there are financial difficulties, then they should be sorted out in the background but the families should not be turfed out on the street. I wholeheartedly support this amendment.

For clarification purposes, I wish to talk about the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and the housing assistance payment, HAP, as there is much confusion. It is my understanding that RAS really is no more. Anyone who is on RAS will stay on it but we now have HAP. I think this is working, and in fairness it works with the tenant and with the landlord. Will the Minister of State explain, with regard to HAP, who will enforce the works that need to be carried out on the houses that are in the HAP scheme? Normally this work is done through the local authority but staffing is an issue. This aspect of HAP is a major issue for tenants who find their heating or their stove is not working properly. They come to us because of the new HAP scheme. It needs to be addressed. When the Minister brings in a scheme that works with the local authorities and the landlord, there needs to be enforcement and a protocol so that councillors and Senators can explain the new scheme and what happens.

With regard to rents, it is so important that people are looked after on this new scheme. Anybody who was on RAS has now been taken off their local authority housing list, unless they have been on the list since 2011. I want the Minister of State to address this in the Bill, that is, that anybody who is on RAS is now entitled to go back onto the local authority housing waiting list, which is crucial. People deserve this in the long term and it really needs to be looked at.

I want to acknowledge that a former Senator, Aideen Hayden, has done substantial work in this area. She has been particularly good and strong in highlighting this landlord and receiver issue. Threshold has also produced some interesting material. I respect and I am happy to work with all parties on this but we do need to find some way to address it in this Bill. The Threshold figures show that in the second quarter of 2016, receivers were appointed to 991 buy-to-let properties. An additional 305 properties were taken in to the banks' possession in the same quarter so that in one quarter of the year more than 1,000 properties were going through this process. This is part of the pressing crisis. We worked, I hope constructively, with the Government on planning issues when it was trying to bring in emergency measures to deal with the crisis. We will come to that in later amendments. While we want to see long-term changes, and it would be wonderful to have a long-term policy that changes the nature of tenancy and renting to make renting and secure tenure a real, viable option for people in the longer term - we also have an immediate crisis that comes through. This loophole is more pertinent than ever because we are looking at an extraordinary volume of properties in the hands of receivers. This does not simply relate to eviction. It applies even to the most basic things such as a notice period. We do not want to invoke Christmas, but the fact that people are not even given the basic courtesy of the long established, and I believe still inadequate, notice periods, and all of those normal conventions, is unsafe. I do not believe it is intentional but it is a loophole that is being exploited. I urge the Minister of State, even on Report Stage, to consider it and to work with us to potentially find a way to strengthen it and in some way address it. I recognise it will take another amendment, amendment No. 40, and maybe that will be proposed separately.

They are being discussed together.

The amendment is addressing the same issue and we have heard others speak on it. We are certainly not attached to our wording on this but this loophole is being exploited, it is dangerous and we need to close it down. It is part of the immediate action package that the Minister of State is putting to this House. I do not believe we can address the immediate actions required by the construction industry and not address the immediate protections demanded by citizens in Ireland, families who are resident in houses, given the danger. We do not want to increase the problem. I will come to that later in another section but I believe that the scale of this problem will only intensify in the next two to three years. That is why it needs to be acted on now.

I thank the Senators for the issues they have raised on both amendments and in the general conversation also. We absolutely appreciate what the Senators are trying to do with the amendments and the intention behind them. We are totally with the Senators in recognising the need to address this issue. We have no issue with that whatsoever. During the consultation period around the rental strategy, this issue came up quite a lot. More than 400 submissions were made and there were several days of consultation. We totally understand what the Senators are trying to achieve. However, we believe that to introduce it at this time would be premature having regard to the forthcoming strategy in a couple of weeks' time. The Senator has said that she is willing to work on the wording of it on Report Stage so I ask her to give us a couple of weeks to publish the rental strategy to see what is in that and if it addresses her concerns. If it does not, there will be opportunity at a later Stage on this Bill to add to it, if needs be. I believe it is slightly premature. I know the Senator's intention is right but we are producing the rental strategy.

There has been a lot of consultation involved in it and a lot of good will come out of that strategy. It is not a strategy that will sit on a shelf; it will be implemented by legislation straight away, if required, or this legislation will be adapted. The Department and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, are not publishing strategies just to sit them there; they are being put into motion straight away. Perhaps the Senator will consider holding off until Report Stage to see how we deal with this.

In circumstances where a receiver is appointed to a rental dwelling, it can cause confusion and stress to tenants. Already this morning I had a phone call from a person who is living in fear of a receiver being appointed again because it happened before. It is not a satisfactory arrangement. I do not condone how the banks carried it out. Even the appointment of a receiver causes great stress and fear. People question what will happen and who they will talk to. It is essential that the rights of tenants are protected. The Senator is absolutely right and we agree with her. While the circumstances of each case may vary depending on the terms of the mortgage or charge under which a receiver is appointed, the policies and procedures of banks in appointing receivers must not affect the statutory or contractual rights of tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act. The Senator mentioned the terms of notice. That does not change if a receiver takes over the management of a property. It does not change under existing law and should not change. However, the appointment of receivers to rented dwellings is a symptom of other problems in the rental sector. High levels of landlord indebtedness are leading to insolvency and repossession. This reduces the availability of rental units by ending tenancies, aggravating the basic problem of limited supply, which is the fundamental cause of the difficulties we are experiencing in the rental sector. A major pillar of the action plan for housing, Rebuilding Ireland, is to keep people in their homes, exactly as the Senator has said. We need to stop the numbers increasing. That means we have to do all we can to keep people in their homes. We are with the Senator on that. We do not want the numbers to increase. We are trying to get ahead of the numbers, if at all possible.

Rebuilding Ireland commits to developing a real and meaningful strategy for the rental sector. We are determined that the strategy will provide the vision of the role that the rental sector will play in the short, medium and long term in the context of the Government's objectives for the housing sector, which are set out in Rebuilding Ireland. Finding a solution to encumbered buy-to-lets is an important focus for that strategy. In that context we are examining the possibility of further amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that could help to bring greater clarity in this area and would be benefit to tenants and receivers alike. It will deal with the concerns the Senator has raised today. The preferred solution is to provide that where a person is appointed as a receiver to carry out the functions and exercise the powers of a landlord under tenancy, that person will be considered to be the landlord for the purposes of the 2004 Act. However, the interplay between receivership law and the Residential Tenancies Act is very complex. It is imperative we do not make any amendments that make matters worse or lead to legal uncertainty. The fundamental objective of any amendments must be that tenants' rights are protected and that clear and correct information is available to any tenant affected. Therefore, we cannot accept these amendments at this time. I hope the Senator will believe me when I say it is not that we do not want to deal with the issue. We know we have to. We think it is best dealt with in the strategy. It will also require a lot of legal advice to tease through the complexities of the two laws as well. The Senator might take on board what I am saying about that.

A number of other issues were raised that are not necessarily to do with these amendments. I will address them later. The rent strategy should address most, and ideally all, of the concerns the Senator has raised today. It will be published in the next couple of weeks. It will be implemented and the legislation will follow that straight away.

On the new HAP scheme, Senator Murnane O'Connor is right that it is generally replacing the use of RAS in most cases. It is being rolled out to the last nine local authorities next week, the first week of December. At that stage it will be available to every local authority apart from the four Dublin ones, where it is only used to tackle homelessness at the moment, but it will be rolled out to the Dublin authorities later. The Senator is right that it will generally replace RAS. It is working quite well. There are more than 14,000 households and over 10,000 landlords using the system. I have not heard any complaints and I have been all over the country with it. It is working very well. It is a major part of our solution. It gives people great security. The minimum is two years and in most cases it is actually five or six years. In that situation, the property has to be at a certain standard even before the agreement is reached. It has to pass certain standards. If it slips below that standard at any stage, the tenants have to notify the authority and the authority will make sure the work is carried out. The local authority will not carry out the work. It will not be local authority staff. It is the landlord who owns the property and has to keep it to a high standard. It is very clear in that. It is very tight legislation. There is a team of people based in Limerick who are constantly on the phone to landlords and tenants and they act as the go-betweens. It is a special kind of delivery office for that particular project. It is working quite well. I do not share the Senator's fears but standards have to be reached.

I thank the Minister of State. Staffing is an issue that needs to be addressed, particularly when there is something urgent, such as heating or a leaking roof. Perhaps the Minister of State will keep that in mind.

To return to the Bill and the amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil, we need to clarify that at present, lenders or receivers may seek to evict a tenant without giving them notice required under law. That is true. This amendment would make it that where a bank or vulture fund appoints a receiver to a rented property, they should be required to take on all the responsibilities of the landlord. That is essential. It means that receivers would have the exact same obligations as the landlord to existing tenants with regard to Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act, such as provisions relating to security of the tenant, maintenance and upkeep of the rented property, which is very important, and the notice to quit provision. The amendment also attempts to avoid legal situations that exist at present for tenants whose landlords are in receivership where landlords are still solely and fully responsible for returning the tenant's deposit even though they are in receivership. That is an issue. This amendment also creates an obligation on the receivers to make sure the deposit is returned in full. That is an issue I, like others, face every day. People are coming into my clinics because nobody is taking responsibility. This needs to be addressed in the Bill.

I listened very carefully to the Minister of State as he gave his response. With all due respect, I felt the logic behind the response was nonsensical. To tell us there is a strategy coming in a number of weeks and there will be legislation based on that is asking us to buy a pig in a poke. It is asking us to take a punt on legislation we do not have before us. Our job is to scrutinise and try to improve the legislation we see before us. I appreciate the Minister of State is genuine about addressing the housing situation. I do not know if he, as I have, has spent a day in the repossessions court. I did so recently and it was an absolute eye-opener. I recommend that all elected representatives do it. What is going on is quite scary. The types of organisations that are mentioned in the two amendments put forward here are absolutely ruthless. I saw situations in the repossessions court in Galway where there are people who have made every effort to repay mortgages and are still paying a vast amount of the money they are supposed to pay yet these ruthless companies are still going after them for the tiny bit that is left. In some cases, I saw mortgages paid up to almost 80% or 90% but these companies, which I better not name, are still going after people to try to repossess and take houses off them. Some of the registrars are very good and they do not buy into that if people are making a genuine effort. It goes to the ethos of the companies behind this, which are just big money vulture capitalists in many cases. There are many examples across the country of this happening.

What this amendment is trying to do is to protect people in houses. The Minister of State may say there is strategy coming forward in four weeks. It will be Christmas then. When will the legislation come through? It will be spring and into the summer next year before that legislation is passed through the Houses. How many more households will be in a position where they are getting turfed out of their houses by these ruthless receivers? If we could only save a fraction of those families from destitution and being put out of their houses by inserting these two amendments here today, we should do it. The logic for it has been very well argued. I call on all sides of the House to support these amendments. If the Minister needs to bring in subsequent legislation in the spring, if it supersedes this and improves the situation, we will look at it at that stage and support it. It is incumbent on us to do this. We cannot go back to people who are ringing us up saying they are going to be turfed out of their houses because the receiver has come in and said they have to leave and tell them we had a chance in the Seanad but we have to wait for another couple of months before we can put the proper legislation in place to protect them. We will fail in our duty to those people if we do not accept these amendments.

On the amendments, we all accept there is a need to protect people. In acceptance of that overarching principle, there is common agreement that something must be done. I hope the Minister and Minister of State will give consideration to the principle of the amendments. The Minister of State mentioned the rental strategy. I accept that is coming. I believe in the Minister and Minister of State's bona fides and sincerity. Does the receiver not have an obligation and responsibility as well? How can we differentiate between the receiver and the landlord?

The receiver de facto becomes a landlord in some cases and he or she has a responsibility and obligation. Like Senator Ó Clochartaigh, we all work and live in the real world. On occasion receivers or whoever comes under that umbrella do not live up to their responsibilities or duties. All of us have received phone calls, texts and e-mails from members of the public in our communities who have suddenly been told that their house is being sold, it will be put on the market and they must vacate the premises by a certain date. In some cases it turns out the receiver, fund or whoever is managing the account is not selling the house but using the occasion as a ruse to get people out of the house. That development is a worry.

I heard the remarks made by the Minister of State and know he is putting something in place. I hope that the principle behind the amendment can be built upon.

The Leader is correct that the function of a receiver has been split by the amendment. The job is to maximise whatever he or she can get for the assets that he or she has been given. We have a rising housing market. Therefore, the receiver will want vacant possession and that will result in people being put out on the street.

I support the comments made by Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I, too, have been in repossession courts and seen the ruthlessness of some banks. I was delighted to be in one particular court where a judge told a bank, after eight appearances, that the judge would give the house to the occupant and asked the bank to go away as it could not produce the paperwork.

I agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh that we must be careful because the problem exists now. The Minister of State has a difficulty because he will bring forward proposals at some future date. If he allows the legislation to go through without the amendment we will find ourselves in a situation where people are put out on the street. I ask him to accept the amendment as it will not damage his Bill but will keep people in their homes.

To be clear, the contractual rights of tenants, under the Residential Tenancies Act, are protected even with the presence of a receiver. That provision does not prevent a receiver from trying something or bringing a person to court. The rights of tenants still exist and the courts know their job. It is not a case that thousands of people have been put out of their houses and plenty of people go to court. As Senator Craughwell has correctly said, the courts system and registrars afford people protection and give them every chance to remain in their homes whether they are owned or rented. The number of people affected is often exaggerated but it is a problem. Senators should not give the impression that a few thousand people are affected by this every week as the number is a lot less. We want to stop the problem.

In respect of the amendments, we are not saying "Trust us as it will be grand in a week's time." We are in the middle of a rental strategy. We had a consultation process that included workshop days for people. We also invited people to submit written submissions and received 476 written submissions that cover a range of issues. All stakeholders on all sides of the equation are involved in the process.

In terms of due process, we will have a better strategy and solutions if we are allowed to finish the process. All we need are a couple of weeks. The process may be finished before this Bill finishes its run in both Houses. I remind Senators that there will be time and space available to make changes here, if required. I appeal to the logical side of Senators who want to bring in good legislation and I urge them to allow us to finish the consultation process. Many concerns have been raised here today and all of us want the strategy to address the problem.

Senators have mentioned that they have dealt with clients who are dealing with the issue of repossession. People come to my office every week with the same problem. My background is in finance and I spend a lot of time every week working with clients who have found themselves in this situation. I try to help people to work through their issues and that is what Deputies and Senators do. Therefore, I am well aware, as is the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and our officials, of what must be done and we shall try to address the issues in the rental strategy.

I believe Senators will be happy with the solutions generated by the process. The interplay between receivership law and the Residential Tenancies Act is very complicated. Bringing in amendments, outside of the full consultation process, might not have the desired effect. They might complicate the legislation and lead to other problems. I ask Senators to allow us a little time to finish our work. Most Senators are reasonable and want us to get things right. We want to get the legislation right so we all want the same result. We are in the middle of a strategy that is nearly finished. Many people from all sides have engaged in the process. We want all stakeholders to engage. We will bring forward a rental strategy that will balance the security of supply and the rights of tenants. The strategy will also attract more professional investors that will be better in the long run for people who want to rent. The strategy is a genuine attempt to fix the issue. As most Senators will agree, the Government does not want to put the issue on the long finger. I ask them to consider the implications involved and to remember that the Government wants to get things right. I ask Senators to give us a bit to time to finish our work that I think will address the problem.

The action plan includes a mortgage-to-rent option that we are revamping and will relaunch. The initiative will deal with many clients who are in a similar situation but need extra help. A strengthened mortgage-to-rent option will be of major help to thousands of families and it has already helped a couple of hundred families.

In respect of people who are being pushed for higher rents, when some people receive a letter from the receiver or get the nod from the landlord demanding extra rent they panic and either leave straightaway, return the keys or do not engage. I can assure the Senators that over 9,500 individuals have received increased rent support by engaging. The State, through its agencies, gets involved with the landlord, receiver or banks to negotiate a fairer rent. That rent has been paid in over 9,000 cases and kept people in their homes. There is a process available. I am not saying there are cases where the receivers do not engage. I am saying there is a process that has helped many families and prevented them from being made homeless. The State will try to use the initiative more.

Since July we have increased the rent ceiling by up to 20%. I have engaged with local authorities and, following my analysis, I can say that for most of them the increase in rent sought has not reached the 20% ceiling and instead has reached 8% or 10%. That means there is more space for manoeuvre. We are in a position to deal with demands for a rent increase when they are teased out. Solutions are available and there will be more solutions provided in the rental strategy. The amendments we are debating are genuine but they are slightly premature.

I am quite flabbergasted by the Minister of State's answer. This legislation has gone through the rigours of his Department. The Government is trying to react quickly to an emergency situation. The Fianna Fáil and Independent Senators have done their homework and drafted amendments. This is the Parliament where we are supposed to consider the legislation before us and bring forward amendments. I do not believe the legislation and amendments should be kicked to touch.

The Minister of State has mentioned figures. He has said that he felt the number of people who find themselves in this type of situation is not that huge. The Peter McVerry Trust has been very good at giving us statistics. It states on its website:

Statistics on homelessness are important in helping to analyse and understand the issue. However, it is important to note that these numbers cannot convey the personal trauma that homelessness can bring.

Statistics must be considered. According to the figures available on the website of the Department of housing there were 6,709 people homeless in September 2016 of which 4,283 were adults and 2,426 were children. Let us look at mortgage arrears, which is probably the area that these amendments would affect, where there were 109,134 mortgages in arrears. The final figure on the same sheet is even more interesting. At the end of quarter 2 2016, figures show that 2,468 properties, comprised of principal homes and investment properties, were repossessed or surrendered. That statistic proves we are not talking about a small number of people or something that has happened out of the blue of which the Department is unaware. We are very much aware of this scenario. We are all aware that the repossession courts deal with hundreds of people in every District Court area across the country. I do not buy the argument made by the Minister of State that we should think about the implications of the amendments. The amendments tabled have been thought through and are logical. I urge the Senators who proposed the amendments to push them to a vote. Let us do our job here today and stand up for all of the families who are in danger of being turfed out of their houses between now and Christmas and beyond.

Nobody is trying to hide the figures or dilute them. We publish them. There is a perception that thousands of repossession cases are going through the courts every week. I am well aware of the numbers of people in temporary accommodation, who are homeless or on the streets. It is totally unsatisfactory. The numbers are far too high. There is no issue with those figures. It is not a case that thousands of people are being dragged through the courts every week to have their home taken from them. Senator Ó Clochartaigh knows that. There is no point in scaring people at Christmas time.

There were 100 cases at the last hearing in Galway.

My point is that there are not a thousand cases per week. That perception is being created. People are living under too much fear. We are trying to help people by providing protection.

It is kicking to touch.

Absolutely not. I am appealing to people's logic. We have consulted all the stakeholders as we want them to buy into this legislation. We have discussed many strategies and I believe one of the most successful ones was the science strategy. Everybody got involved and everybody bought into the strategy. Similarly we are trying to bring to fruition a rental strategy that everybody has been involved in as stakeholders and can get involved in, buy into it and help to implement it. If in the middle of the work on this strategy, just when it is about to be published, we make amendments and changes, that is not the way to do business. Senator Ó Clochartaigh is quite entitled to table the amendments, but I am suggesting that he wait.

We will introduce this amendment on Report Stage but it is important that this issue is sorted for tenants who are in a no-win situation. I know the Minister of State will revert to us on Report Stage. I will wait until the Minister of State has the reports and I ask him to come back to us at that time.

During the debate last night, I am not sure whether the Minister of State had the opportunity to address the subject as he was only in the Chamber for a short time.

I did not get the chance to do so.

The Minister did, but it is a case of live horse and eat grass. We are being told that the amendments we have tabled will be dealt with down the line. The problem is that the housing crisis is not improving or getting any better. It is getting worse. I am not being dramatic. I know there is no quick-fix solution to the problem. I was part of the previous Government that was trying to put the building blocks in place to try to solve it. It will take time to solve it. I asked last night and I repeat it now whether the Minister of State will give a guarantee that he will deal with this specific issue in the legislation he is bringing forward in a couple of weeks?

I am trying to speed up the debate. I do not want Members to be repetitive.

This is my first time to speak this afternoon. I will leave it at that.

I understand where the Minister of State is coming from but I wish he would understand where we are coming from. Last night the Minister, Deputy Coveney, was magnanimous enough to accept an amendment and say he would table his own amendment to it on Report Stage. Nobody wants to scare people, but we must be realistic and we must be honest as well. Even if only ten people were brought before the courts each week, it is ten too many.

When a receiver takes responsibility for a property, that receiver is obliged to maximise the value of the property or the value of the asset. At the end of the day the receivers are chucking people out on the street. We know this. Let us not scare people, but let us be on the side of people rather than on the side of the banks or the receivers. The Minister of State can accept this amendment and amend it if he thinks there is something wrong with what is being put before him. We have to send a signal to receivers, banks and the people that our primary concern is for the citizens of the State and for the citizens' homes.

There is a reported increase of 35% in homelessness in Dublin. I am getting word from Galway and from all over the country about homelessness. This is nothing new. We are used to it at this stage. That is probably what is wrong. We are getting used to the notion of pumping billions of euros into the pockets of hotel owners. Let us do something right for citizens.

There are brilliant people in the Department who can tweak or change this amendment. We need to nail down property, as it were, in order that people can face into Christmas. While I always think it is a bit glib when they say a puppy is not for Christmas, but similarly a house is not for Christmas either. We need to give people some degree of security as they go forward and we have to put a stop to those who are maximising the assets, particularly in a rising market. I request the Minister of State to accept this amendment and amend it on Report Stage.

Appointing a receiver does not do away with the obligations under the statutory law, the Residential Tenancies Act.

If they are going to sell the assets.

It does not change that. That does not mean that receivers will not try things but it does not change the contractual law. People are protected. The amendments that have been tabled do not address all the concerns that are being raised. I think Senator Higgins has not claimed that.

The Minister of State should bring a better one forward.

She is not claiming that. There are other issues to be addressed.

In response to Senator Landy, we believe the rental strategy will address the concerns raised. We are in the middle of a process, that is nearly finalised. There will be time before the Bill has gone through all Stages in the Oireachtas to amend it if needs be, and if new legislation is required for other areas, we will publish that straight away. We genuinely want to tackle this problem. We are ad idem. Even one case in the courts is one too many. I said we should not try to exaggerate the number of cases. I try to deal with facts. The facts of the situation are that there are far too many people today who are homeless, in temporary accommodation or on the streets. That is not satisfactory. It is not good enough. We are not desensitised whatsoever. There is a very strong commitment that by June next year, nobody will be living in hotels or bed and breakfast accommodation. One cannot get a stronger commitment than that.

On the question of whether we can reach that target, I would say we can. I think that in the next month or two we will see the figures going in the right direction. That will still be far too many. This year 72,700, if not more, will have left homelessness and will be living in permanent accommodation. Progress is being made. It is not enough because the numbers coming onto the homeless list are still too high. There is movement because of the efforts of everybody and because of cross-party actions. People have voted to allocate €5.5 billion, which is a great deal of taxpayer's money.

The funding and extra resources in terms of manpower are now in place and all the Departments are on board. The agencies involved in working with people on the streets are getting the extra resources. We will see the change. The Senator is correct that a 35% increase on the figures from this time last year is a stark figure and is far too high. That is the reason we must address it.

As I said to Senator Higgins, a major part of the strategy is to keep people in their homes, which is the intent of these amendments. We are with the Senators on that, but we cannot accept these amendments. They are premature and they are legally very complicated in regard to the law.

What I am pointing to here is important and affects whether we put the question. I will not reiterate all the points that have been made. Senator Craughwell touched on something which is the core of the issue, namely, that at the moment the key responsibility of receivers is to maximise economic return. That is their only imperative. They do not have another mandate clearly set out which they choose to ignore. This amendment does not solve every issue and does not do away with that work, but it does place a double responsibility and ensures receivers also fulfil the function of landlord. It is very explicit. It is not an attempt to solve every problem. I do not believe it is a matter of a massive evaluation of our rental strategy. It is an active loophole. Elsewhere in the legislation, and we will come to it, the Minister of State is trying to close other loopholes, such as we saw in Tyrrelstown. This is an immediate unforeseen loophole. This is not asking for a radical change in strategy. I do not even think it is a part of the strategy. It is a direct specific problem, identified and recognised by the Minister of State, which is to say, where there is a receiver, who is acting as landlord?

The question is who is acting as landlord when there is a receiver? Who do tenants have to act as landlord and who is responsible and culpable? It is very simple. I will be clear because this affects whether we push the point today. It will not be a satisfactory answer for the Government to say it will deal with this in a rental strategy. It needs to be dealt with in this legislation. I do not believe it is pre-emptive or disrespectful to those who contributed to the strategy. The Government can look to further protections and a long-term vision for renting within the strategy. This is to close a loophole. We are absolutely willing to work with the Government. We are happy to work with Fianna Fáil on its amendment. Something needs to go into this legislation. If it does not go in today, it needs to go in on Tuesday. We are absolutely willing-----

The Senator has made the point.

It affects whether we press a vote right now so I am asking the Minister of State to confirm that he will look-----

I will come to the Minister of State in two minutes. I want to hear a couple of others first.

-----to see if he can put forward an amendment. It affects the vote. Can the Minister of State guarantee that we will have the opportunity to vote on our amendments on Tuesday because we will be voting on them and the decision is between today and Tuesday?

I assure the Senator they will have to be voted on.

I am happy to withdraw the amendment if we get the guarantee that the Minister of State will look at introducing an amendment.

We will hear that in a minute but before I hear the Minister of State I call on Senator Ó Clochartaigh and Senator Craughwell.

For clarification-----

We are going around the House, so the Senator should be brief.

I have not opened my mouth yet. Mind-reading is a great skill altogether. The Minister of State has mentioned the strategy that is coming forward and that it will be underpinned by legislation. Can the Minister of State clarify what the name of that legislation is? Where is it at the moment? Is it actually on the legislative programme? When will it be published so we can look at it? That is very important in the context of the decision that is to be made. I echo the sentiments of the previous speaker. This needs to be put into this legislation unless the Minister of State can be very convincing between now and Tuesday.

I ask my colleagues not to press a vote on this because if the Minister of State is steadfast in his opposition to the amendment we will bring it back on Report Stage. This is not going away. It would be much better if the Minister of State was to accept the amendment now. Senator Higgins put the case eloquently in the last few minutes. The Minister of State should accept the amendment. It will not kill the Bill but the Minister of State runs the risk of killing the Bill if he does not accept the amendment. That is something the Minister of State has to think about. We are talking about people's lives and homes. It is, as Senator Higgins said, closing off a loophole. That is all it is doing.

Does the Minister of State want to reply to those few points?

To be very clear, the strategy will not be published by Tuesday. I am not going to tell a lie. We have to have our strategy finished. That is what we desire before we bring in any changes. There might be time before this is finished in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The strategy might be published and we can make amendments to the Bill if need be at that stage. If we do that, it would come back here again. I believe the strategy-----

There is a possibility of an amendment on Report Stage.

We will look at that before Tuesday and see if we can help the Senator. Our aim is to have a strategy finished first and then we can make the changes. Senator Ó Clochartaigh asked if we have legislation published. We do not because we want the strategy first. The legislation will follow. We can be amending legislation and we can make changes to some of the existing Bills as well. If new legislation is required, it will be published and it will not be delayed. That is what we are saying. We are not publishing legislation because we want the strategy first. Many of the issues Senators have raised, particular those about the courts, are not actually what these amendments are trying to achieve at all. That is not what these amendments are about at all, if one actually reads the amendments.

They are the backdrop to it.

I accept what the Senator is trying to do but they are not in these amendments here. On the issue of the courts and people's properties, they are protected under existing laws and those laws are not diluted by the receiver. The issues Senator Higgins raises are other issues which I accept need to be addressed. They will be addressed in the rental strategy, maybe in a clearer, less complicated way. This is entering into a very complex legal area which might not give the desired effect. That is what I am saying to the Senator. If she gives us a little bit of time, I will try to bring forward something before Tuesday that might help her in her decision. I cannot promise we will have something that will suit her by Tuesday but I will certainly arm her with what I have.

We will have the opportunity to vote on it on Tuesday so we will withdraw it now. I want to be clear.

The Senator will, of course.

The Senator can vote on it on Report Stage.

Is amendment No. 21, that the new section be there inserted, agreed to?

No. I withdraw the amendment, reserving the right to reintroduce it on Tuesday with the promise of a vote that the Minister of State has given.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I am going now to amendment No. 22. What is the status of amendment No. 22?

It has not been proposed yet.

Amendments Nos. 22 to 25, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 19 (setting of rent above market rent prohibited) of Act of 2004

27. Section 19(2)(b) of the Act of 2004 is hereby repealed.”.

I will also discuss amendment No. 23 which relates to rent certainty and proposes that any subsequent increases in the level of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling shall not be greater than the rate of inflation, as provided for by the consumer price index as issued by the Central Statistics Office.

This is the third time I have spoken in this House about the need for rent certainty. Each time I outlined that such a measure is supported by a range of civil society groups from Impact to the Simon Communities of Ireland. Such measures would be backed by employers. In Cork, Apple is having huge problems recruiting people because of rising rents. Such measures are already in place in Europe in countries such as Sweden and France.

Each time I have outlined that rent certainty would stem the tide of homelessness. The measures that have been taken in Rebuilding Ireland are certainly having an impact but the problem is it is a revolving door which more people are coming through because of rent increases and situations, like those described, that are caused by receivership.

In addition to addressing homelessness, we are also creating homelessness by failing to act in key areas. Other Members have also raised the need for urgent action on rent certainty. Each time we raised it, the Government told us to wait, that it had a plan and this plan was coming in the form of the rental strategy. With all that in mind, I was shocked when the Taoiseach said in the Dáil this week that he was not aware that the two-year rent freeze will begin to come to an end in 11 days' time on 4 December, for anyone who has been in a tenancy since 2014. The Taoiseach's comments proved that the Government is not taking the issue of rising rents seriously, that he has not been briefed and that the much lauded rental strategy has not been discussed. If it had been discussed, the Taoiseach would have known that the rent freeze is ending and he would have known what is planned to replace it but when asked and questioned, he was not able to answer.

David Ehrlich of Ireland's biggest landlord, IRES REIT, on the other hand, is fully briefed on the issue. He said last week that we have never seen rental increases like this in any jurisdiction that we are aware of. He went on to say that he, who is benefitting from all of this, feels bad for the Irish people. We need action. People cannot wait for the market to fix itself. The market is broken and it needs regulation and it needs it urgently.

Our amendment provides a common sense response and, with nothing else on the cards, I urge the Minister of State to accept this amendment and provide reassurance to the thousands of tenants out there that their rents will not spike again when the freeze ends on 4 December. I know the Minister of State will talk about the rental strategy as the answer to all of that but we need facts and figures. When will the rental strategy be published? What day? Will it have legislative underpinnings? We are talking about legislation now. We all know we have rooms filled with strategies that are not implemented in this country. It is no reassurance to hear this will be dealt with under the rental strategy. I would like the Minister of State to accept the proposed amendments. If he cannot do that, will he give us facts and figures, like Senator Ó Clochartaigh has asked for, around the rental strategy?

This is the third time Sinn Féin has brought forward propositions to these Houses on rent certainty. We absolutely believe it is necessary. I believe from statements that have been made by other parties, which have opposed some of the legislation we brought forward previously, that they may be having a change of heart. It is absolutely essential. We are seeking increases of over 14% in rents in places like Galway. The type of rent increases that people are suffering are unbelievably astronomical.

To say that a modest measure on linking rents to the consumer price index, CPI, cannot be acceptable to a Government is unacceptable to us. A plethora of issues relate to the rent certainty matter and the private rental market. I hope to God that we are not going to hear another diatribe about an upcoming rental strategy in four weeks' time and that the questions will be dealt with then. Now is the time.

As regards these amendments, I put it up to Fianna Fáil. It needs to get on board with rent certainty because the issue is out of control. People in receipt of RAS or HAP have been unable to find suitable accommodation in many towns and cities for years. Many of them have had to make under-the-table payments to landlords to top-up their rents. Even then, they find that they can no longer keep up with escalating rents. The Government has not proposed credible proposals to address these issues. The measures that were introduced by the previous Government under Deputy Kelly did not have the impact intended. There is a crisis.

Rent certainty is not only good for the tenant, but for the landlord. If any reputable landlord who is trying to manage his or her finances has rent certainty, at least he or she knows whether rent will increase of decrease if it is linked with the CPI and can manage that investment over years and talk to financial institutions. If landlords are in negative equity, they can put together plans to get themselves out of trouble based on rent certainty, but volatility in the free-for-all market is unacceptable. It is forcing families into homelessness, sleeping in cars or on the streets or moving into hotel rooms. These amendments must be passed. Third time is lucky, but that depends on Fianna Fáil getting on board. We have the numbers in the Seanad to pass the amendments. If Fianna Fáil stands with the people and the sentiments that have been expressed by some of their representatives in recent weeks are real, it will stand with us on these amendments and ensure that, whenever the Bill is passed, the matter of rent certainty will be included in it. People will thank us for it.

Yesterday, the Central Bank made changes in mortgage requirements. A great deal of work has been done to assist people in buying their homes, but if they are in rented accommodation in a major Irish city, they can forget about it. Rent takes every penny they have. During the negotiations on the programme for Government, I requested that rent be taken into account as savings and that 100% mortgages be allowed. If a person has shown an ability to pay rent of €1,500 or €1,600 per month, how could he or she save anything?

The Civil Engagement group has proposed a practical, realistic and simple amendment. One would have to be brain dead not to pick up on what the group is saying. It is wrong that landlords are allowed to make supernormal profits at the expense of the hard-working people of this country, most of whom have not had a pay rise since 2008. I would love to compare rents in Dublin in 2008 and today. I know what my children and relatives are paying. Some of their rents have increased. Others have good landlords and their rents have not increased at all because they have been good tenants. Those are decent, civic-minded landlords. In other cases, however, landlords have taken people for hundreds of euro every year.

The amendment would provide certainty. No one would lose. Landlords would get their rents in line with the CPI and the tenants would know where they stand. It is a wonderful amendment and I ask that the Minister of State take it on board. If he is unwilling to do so, I will join with my colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh, and tell Fianna Fáil to get behind it. This amendment deserves 100% support in the House.

We were given promises on future legislation. In recent days, my party has, through our spokesperson, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, published a Bill on rent certainty. To paraphrase Senator Craughwell, the issue is so simple, it is outrageous. We are discussing linking rent to the CPI, which is the best measurement.

All sorts of excuses have been found for not doing anything about this issue. What happened with Senator Grace O'Sullivan's Bill yesterday was an example of how, whenever someone on the Opposition benches proposes a good idea, other parties run to publish similar Bills, including those in government. This amendment saves everyone the bother. If the Minister of State or his back room team have a better idea on how to deal with this situation in separate legislation, let us in on it today. Otherwise, this amendment is the way that it should be addressed. The road is only so long and eventually the can reaches its end. For the Government, the end of the road in terms of rent certainty is coming. If the Minister of State is not going to accept the amendment, what is the detail of what the Government intends to do? I do not want to be told that it is examining the issue or will have a measure ready. I want to be told what the Government will do that will be better than what this amendment would do. Otherwise, I will support the amendment.

In principle, I support the legislation. We are trying to give legal effect to the Rebuilding Ireland document, which is a Government policy. Having watched webcasts of some of last night's debate this morning, though, it is clear that this is rushed legislation. There are whole segments that the Government has to get further detail on, it is working on the regulations, it might have something next week, etc. Rushed legislation is bad legislation. The Government is under pressure and the Minister with responsibility, Deputy Coveney, is keen to get this going, but if we should put the brakes on the Bill for a week or two in order to get it right, he should do so. Everyone would agree.

The Minister of State might clarify for the House the rental strategy. Importantly, the Government has indicated that it wants to introduce a rental strategy. The Summary of Social Housing Assessments was last filed in the Department in 2013, yet there is a housing crisis. Another is under way for 2016, but surely it should have been completed by now if the Minister of State knew that he was coming to the House to discuss a housing strategy and so on. I will point to page 26 of 34 pages.

We are discussing an amendment on rent certainty, Senator, not past documents.

This has to do with the amendment and the Government's rental strategy.

We do not want a Second Stage speech.

I will finish, if I may.

I will point to page 26, which has a table listing the current tenancy tenures in the 31 local authorities. Its columns are private rent with rent supplement, private rent with no rent supplement, living with a parent, living with a friend, emergency, owner-occupier, other categories and the grand total. This information is critical to any policy, but the Government does not have it. I had that confirmed for me today.

We will hear from the Minister of State in a minute.

May I finish? We have an allotted time.

The Senator is delaying unduly.

I am not. Let me continue.

Carry on. Please, speed this up.

I am not catching a train to anywhere.

For the record, I do not believe that I am either.

It will be the midnight express.

(Interruptions).

Irish Rail does late night trains to Kerry now.

Will the Minister of State tell us when he will produce the strategy? I am prepared to wait if he says it will happen soon.

We will hear the Minister of State.

Will you let me finish, please?

I do not want the Senator to pre-empt what the Minister of State might say.

I am not pre-empting what he might say. I asked him whether he would share with us when he was going to produce the rental strategy.

Of course. He heard that, I think.

The Minister of State is half your age and was well able to hear it. He might tell us what the position is on the strategy. I also want him to give us some facts and provide some information. Will he be in a position to bring the 2016 document to us next week? That is going to come up on us and it will be relevant. The more information he has for us, the stronger his case will be in convincing us.

I agree with previous speakers. Rent certainty is important. I, too, am keen to hear on what the Minister of State and the Department have been working. I firmly believe the homeless crisis is partly due to high rents. This relates to people who are not placed on local authority housing lists because they are above the limit. I have a major issue with this. This issue must be addressed and I have said as much to the Department. A limit of €27,500 for a couple to be placed on a local authority housing list is unacceptable when in neighbouring counties it is €30,000 and €32,000. All of these factors are preventing people from being placed on local authority housing lists. Then, all of a sudden, they cannot afford to pay rent. Therefore, rent certainty is vital for local authorities also. I am keen to hear the views of the Minister of State.

Will the Senator support the amendment?

We have put forward a number of amendments. I realise Sinn Féin has tabled an amendment, while we have a slightly different one. There are two versions and I am keen to highlight two or three important facts.

Rents are running away. I have the figures before me. In some parts of the country there have been 19% increases over a period of one year. Across the country the average increase has been 12.5%. Incomes are not increasing by 12% a year. That is why people cannot wait another year for legislation. They need to be able to plan for what will happen in the next year. They are enrolling children in schools, yet they are not sure whether they will be able to continue to live in the neighbourhood and whether their children will continue to be able to go to the same schools. They cannot plan their lives. Rents are higher now than they were during the boom. They have skewed the financial relationship in the sense that they are not bound in any way to any other indicator in the economy. The only indicator to which they might be tied is the ludicrous GDP figure of 26%. We are not seeing these crazy scale-ups in rents anywhere else. It is both an emergency and a crisis and the cost is being felt not only by families but also by the State. We see it in industrial unrest and protests. When we dig down into many of the other issues that come up in the House, it comes down to people believing they cannot afford to pay rent. The Minister of State knows it has been a key issue in many of the industrial relations disputes we have seen. We need to tackle the issue.

We have tried to be accommodating and set out two amendments. Will the Minister of State accept at least one of them? In one amendment we have set out a proposal on rent certainty. In the other we are proposing something different. The Minister of State is asking us to suspend the normal practice in seeking planning permission. He has said this is an emergency and that the Construction Industry Federation has stated it is an emergency which requires special new measures. We are suggesting it be tracked within the same dates. The proposal is separate from the rental strategy, no more than the Minister of State would suggest the fast-tracked housing strategy was a suitable long-term strategy to manage planning permissions. It is made clear that this would not be our long-term model for planning permissions. It is an emergency measure. Our second amendment explicitly proposes that we link rent increases to the consumer price index until 31 December 2019, the same date to which the Minister of State has asked the House to support the fast-tracked and unusual planning arrangements. If we are providing for emergency planning measures while the conversation on planning is ongoing, we could introduce emergency measures to provide rent certainty and still have an ongoing conversation on the rental and tenancy strategy to be followed. This is a simple amendment.

We are discussing a crisis that will land on the Government's plate. My colleague has spoken about 4 December being the expiry date of the current arrangements. Those in charge of this area are perfectly aware that this is their opportunity. We are going give a gift of a vast hike in rents in January unless we make this amendment. This is an opportunity for the Government to control it. It would not be carte blanche; it is a simple measure. It would be tied to the dates the Government has identified. That is the purpose of amendment No. 24. Even if the Minister of State is not minded to accept amendment No. 23, I call on him to consider and accept amendment No. 24. It is important that he give that signal now before we make our decisions on what amendments we will press in the House today.

The amendments relate to an issue which we all agree probably has the highest priority. We all know it is a major issue in driving up the homeless figures. Our motivation in the action plan for housing is to increase the supply of housing, while increasing security of tenure. Most people accept that increased supply is the answer to most of our problems. Everything we are trying to do will serve to increase rather than discourage supply. I realise the motives of Senators are also to seek to solve the problem.

The pressures in the rental market are acute and being driven by several factors, including rising demand, lack of supply and the high costs indebted landlords face in servicing their loans. This is borne out by the latest data quoted today which show rents are rising throughout the country. I am not denying that they are too high and we are fully aware of the pressure people are under in the rental market. Certainly, we appreciate and understand the motivation behind the amendments. Having said that, we strongly believe the proposal that rent increases be tied strictly to the consumer price index in a blunt way would exacerbate an already chronic supply problem by forcing existing suppliers of properties to exit the market and by discouraging others to supply them in the fudure. It would also be inappropriate, given the vastly different market conditions in different parts of the country. However, we believe rent predictability, underpinned by a sustainable investment environment, is something that could be of benefit to both tenants and landlords. We have discussed this issue in the Dáil on two previous occasions and will discuss it again next week in the context of the document Rebuilding Ireland. We fear the Senator's proposal is a blunt instrument and we are trying to come at the issue from a different angle. In Rebuilding Ireland we are committed to developing a real and meaningful strategy for the rental sector. I realise I am driving all Senators mad by referring to this continually, but I cannot change the story which is the same as it was ten minutes ago. The rental strategy will be published in a couple of weeks. It is close to being finished and has involved a great deal of consultation. Many Members of this House and many political parties have made submissions.

I am becoming more worried about the strategy as the Minister of State continues to speak.

We will bring the issue to a head in one minute.

I do not share the concerns of Senator Higgins because I know that the document will bring many solutions and that it is part of a process. We need a proper process to provide solutions across the board. We need to increase supply in the market, as well as increasing the level of service, quality, security and choice. That is what we are trying to do. In fairness, at the end of her contribution Senator Colette Kelleher referred to putting this forward in the absence of anything else. I cannot convince her, but I am asking her to believe us. We will bring forward the strategy in a couple of weeks and it has been designed to deal with much of this. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to provide for security of tenure and choice to increase supply. The strategy will give people confidence to tackle the issues that Senators are keen to tackle in the rental market. We believe it will help us to achieve more. There will be a major focus on supply, but the process will also involve new mechanisms for setting and reviewing rents.

Every political party, many members of the public and other stakeholders in the rental sector have had an opportunity to contribute in writing to the rental strategy. I know that many Senators have done so and the submissions made have been valuable in developing the strategy. They have all been teased through. A total of 475 submissions in total were received and several hundred were similar. Certainly over 150 covered different points of view, issues and ideas. There is, therefore, more than one way to deal with this, as I know Senators appreciate. We have put of all these ideas into the pot to try to determine the best strategy to develop and the plan is to publish it in a couple of weeks. It is close to being finished and we will launch it in a couple of weeks.

It will set out a realistic, targeted plan for dealing with the serious issues we are discussing here today.

However, we are not ready to make amendments to the Bill that pre-empt the policy proposals in a strategy which is not yet finalised. To legislate blindly on foot of policy which is not fully developed risks exacerbating the problems we already face. We may well introduce significant amendments on Committee Stage in the Dáil on some of the matters we are discussing today, but we need to ensure that any amendments on rent predictability balance the concerns and rights of tenants and landlords and are put forward as part of a comprehensive package of measures. It is that package of measures I ask the Members to give us time with; it will be a couple of weeks. It will be published before this is finished in the Dáil. We will make amendments then if need be and they will be back here for consultation. I recognise the concerns expressed here today and understand and appreciate that considerable time was taken to put the amendments together. We have had this conversation on a couple of occasions here and in the other House so I know people are getting frustrated. I accept that completely. I am not asking Members to buy a pig in a poke or to wait a year. These are changes that will be introduced in the next couple of weeks and I appreciate that I am asking the Senators to accept something they cannot physically see.

Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act set out in the Bill form only a small part of what will be announced in the strategy. We will have more in a larger package, which I think Senator Higgins accepts. I ask Members to bear with us and not to judge these amendments as the complete picture but to wait for the publication of the strategy in the next couple of weeks. It will be the roadmap for solving a great deal of the crisis. It is up to Senators, but we are genuinely trying to put a strategy together that brings all thoughts and views together. Senator Boyhan asked if we were designing the strategy blindly or were unsure of the figures. The 2016 figures are more or less complete and we will publish them before 2017. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, and I have visited local authorities over the past couple of months and have been getting a picture of the figures as we have gone along. We have seen what the trends are and those figures are part of our plan. The strategy and the legislation are not actually about the figures; they are designed to put in place the processes, solutions, choices and toolkit we need to address all these issues. Regardless of how bad the figures are or whether they are improving, this is the toolkit we need to address the issue. That is why we are saying that we are bringing forward a package of measures. That said, we are keeping the figures in view and the Senator is right that we have to bear in mind how serious they are.

According to the 2013 figures, there were 89,000 people on the housing lists at that time. Some local authorities are very black and white about how they put their lists together while others are a bit flexible with the rules. We will have updated figures. Those figures covered different people in different situations and accommodation types. We have to be realistic about the fact that those figures at some stage went up but might have come down by the time the strategy is published at the end of the month. The majority of people on those lists are actually in accommodation. Some are looking for different types of accommodation while others are happy to get assisted rent. Others want a social house. There are different solutions and we have to bear in mind that not all of those people would take a house tomorrow if one were offered. Our priority has to be those people who are under major pressure and who are being forced out of their houses by high rents and who are in temporary accommodation today, which we know is nearly 7,000 people. They have to be our priority. It is our commitment to deal with that and to put in place greater protections for those who are in rental accommodation to ensure that they do not end up homeless. That is what we are trying to do. It is not about publishing those figures in time for this strategy. This is about the toolkit, the measures and the solutions to tackle it regardless of the figures. The finance is there to drive it.

There is clearly a difference. The Members have all stated their positions. Do people want another word? If so, I ask them to be as brief as they can. We can bring it to a head because the Members have stated their differences.

With all due respect to the Chair, trying to stunt the debate is not acceptable.

No, I just do not want repetition and people going round the houses.

We certainly do not want repetition, but this is a very serious issue.

With respect, I have called you so please get on with it.

I will get on with it but I certainly will not be hindered in points that I want to make and I will not be repetitive.

The Senator will not be hindered. I have called him.

There is a real dichotomy in terms of the debate we had last night with the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State here today. Last night, we were being told the legislation had to go through quickly and that it was really important to address all the issues in the private rented sector, etc. Today, because a different issue of rent certainty is being raised, which Fine Gael opposes ideologically, that can be kicked down the road because, apparently and according to the argument, it has not been thought through fully. On the one hand, we are being told-----

I want to come in. I have listened to this-----

I will bring in the Minister of State in a second. I cannot bring him in until Senator Ó Clochartaigh sits down.

Will the Senator give way for one second?

I am listening and we have had this debate.

The Minister of State will have an opportunity to speak.

With respect, the Senator is entitled to speak and he is not giving way, unfortunately.

I am waiting for the Senator to finish.

I will call the Minister of State immediately after.

Fine Gael is ideologically opposed to it. On one hand, the Government was happy to push though those parts of the legislation we opposed yesterday but, on the other, when it comes to a different ideological position on rent certainty, which is the fundamental issue here, the Government drags its heels. Families facing rent reviews in the coming months could see their rents jump by 10% to 20% and they need solutions now. That is why we need to address the issue here. If it was introduced two years ago during the term of the last Government, the average family renting in Dublin would now be €2,000 better off. It is time to bring it in. A form of modern rent regulation is in use in many other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France, and even the local authorities for which the Minister of State is responsible have a form of rent certainty with the setting of differential rents.

There has been a great deal of talk about supply and demand. I did a little economics in college and my understanding is that when a commodity is scarce, its value increases. We have a commodity in housing at the moment. What is happening here is that the lack of Government action on rent certainty is making the commodity of a house more valuable. Therefore, the people who have control of those houses are putting the rents up. That is having the knock-on effect which means the properties below that will also rise. It is defeating the purpose of the Government's own policy around social housing and the HAP scheme. The Government is being pressed and pushed to make more money available to people who cannot pay their own rents. This is counterproductive to what the Government says it is trying to achieve.

This is an ideological question of whether one is in favour of rent certainty or not. My reading of what the Minister of State says is that he is not in favour of rent certainty. He can give his own reasons for that. I have my own opinions as to why that is true. What I want to determine is whether the rest of the Seanad is on the same wavelength when it comes to rent certainty. I welcome the fact that Senator Landy has said the Labour Party is, and we have half an indication from Fianna Fáil of what it will do.

We are waiting for the Minister of State's reply.

The Minister of State has replied and Fianna Fáil should have an opinion on rent certainty.

No debate between Members, please.

It is important to note that after the debate in the Dáil on rent certainty, Deputy Sean Fleming said that it was immediately necessary to provide that those people who were in houses had to be allowed to stay in the houses they were in by linking rent to inflation because landlords would put rents up. That is what has been happening and that is what will happen. We are either for rent certainty or we are not. It is time to get off the pot, to vote in favour of these amendments and to put rent certainty in place for citizens.

Does the Minister of State want to say something very briefly? I will call Senator Higgins then.

The Senator cannot keep saying it is kicking the can down the road. I am promising him that he will have a rental strategy in a couple of weeks.

It could be anything.

It is pointless to continue on another hour with everybody saying the same thing.

That is why I am saying we should bring it to a head.

I am telling Senators that it is coming in a couple of weeks. Have I ever told a lie in this House? No, I have not.

Will the Government introduce rent certainty?

I stand on my record. The House will have it in a couple of weeks. To be very clear, rent security, rent capping and other issues are not matters of ideology. Around the Cabinet table and in the Houses we have a mixture of decision makers of all ideologies. There is no issue there. It is not about the ideology; it is about getting the right package to provide protection, security and increase supply. There is a danger of affecting supply. If one had affected supply a couple of years ago, there would be a worse problem today. We are trying to get the balance right with a package that does not cut off supply.

It is not going to cut off supply.

I am referring to the situation generally. The rental strategy is about the full package which will deal with the issues right across the board. I assure Members that it is not about ideology but about trying to get it right to tackle today's concerns without cutting off supply for those who might be homeless in future or come onto the list.

I call Senator Higgins.

No, Senator Ó Clochartaigh, I have called Senator Higgins.

The Minister of State may not see it in terms of ideology, but what we are talking about here is analysis. We have been very co-operative but I am now far more concerned than I was at the beginning of the debate or even 25 minutes ago on the rental strategy because I have heard the analysis the Minister of State is putting forward and it does not stand up.

What he is telling us is not accurate. The analysis is not correct, which makes me worried about the rental strategy.

There is a difference.

The Minister of State said there is a concern. First, he said it is all about supply. It is about supply but it is also about opportunism. What we have seen in the rental sector is opportunism.

The Minister of Sate said he believes that if we were to look at something like rent certainty we would suddenly have-----

That is not what I said.

The Minister of State said there is a danger that they would leave the market.

No. I said that we need a complete package. I ask the Senator not to misquote me.

To quote the Minister of State, he said the concern in terms of the market closing is that fewer properties would become available for rent if we were to introduce measures in this regard. That does not stack up, given that those who are making money from the rental sector are making money at a different level from any other business in Ireland.

Many benefits have been put forward and there are landlords in economic difficulties who may have over-stretched themselves in other areas, but what we are talking about are the returns from the rental sector in Ireland which are outsized. I would add, for clarification, that we have mortgage interest relief for landlords in a way that we do not have for those who wish to purchase houses. Banks have seen the opportunity and they are also offering interest only mortgages. Mortgage interest relief is being offered at a high percentage, up to 80% - I would have to check that but I believe that is the percentage - and interest only mortgages are being granted. Let us be realistic about the position when talking about those who want to buy houses. In Dublin 1, a person would pay €709 per month on a mortgage but would pay €1,300 per month in rent. Those who are speculating in the rental market are in a far better position to get mortgages. The measures provided in terms of first-time buyers are tuppence worth compared with the benefits that have been given to those who wish to purchase, from the capital gains tax waiver right down to mortgage interest relief.

The Minister of State is now giving us the same line we have seen cited by those advocating for landlords, the few honest ones, as my colleague said, who admit they feel sorry for the people they are fleecing, and that is why I became concerned about this. They are large operators and many of them will be leaving town in four years' time when they claim their capital gains tax relief, and we will come to deal with this aspect later. They can afford to be honest. The Minister of State suggested that rent certainty or some system of managed rent increase would jeopardise the availability of property in the market. What will we do then? Will we have rent increases of 10% to 14% for the next few years? We will increase the housing assistance payments and rent supplement. We will have everybody protesting on the streets because they cannot rent a house. They will not be able to book their children into schools or plan their lives. People in Ireland are managing a 10% to a 19% increase every year. I was willing to work with the Minister of State. We have withdrawn all our other amendments. We have not pressed amendments to a vote. I heard him say this is a hugely complex issue. If he wants to improve on our proposal, he can do so. We hear about the wonders of Dáil Committee Stage and the fabulous changes that can be made on it. Will the Minister bring this Bill through the Dáil and improve on it as it proceeds? We cannot let this legislation out of this House in the condition it is in.

A Leas-Chathaoirligh-----

I ask the Minister of State to be brief as three more Senators wish to contribute.

We need the Minister of State to indicate his position on this; we have had no indication from him on rent certainty.

We will hear from the Minister of State on that point.

A Leas-Chathaoirligh-----

I will call the Senator next. The Minister of State just wants to answer Senator Higgins's point. I ask him to be brief.

Is the Leas-Chathaoirleach impartial or will he give way to the Minister of State on every occasion?

I am impartial here but I am in the Chair. I call on the Minister of State to be brief in answering that point.

To be helpful, in case Senator Higgins misinterpreted what I said, this is about the overall package. We do not want to do anything which on its own might or might not affect supply. I mentioned supply and having supply would solve all our problems. We have a shortage of houses.

So the Minister of State will give landlords what they want.

That is not what I am saying. We need more houses. We do not want to affect supply.

What I am saying to the Senator who put forward the amendments is that we believe in a package that deals with all these issues. One or two measures in a toolkit will not suffice; we need a full toolkit, a full package, that deals with all the concerns. The point I made was that this is not coming from an ideology, rather it is to make sure that we do not affect supply. It is to get the balance right in the package. We accept that involves increased security and that it involves increased services around the rental sector, and choice and options. This is about bringing forward a package in its entirety, and that is what the rental strategy will do. That is what I am asking the Senator to allow, just in case she picked me up wrong on that.

I wish to take this opportunity to welcome two special guests, Jackie Foy and Patrick O'Gorman, who are in the Gallery. They are very welcome here.

I want to ask the Minister of State a number of questions. He has talked about asking us to wait. I have asked him four times since I came in here two hours ago to go into some detail on what he intends to bring in on rent certainty. He mentioned that in excess of 240 submissions were received. Can he tell us from where they came because it seems they have come from the lobby that represents landlords?

They came from the Members of this House.

From where did the rest of them come? Of course, submissions came from us; we are politicians. That is the first question I want to ask the Minister of State.

The second point I want to make is that the Minister of State answered very unclearly every question that was put to him today. He is obviously well trained by Vincent Browne. He is probably one of the people who appears on his programme most often, so this must be a walk in the park for him. What we are saying is not influencing or impacting on him in any way because he is not answering any questions we have asked him.

We cannot have Second Stage speeches now. I remind the Senator that we cannot mention people who are outside the House.

I can make whatever statement I like as long as I am not calling anybody out.

The Senator cannot mention people outside the House. I ask the Senator to deal with the amendment.

If the Minister of State is not going to deal with what is proposed in the three amendments grouped together, in terms of the consumer price index, CPI, he should at least tell us how he will deal with the issue. We cannot be expected to not put amendments to a vote if he is not going to tell us at least what he intends to do. With respect, he should do that as a matter of courtesy.

I call Senator Craughwell to be followed by Senator Murnane O'Connor.

The Minister of State asked us to trust and believe him. I believe him to be a decent man. A year and half ago when dealing with the Betting (Amendment) Bill, I was asked by a colleague of his to believe that there was other legislation coming forward, which I did, but it is now a year and a half later and I have not seen that legislation. I am not questioning the Minister of State's bona fides but it does not always follow that he has the authority or the ability to bring forward what he says he will. We are talking about this affecting supply. Will we see 90% of landlords in the country run to the hills because they can no longer make their super normal profits or will they be happy to take the profits they currently have and add the rate of inflation in the consumer price index to them? They are creaming it at the moment.

Yes, but that needs to be clarified.

It is a business.

I believe I have the floor. The bottom line is that we have a number of different amendments all dealing with the same issue. The Minister of State can choose any one of them and, as suggested by Senator Higgins, he can take this Bill to the Dáil, modify it and make of it what he wants, but one way or the other I plead with my colleagues to put this amendment to a vote today because it needs to be put to a vote.

For clarification, as a public representative and a Senator, I know people who have been renting from particular landlords for years who are quite happy to stay renting. People have come to my clinic and told me that they are happy to continue to rent because they have good landlords.

That is fair enough.

That needs to be considered but it is not being considered. There are good landlords who look after their tenants. There is some confusion over that.

The majority-----

Nobody is suggesting otherwise.

Allow Senator Murnane O'Connor to continue without interruption.

Rent certainty is important. That is a definite; there is no doubt about that. Having, as a councillor for years, dealt with people who were looking for houses, the only forward is to build and buy. Rent certainty is not the biggest issue here; rather it is the lack of supply. The amount people are paying needs to be addressed. We need to buy houses and if we do not, we will not be going anywhere. We need to buy and build - that is the problem. Rent certainty is an issue, but renting all the time and not building or buying will not solve the problem; that is only taking money from the Department and putting it towards rented accommodation. As we go forward-----

Just a moment, Senator Higgins.

Just a moment, Senator Murnane O'Connor.

I will let Senator Murnane O'Connor finish her point.

I ask Senator Higgins to hold on a second. Everybody-----

I want to clarify-----

I have been observing this debate from my office-----

Senator Higgins has made her point about five times.

I agree with Senator Murnane O'Connor about rent and buying. That is all I want to say.

Senator Higgins will have an opportunity to contribute further if she wishes. I have been here for the past hour. I observed the debate for the hour I was not here. Some Senators are interrupting others when they are trying to make their cases. Everybody is getting an opportunity to contribute. I ask Senators to give the person in possession of the floor an opportunity to make his or her point. I ask Senator Murnane O'Connor to finish.

Dealing with local authorities all the time and having clinics to which people come, I see in Carlow, on Wednesday mornings, when we have our homelessness clinic, people sleeping in cars. I set up a food kitchen with the local priest and a few members of a committee - there is a crowd of us - to make sure that people are getting fed, so I understand what is happening. However, there definitely are landlords who provide a great service. Rent certainty is definitely needed, but the only way and the only answer to the housing crisis and homelessness is to build and buy. Until that is sorted, we will not get the housing crisis sorted.

I proposed the amendment causing all the trouble. I fully agree that the only way we will solve the housing situation in this country is through supply. That is why we were all very supportive yesterday. I voted with the Government. I can understand why we have to fast-track planning applications in order that the supply side issue is dealt with, but we cannot forget the thousands of people living in the rental sector. They are young people, older people and families. Rent certainty is an important measure to address their present and probably continued conditions. I apologise to the Minister of State. I would love to be able to support him but I have heard about the rental strategy, I know it will be published in two weeks, but I have seen no detail on the rent certainty measures contained therein. If I had, I might be able to support him. Therefore, I am, with reluctance, being awkward about this because he has not outlined any specifics and has not been able to convince me.

That is fine. I totally accept that the Senator must press her amendment. I am only setting out the position as it stands. With respect, I always answer questions. That is one thing I will do. Be it Senator Kelleher or anybody else, I will answer to the best of my ability. If I do not have the answer, I cannot give her the answer. With respect to our process-----

I think the Minister of State has the answer.

We are involved in a process of consultation. More submissions came in today.

That is fine. I am not trying to convince the Senator not to press the amendment. She can do so. I am just informing her of the progress of the process. I give her my commitment that the strategy will be published in a couple of weeks' time. However, I will not announce policy decisions that have not been made. I cannot do that. I can just tell her that that strategy will bring forward a package which should deal with all the concerns she has. I share those concerns, we share them, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, shares them, and the Department shares them. However, I cannot ask her to believe in something I cannot give her, so it is fine for her to press the amendment. I can only tell her the processes we underwent. The latest figure for submissions to have come in is 475. More have come in since then. As of today, everybody - all stakeholders - are still e-mailing their thoughts and views. We made sure that people from all parties and everybody from all spectrums of the argument would be invited to the first workshop day for stakeholders, and they came to it. I sat at some of the tables. Landowners and people fighting for tenants' rights were all at the one table discussing the issues and trying to thrash out how we can best deal with them. The only way we can do this right is with a package and a toolkit that addresses many concerns. I am not holding these back from the Senator. I do not have them. We have not worked out the best ones yet. We have ideas and notions, but there is a decision to be made about the policy, which must be formulated. As soon as it is put together, the Senator will hear about it. It is best that it comes out as a package because we have had drip-feed over the years of ideas about rental security and everything else which has not helped the market, tenants or landlords.

This is a package that deals as best we can with all the concerns. That is what will come forward in a couple of weeks' time. I will not give the details of it to the Senator today because I do not have them. If I did, I would give them to her. I ask her to trust me. If I had the details of it, it would save me two hours of debate. The strategy is a genuine attempt to deal with the issues raised. I have repeatedly said that I do not expect the Senator to accept something I cannot give her. I therefore have no issue with her pressing her amendment. I totally accept that she has to do so. I can only explain to her what we are trying to do. I believe that we will be in agreement on publication of the strategy, but that is a few weeks away. I cannot bring her there just yet although I wish I could. We understand we must address all the issues surrounding the rental sector because we accept that many people, either by choice or lack of choice, want to rent. When I say by choice, I mean a desire to rent and to continue to do so because of one's job, the way jobs move around and flexibility. We therefore want to encourage much more purpose-built housing to rent which will improve the service received in rental properties. We want to encourage more investors into building. Others do not have a choice and must rent. We must accept that as well. People want more security of tenure. They want to know the bigger picture for their families. We accept all that and believe a rental strategy will deal with it. The publication of the strategy is a couple of weeks away.

Our concern was that these amendments are only part of what could be an overall package. The provisions they make might be in the strategy but they do not form the full strategy. We therefore cannot accept the amendments in this legislation, but the strategy will be published before the legislation is completed. That might help the process, but by all means the Senator can press the amendment. That is not being awkward; that is democracy. She is doing the right thing. I have no issue with that at all. I can only inform her of our position as best I can. It is a genuine attempt to try to bring everyone together. With all the stakeholders involved in the process, and as with any strategy in which I have been involved, it is best that one sees out the process, that the voice of anybody who took the time to make written submissions, come to meetings and follow on with further meetings is heard, that all their thoughts are processed and that we formulate a policy on such a basis. There are people in this room who made submissions for the strategy. Every submission is being considered and analysed, and we will pick the best when we bring the strategy forward in a few weeks' time. We cannot accept amendments today. That is our position.

I want to make a few points about the landlord-tenant relationship. I see the Minister of State being pounded on the basis that he has ideological objections, and this by people in this House to whom the term "ideology" is not exactly a stranger. I support what was said a few moments ago about the landlord-tenant relationship. I have been a landlord in respect of one property. I remember reducing the rent in the immediate aftermath of the crash because I thought it was the just thing to do. I believe that the great majority of landlords want certainty too.

They want decent tenants. They do not want people regularly going in and out of their properties. They do not want turnover of tenants. If one defines "rack rent" as the most one can charge in the market, most landlords will seek to let properties at 20% less than that for a no-hassle, predictable existence. That is the first thing about landlords. They do not all exploit tenants. The great majority of landlords I know of want to have a good, stable relationship with the tenant which is satisfactory to both sides. In this day and age of advertisements on the radio and television asking who repairs the boiler when it breaks, who repairs the washing machine when it breaks down and who carries the can when the dishwasher breaks down, landlords and tenants must have give-and-take relationships, not ones in which they are at each other's throats.

Secondly, there is a sense - this is the ideology about which I get worried - that people want to turn landlords into building societies. In other words, they want the property to be provided at a particular rent because it is a home and because they believe the positions of a mortgage ower and a tenant are more or less the same. They are qualitatively different. Most landlords do not want to be in the position of a building society. They do not want simply to take a defined benefit over 30 or 40 years in respect of providing a home to a family. There is a delicate balance between the model of the person who owes the mortgage and credit provider, to which many people aspire, and the tenant-landlord relationship, and they are not the same relationship. Each case is a different animal. I only mention this because landlords have particular rights. Building societies can sell off or refinance their mortgages. They are effectively just legal instruments.

For most landlords, however, it is not simply a matter of a paper transaction with money coming in. It involves management, care of the property, deep concern for how it is being looked after and worries about all the issues that arise from being a landlord. Therefore, it is not the same thing. Anybody who believes it is the same is deluding himself. The relationships are radically different.

Bearing in mind the various amendments now under discussion, saying that the CPI is to be the determinant in respect of a tenancy is not fair, in a number of ways. The rate is currently approximately 0.5% or 1%. Using the CPI is not fair to a landlord who is asked by the tenant to invest in the property. It is not fair to ask somebody in this position to redecorate the house and take 0.5% or 1% extra the following year. It is not fair to a landlord who has to replace the cookers, washing machines, etc., that CPI applies to him because people believe other people are currently being exploited. I have absolutely no doubt that some people are being exploited so I am not saying there is no force in the argument for rent certainty of some kind. Given that we are talking about the rate of inflation, to simply say all rents are effectively frozen for three years, an indefinite period or a period that a Minister can extend indefinitely is simply not the way to attract more money into the rental market.

For every home that is let at present, the landlord always faces the option of continuing to be a landlord or cashing in his chips and selling the property to somebody else. That is a choice that every landlord makes. He must ask whether it is worth the candle. A landlord reaching 70 or 80 years of age might ask whether he or she wants to continue to be a landlord or sell the property. These are the kinds of issues on which people have to make up their minds. In that context, to say to them that their rent levels are frozen is not the correct way to determine whether the purchaser of the property will be a family moving in or a person who desires a buy-to-let arrangement. We have to examine the dynamics of the market and ask what kind of money will come into it.

Consider the circumstances if Joe Soap has two apartments in Dublin and decides to cash in his chips because he is getting old, wants certainty in his life, wants to provide for himself, or wants to emigrate, for example. If that person's property is put on the market, the people buying it will be asking whether they are buying it to live in it or buying to let. People making an investment in that context are going to look to what is the law. If the law implies one should forget about any rental increases and that one is stuck with CPI if one lets the property, it will have an adverse effect on the number of people willing to put money into property for the purpose of letting it out to others. One can have an ideological objection, based on the view that everybody should own his own home or be able to mortgage his own home and live in it as a buyer–occupier, for example, but the real question about a measure of this kind is whether it will do more damage in two to three years in terms of money going out of the property market owing to a lack of investment by landlords.

This country is filled with good intentions. Some time ago, some bright sparks in Dublin City Council or the Minister of State's Department came to the view that they would wipe out the scandal of people living in bedsits in Dublin.

That created more problems than it prevented.

Those concerned believed they knew better than others and that they would decide it is sub-standard housing. Some 8,000 to 12,000 people were thrown out of their homes. I have never heard anybody stand up and say, "I am sorry; that was a mistake and I got it wrong." I am saying the same about this measure. If we introduce a rent freeze, who will stand up in five years and say it was a bit of a mistake, with money having fled the property investment market as time went by and things getting worse rather than better?

If the Senators put this to a vote, I will be voting against their amendment. I just wanted to put my rationale on the record rather than having to explain it afterwards over a cup of tea with my good friends who are proposing the amendment.

We need to conclude because I am conscious of the many other areas we need to address. While we have heard the stories and many of us know landlords who are excellent - I have not derided landlords in any way - what I have spoken to was not ideology; I stated the facts. I am sure there are wonderful landlords making fabulous and considered responses to the market but we have seen an average increase of almost 12% in one year. That is the fact. This is not to say all landlords hiked their rent by 12%. It is the average and that is the fact, and the fact that it is the average is worrying because it means that for every good landlord, there is a landlord who is increasing above 12%. Mr. David Ehrlich, Ireland's biggest landlord, said his company has never seen rental increases like these in any jurisdiction of which he is aware. Such individuals believe there are no brakes.

It was said we want to have a balance but my point is that the balance does not exist at the moment. We put forward two proposals, one immediate and one long term. If one wants to debate whether the CPI should be used and the nature of the appropriate indicators, one should note we have been begging the Government to come forward with a statement as to where it believes the markers or indicators might be. We have not heard anything in that respect. There is nothing allowing a different indicator to be added.

Senator Michael McDowell referred to the CPI being low but the GDP figures are also not a very good indicator. Admittedly, we need to find the right indicators but this sets the idea that there is predictability. If one wants to amend it further, one could do so at a later stage. We have a time limit. It is the same time limit that has been estimated as the period needed for supply. The date 31 December 2019 has been stated as the date on which the Government believes we will have moved out of the emergency context in terms of supply. We have a void and opportunism in the meantime. It is not from all landlords based on a view that landlords are evil but from those who are seeing and taking an opportunity. It is creating social instability in the State.

We will not press all our amendments in the House today but we will press one. I urge the Minister of State to return on Report Stage with a proposal. It is not enough to say "rental strategy". He needs to give us his indicators. He can change them as the legislation proceeds. We are in unsafe circumstances.

We will withdraw amendment No. 22.

We will address that in a moment. Two of the Senator's colleagues are offering to contribute.

I am conscious of time.

Absolutely, but it is important that everybody be heard.

I am very conscious of time and I would not normally speak when we are having such a long debate on one section. I welcome the balance that has been brought to the debate by Senator Michael McDowell. I am a landlord by default. I rent out a property in respect of which I reduced the rent by way more than 20% during the crash. It is also in negative equity. Last week, the boiler was broken. I am not on the kind of wage that could sustain huge costs on a property.

(Interruptions).

I know many people like me. I am serious. There is a perception in the debate that all landlords are creaming it and trying to take advantage of tenants. I welcome the balance that has been brought to the debate and agree with the sentiments that have been expressed. There are some that would take advantage but this is the case in any business. There is a perception that all lawyers are earning a fortune but some are doing well just to make ends meet.

We must have a little bit of balance in the debate.

With permission, I want to use the "C" word in the Chamber.

I am sorry but I have to.

Through the Chair and without interruption.

The word I was going to use is "class". What we have in here, and I welcome it in one respect, is a debate between the interests of the different classes in our society. I must hand it to my colleague Senator McDowell - who is a gentleman, to be fair - who made a very good case for the landlord class, for the people who have wealth in this country and for the people who have done very well through the ten years of austerity.

A lot of them have other sorts of debt.

Senator Gavan, without interruption, please.

I thank the Acting Chairman.

Second holiday homes and all that.

I acknowledge, and am glad to see, that those of us on the left in this Chamber are united again today. Now I turn to Fianna Fáil who, before the last election, described themselves as a centre-left party. We have spoken about rent certainty and I heard my colleagues - for whom I have great respect - say that we need rent certainty. There is, however, no point in talking about it. We must do something about it and this Chamber is where we have to do it. It is funny how, whenever we actually have to do something about rent certainty, the response is always "We are not ready now". I do not like to be unpleasant to the Minister of State, because on a personal level he is an absolute gentleman, but we cannot believe him because Fine Gael's record is appalling and it is a landlords' party. Senator McDowell is proud to be a landlord, and fair play to him. Fine Gael is a landlords' party but I want to tell a different story. This is a true story from my Monday clinic in Limerick. Two people are being evicted as we speak with their three young children. They will have nowhere to live at Christmas. They happen to be Travellers. They are the very best of people whose neighbours are gutted to see them being forced out onto the roads. They will never get a house through HAP because landlords do not rent houses to Travellers, unfortunately. This is one thing the landlord class never does in this country. We need rent certainty and protections for people like that and we cannot afford to wait a few weeks until the Minister of State is ready. Let us be frank, in the 90 years of the existence of this State, there have never been decent rights for tenants here.

That is not true.

The reason is that we have always had conservative government of one type or another. Let us not have crocodile tears on rent certainty and "We will get there in a few weeks", because the Minister will not. We know he will not. This issue is one of class. I am proud to see everyone here on the left standing together. Clearly the Minister of State, Deputy English, Senator McDowell and the others from Fianna Fáil are standing together also. They are landlord parties and they have no interest in tenants and they should be ashamed to be rejecting this amendment on rent certainty.

Rather than go back over the whole debate from the last hour, for those who have only just joined us-----

We were watching it all the way.

Senator Higgins asked for a Government response and said Senators were begging the Government for a response. I have said that the Government did not want to bring forward its response based on a whim, an ideology or any kind of class. Our response will be a full policy, worked out and thought out and produced in a couple of week's time. There will be the full package, a toolkit and regulation to go with it.

The Minister of State, without interruption, please.

I have said repeatedly that I do not expect people to wait for that. Senators can make their own decisions today. The Government's response will be within a full policy and not just giving one idea or one notion. It will be a full package and policy. People ask what Fine Gael is as a party. I can tell them that we are solutions-focused and driven.

For whom? Solutions for landlords.

The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has been very clear that the strategy should be focused and solution driven. Most Senators in this House have genuinely wanted to approach this from a solution perspective. Whether one is a landlord or a tenant, all of us here want to end the situations where people do not have permanent accommodation.

I remind Senators that there is a room outside for consulting if they want it.

I will say it one more time. It can only be achieved through a balanced package and by bringing forward informed policy that tries to bring with us as many stakeholders as possible with this agenda to get it right and to get backing for it. That is what we are doing. It will be published in a couple of week's time. That is as much as I can tell Senators today. I have told Senator Craughwell previously that the Minister and I have said the strategy will happen in a couple of weeks - the full policy response with solutions focused across the board. It is about a balance. We do not come to this from any ideology or any class - that is not us. As a party we represent many people from all across society-----

Fine Gael believes in the free market.

Do not try to put us into a box. That is not what we are about.

You are the box.

It is important that this Bill goes through. I have been a Senator for seven months and not once has Sinn Féin agreed to anything. They have looked for a votáil on everything. They have disagreed on everything-----

-----that has come up here. I have been sitting at the front beside the Sinn Féin Senators, and I am very fond of you by the way-----

We will talk later.

-----but Sinn Féin have absolutely agreed on nothing. We have an emergency housing crisis and if Sinn Féin was interested, as are other parties, then we would be trying our best here today to make sure that we get everything sorted for these people in the housing crisis.

On behalf of the landlords.

No. I represent everybody. As a councillor and Senator I am proud to say that I represent everybody-----

-----as does Fianna Fáil. I ask the Minister to get solutions here today. Can we move forward to make sure that we get this housing plan passed so the people of Ireland, the people who come to my clinics, who are living in cars-----

Will Senator Murnane O'Connor support the amendment?

The Minister, Deputy Coveney, is back in the chair and he makes the decisions. This would depend on my vote, if a vote were called. Can the Minister commit that this rental strategy will be published no later than February? There is a sense of urgency in the debate. I refer to two or three weeks to let the Minister decide if time has to be done. I have constantly come in to this House and said that rushed legislation is bad legislation. Let us deal with it within a month. Give us a deadline and a time and we will decide then.

I was getting texts from the Minister of State, Deputy English, encouraging me not to get involved in this debate-----

That is an honest assessment.

-----or to extend it for another half an hour, but when I started to hear the Sinn Féin mantra that Fine Gael is the landlord party, I-----

-----I texted him back to say I will be making a contribution. We had the same mantra on social housing and then we produced a housing strategy that will add 47,000 social houses to our social housing stock. We had the same mantra on homelessness and even people such as Fr. Peter McVerry would say that the current strategy is the most comprehensive that has ever been put in place. Now it is about the implementation. I approach the current housing challenge and pressures from a pragmatic perspective where we try to make evidence-based decisions. The truth is that if we simply approach the pressures and strain faced by many tenants today with a view to protecting them but ignoring how the market functions and how State intervention in the market functions, then we are only solving half of the problem. The key issue is that we are dramatically short of supply. We have many vacant properties that we need to get back into use. We have many sites that have planning permission and zoning that can help to alleviate the problem. We have spent nearly two days discussing how we can put in place a streamlined planning process to encourage a lot more large-scale development, much of which will be social housing. In my view, however, the most difficult balance to get right in the housing strategy is the rental sector. This is why we did not rush it in the first 74 days when we produced the housing strategy. We made very clear in that strategy - although some chose to ignore it - that what is in the strategy with regard to rent is not the full picture because we needed more time to consult with people to get the balance right. Believe me when I say some momentum is now starting to build in the construction sector that over time can help to solve a lot of these problems that are linked to a deficit in supply. We must ensure that we do not undermine that momentum and the appetite for investment in projects right across this city and the country.

At the same time, I do accept that many tenants are under extreme pressure and at the sharp end of that we are seeing families being driven into homelessness, which I have spoken about earlier today.

We need to do more to prevent the unsustainable level of rent inflation that is happening because of a dramatic supply shortage. It is not easy to balance those two. People have made pretty coherent arguments on both sides today. We have invited all sides to make written submissions during a consultation process that will produce a new rental strategy by the middle of next month, not February. If we can use the Committee Stage of this legislation in the Dáil to accommodate any legislative change that may come with that, I intend to do that. If we do that, the change will have to come back to the Seanad before the Bill can be finalised and Senators will have an opportunity to debate and discuss it then. I am not willing to support amendments that are well-meaning but may not fit into the difficult balancing act that I have to achieve in the rental strategy we will launch in three weeks' time. I made this approach clear on Second Stage and I am consistent about this. When we launch a rental strategy, if legislative change is required, we will use this legislation to do it straightaway. We do not want to create a long time lag between stating an intention to intervene in the market and not do so for three or four months because we need to bring new legislation forward and to have the market compensate and adjust for any intervention that may or may not take place. We need to ensure that anything we do takes effect quickly, which is why this legislation is the appropriate way to do that. However, we are not ready yet. We will be in a few weeks’ time and I ask people to recognise that. We are working with other parties to find a compromise that is sensible, will not undermine supply and will protect tenants in vulnerable and pressurised situations.

I appreciate that the Minister is giving us a lot of time in the Seanad. This is a very important Bill. In the first part of the debate yesterday, there was much pressure to get the legislation through because we needed to enact it immediately. At the same time the Minister says that he will propose amendments in the Dáil and change the legislation which will have to come back to the Seanad.

I said if that happens, it will have to come back to the Seanad. The Senator should not twist what I am saying.

I understand the procedure but therefore the legislation before us is half-baked. We are putting forward proposals to change it. We are suggesting that rent certainty be included as part of the legislation. If, after the consultation process and debate on what has been proposed, the Minister decides to tweak, amend or change that, he can bring in amendments to tweak the ones we have put forward, so why not accept the principle of rent certainty at this stage to give people an indication that we are thinking seriously about this? In my opinion, the Minister is ideologically opposed to rent certainty. If he is, he needs to tell us that now.

Fianna Fáil needs to get off the fence and tell us whether it is in favour of rent certainty, rather than issuing press releases to the media. This is the Parliament. It has been half-indicated today but is it party policy or not? We will push these amendments to a vote because we have called for this several times and we have seen Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael oppose attempts by Sinn Féin to bring rent certainty Bills through these Houses. The Minister either is or is not considering rent certainty as part of the solution. He should tell us now which it is, stop wasting our time today, withdraw the legislation and bring it back when it is ready. We will support the Minister if it is up to scratch when he comes back to us in four or six weeks’ time with the new amendments, based on what has been said in the consultation process. If it seems to do what it says on the tin and if it lives up to the promises and the rhetoric of the Minister of State that this will be an all-encompassing solution to the rental crisis, we will support it.

It was said that Sinn Féin has not supported measures that have come through the Houses. The Minister knows that is not true. He has worked very well with Deputy Ó Broin on legislation and he has supported the positive elements of it. Our party has done that and will continue to do that. Where we are critical we will make the arguments and the points because people come to our offices day in, day out and tell us how much the spiralling rent increases, of up to 10% to 13% in Galway, are costing them. It will continue unless something is done immediately so the Minister should either do it immediately or rescind it.

I want to support the Minister. I believe what he has just said and that he wants to bring back something which will solve all our problems. There is a danger these amendments will be pushed to a vote, which I would prefer did not happen because it would give the Minister a chance. I do not subscribe to the ideology nonsense. There are as many working class members of Fine Gael as there are of the landlord class.

I believe the Minister is trying to do something right. If a vote is not called on this today, is there any chance the Minister could come back and offer a fig leaf on this next Tuesday on Report Stage, to give people some degree of confidence that there will be certainty? This has gone on for two hours and could go on for another two. I do not want to see that happen. The ball is at the Minister’s feet.

Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion and we have heard strong arguments on all sides of this debate but we need to distil this legislation to one thing: increase the housing supply in a short time. I have no doubt this will have a positive impact and will house many of the people we talk about in this House and in other chambers. It will also have a positive impact on the rental sector. The market needs more housing to have a normalised rental sector. The pressure is building because we do not have enough houses.

I respect Senators on all sides making their cases but I reject totally the Sinn Féin accusation that my party represents only the landlord class. I come from a working class area and family and I have always represented working class people and I make no apology for that. Sinn Féin’s accusations are wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, in this Government and Minister, who is not only bringing in this legislation to intervene in a positive way but is providing increased funding for housing, which is unprecedented in the history of this State. He is providing increased funding to support the rental sector and the homeless sector. We need to work together. I do not want to accuse parties of playing games but that is how it seems to me. If we are serious about increasing the housing supply we should work together however we can to bring this legislation forward. It is temporary. It will last only three years with a possible extension of two years. Let us bring it forward to see how it works and evaluate it then with whatever Minister is in place. I appeal to all parties to work together to bring this legislation forward. We have been debating this amendment for almost two hours and there are many more amendments to go. I agree with the Fianna Fáil Senator who said let us bring this forward in a positive way. There will be Report Stage, and the Minister can speak for himself, but I appeal to all sides. There are people watching this and it is becoming farcical.

The proof is not in the pudding. It is in rent certainty and that is not there.

Colleagues have spoken at least half a dozen times and then they make the point that we have been here far too long. We would not be here far too long if the points could be made once or twice. While colleagues feel it necessary to speak again and again I have no option but to allow that happen. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. I am in the hands of my colleagues. If they want to speed it up they should speak once and make their point and maybe come in once more to make a supplementary point. If they want to continue, that is fine.

Does the Minister wish to make a comment?

I wish to make a clear point on my own behalf. I am doing what I said I would do. On Second Stage, I said if the rental strategy we will launch in a few weeks' time gives rise to a legislative requirement, we will try to use this legislation - whatever Stage it is at when we launch - to ensure that can take effect quickly. That is what I said and that is what I am saying now.

Unless a majority decides to vote me down, I will not accept an incomplete approach to rent certainty, rent predictability, intervention in the market or whatever one wants to call it. I am not into the ideologies of it. I am trying to fix the rental market which is fundamentally broken. People are suffering every day because of that. They are coming to all our offices as a result.

There are two sides to this story and we have to try to get the balance. Without landlords and without investment, we do not get increased supply unless the State is to provide homes for everybody in the private rental market, which is not going to happen. We need to ensure we have a functioning market. We also need to respond to the fact that what is happening in the rental market in parts of Ireland now is making life impossible for some people. We need to respond to that and we will.

I will not make an effort to try to please people in the short term. At the start, I said I could not accept an amendment in this area until we have a complete picture. We will have a complete picture in a few weeks and that will be the time to amend this legislation. The only reason I mentioned that if we do that it will come back to the House was to try to be helpful to the Senator. The Senator tried to spin that into a negative and suggested we should just stall the process until then. We are trying to get emergency legislation through. This is emergency legislation. The reason I brought it to this House was to try to get emergency legislation through. There is a load of stuff in this legislation that needs to happen, one way or the other. If we decide to use the legislation to try to facilitate something around the area we have been talking about for the past two hours, let us also do that; but let us not delay the process in an effort to do that. I cannot be clearer on that. That is consistent with what I said at the start and I hold to that position now.

The emergency is in the households that are paying the increased rents. In places such as Galway we have had increases of 13% in the past year.

We can all give examples.

We have moved to the other section; this is the previous section.

Senator Higgins, I have already explained that while there are colleagues who wish to contribute to this amendment and this section, there is nothing I can do other than allow them to do so. That is what Senator Ó Clochartaigh is doing and he is entitled to do so.

He is intentionally doing it.

Hold on, Senator. Irrespective of whether he is, that is open to him. The only person who knows that is himself.

As long as there are colleagues who want to contribute, I will not prevent them from doing so. We have an hour and five minutes left, based on the order of the House. When it comes to the time, I do not want the same people complaining that we have run out of time.

I ask Senator Ó Clochartaigh to continue without interruption.

The Acting Chairman's intervention is very important. Nobody is trying to prolong the debate in any way, but we are trying to argue the case of the people who have asked us to argue the case. We will continue to do that.

I asked the Minister a very direct question. Does he believe in rent certainty? Is it a policy he would buy into? This is something that has happened a number of times over the past six years while I have been in this House. We are being asked to put our intention into legislation that will come down the road which does not deliver. To me that is buying a pig in a poke. We need to adjudicate on the legislation before us. I suggest that we put rent certainty into the legislation and the Minister can subsequently amend it in the Dáil if he is not happy. We really need to do that because the emergency is in those households tonight, not next week or next month.

I ask Senator Higgins if the amendment is being pressed.

Basically, I do not believe the question has been answered. The Minister has said this is emergency legislation. Our amendment No. 24 is also an emergency measure. I do not intend or do not want to press amendments Nos. 22 and 23. However, I know that it is co-signed so I am not sure what the protocol on that is.

It is down to the mover and that is why I called Senator Higgins.

I will withdraw amendment No. 22, reserving the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage. Amendment No 23 states-----

We need to deal with amendment No. 22 first. Is the Senator pressing amendment No. 22?

I will withdraw and reserving the right-----

On a point of order, as co-signatories, can we press the amendment?

That is fine. I have to ask the first name first. Senator Higgins does not wish to press amendment No. 22.

I will not press amendment No. 22, but I reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 22 is withdrawn, by leave of the House. Is that agreed?

Question put: "That amendment No. 22 be withdrawn."
The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 10.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Colette. Kelleher and Grace. O'Sullivan; Níl, Senators Paul. Gavan and Trevor. Ó Clochartaigh.
Question declared carried.

Amendment No. 23 has already been discussed.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 19 (setting of rent above market rent prohibited) of Act of 2004

27."

The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following new section after section 19:

“19A. Any subsequent increases in the level of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling shall not be greater than the rate of inflation, as provided for by the Consumer Price Index as issued by the Central Statistics Office.”.”.

We will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage. I urge the Minister to give us further assurance in this area.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"Amendment of section 19 (setting of rent above market rent prohibited) of Act of 2004

27. The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following new section after section 19:

"19A. (1) Any subsequent increases in the level of rent under the tenancy of a dwelling shall not be greater than the rate of inflation, as provided by the Consumer Price Index as issued by the Central Statistics Office.

(2) The provision outlined in subsection (1) will remain in effect until 31 December 2019 at which point the Minister may by order extend the specified period which this section will continue to apply."."

I regret the time pressure under which we are operating. I would like to press this amendment as it specifically addresses an emergency measure timed to coincide with the emergency measures on planning. However, given the exigencies of time I will withdraw it and reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage as I believe this is an essential measure. I urge that action be taken on it on Report Stage.

The amendment has already been discussed. There can be no further debate on it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 33, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"27. The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following new section after section 19:

"19A. Any subsequent setting of the rent under the tenancy by way of a review of that rent shall not be greater or less than the level of inflation as indicated in the Consumer Price Index as calculated by the Central Statistics Office at the time of the rent review.".".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 20.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul. Gavan and Trevor. Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Maura. Hopkins and Gabrielle. McFadden.
Amendment declared lost.
SECTION 27
Question put: "That section 27 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 8.

  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Maura. Hopkins and Gabrielle. McFadden; Níl, Senators Paul. Gavan and Trevor. Ó Clochartaigh.
Question declared carried.
NEW SECTION

Amendments Nos. 26 to 39, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 33 to 37, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendments Nos. 26 to 39, inclusive. Amendments Nos. 26 to 39, inclusive, may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 33, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"28. The Act of 2004 is amended in section 28(2)(a) by the substitution of "for an indefinite period from" for "for the period of 4 years".".

Amendment No. 26 concerns changes to the duration of a standard tenancy from four years to a period of indefinite duration in order to provide tenants with real security of tenure. We are asking for this change to be made to the 2004 Act. In light of tenants' concerns that they could be asked to leave their homes after a four-year period, we are looking to insert a provision relating to indefinite duration as opposed to four years to give more security to people in private rented accommodation. I will speak about the other amendments at a later stage.

I will speak about section 30. There are a number of amendments in this area. We have tabled a number of amendments that identified our concern, which I believe is shared, and has been expressed, by Fianna Fáil and others in the House, about the definition of a medium-sized dwelling. We understand that section 30, to which these amendments relate, is designed to deal with concerns such as the situation we saw in Tyrrelstown where people received notices of eviction en masse. We have suggested that five might be a more reasonable determination of that medium-sized dwelling. We have also put forward ten and a number of other numbers but our main number of five, which is where we find agreement with our colleagues in Fianna Fáil, because we know that only 6% of landlords would have properties with five or more dwellings. We are only tackling the larger landlords if we talk about units of five or over. These are situations where those landlords are selling their properties and transferring them for remuneration. Unfortunately, this is being used as a loophole and opportunity to give summary evictions.

In respect of the other constructive proposals we have put forward here, while section 30(2) seems to protect people from these mass evictions, we believe section 30(3) undoes all the good work of section 30(2). Section 30(2) seems to say that tenancies should not be terminated at a point of sale but one could drive a coach and four through the provisions in section 30(3) and we believe any landlord could do so. One of the provisions relates to where there is a 20% increase in the price if a landlord sells it with vacant possession. We put forward a number of amendments in that regard. Do we at least talk about 30% or withdraw that entire subsection? I will not go into the detail of our proposals here but I reserve the right to reintroduce them and possibly further amendments to tighten up section 30(3) on Report Stage.

Landlords will always be able to say that they can show that they would get 20% more if they sold with vacant possession. When one has 10% to 12% increases in rental prices, putting this provision in creates a contravening factor that will damage the possibility of introducing rent certainty in the future. The Minister of State talked about balance. This provision will be used to justify rent increases because it would be said that otherwise, there would be a 20% gap between what people are paying and what someone in the open market would pay and that could be used as a justification for evictions down the line. If we are really being careful, we need to be careful about this exception as it is put here. In respect of the exception that suggests that undue unfairness or undue hardship on the landlord is a key concern, we feel the term "undue unfairness" is not specific enough. It is too vague. If one looked at the large-scale professional investors who are in Ireland, we feel they will be able to match that.

We need to be realistic about the scale. I have reports from Hooke and McDonald which say that at the end of 2014 alone, under the capital gains tax waiver, more than 3,000 residential units were purchased by international investors. They explicitly say that they are purchasing them to hold for seven years. We will see mass expiration of that rate in three years' time. The measures ran from 2012 to 2014. As the seven years expires, many of those vulture funds will move to other territories such as the UK or the US - anywhere that is in crisis - and find the opportunities. They will be selling on a large scale and there will be a huge transfer of assets. I know the Minister has spoken about professional landlords. If there are professional landlords or international landlords who want to move in, they are welcome but let them take houses with tenancies intact because the vulture funds which will be leaving town care nothing for public reputation. Only legislation will constrain them and the legislative constraints here are ineffective and meaningless. I cannot think of a single fund or a single situation in which they would not be able to meet these standards, get their exemptions and get the right to evict en masse. It is a very urgent and pertinent issue. I realise the Government intends to deal with it but we need to show serious action. I reserve the right to reintroduce all our amendments to this section on Report Stage. I would also flag that we may introduce amendments which relate to section 42 and Part 4 tenancies on Report Stage.

I am speaking to my amendment, which is amendment No. 30.

Its purpose is to highlight the fact that section 34 of the 2004 Act sets out the unlawful grounds for terminating a tenancy by a landlord. Our amendment deletes paragraph 3 of the table which permits a landlord to determine a tenancy simply on the grounds that he or she intends to sell the property within three months. This ground is often relied upon by receivers to gain vacant possession of a property.

It is worth noting that the National Economic and Social Council has recommended that Ireland adopt the same approach to allow tenants to remain in houses that are being sold. The council has stated that removing sale as a reason to end a lease would significantly improve secure occupancy and recommends that this measure be adopted for Ireland. The council notes that while one view is that this could reduce the price those selling rental properties could achieve compared to the price of vacant possession, the more the Irish rental system is driven by long-term yield rather than changing asset prices, the higher the value purchasers will put on properties with an existing secure rental stream.

We have all received correspondence from concerned citizens writing on behalf of Focus Ireland. The correspondence points out that other countries have found solutions to this problem of the desire of landlords to vacate houses they intend to sell. In Northern Ireland, for example, banks that repossess on foot of buy-to-let mortgages are prohibited from evicting the tenant and must sell the property with the tenant still in place. This seems fair. The loan was offered specifically to create a buy-to-let home and it is wrong for the bank to dispossess a tenant because its investment did not make the money. Many such houses were included in section 23 tax relief in this country.

We do not subscribe to the idea that a landlord needs five, ten or more than 20 houses to be brought in under the legislation. If I went onto daft.ie this minute, I would not have any way of knowing whether a property I wanted to rent was owned by a professional landlord or a landlord with one property. If that landlord decided to sell the property in 12 months, I would be excluded from the protection of the legislation if he did not have 20 or more properties. That is as daft as the name of the website. It makes no sense. We have to protect all tenants, not just those who happen to be tenants of landlords with five, ten or more than 20 houses. I will be pressing the amendment.

We welcome the amendment of the Residential Tenancies Acts to enable tenants to remain in situ if they live in developments that are being sold. The lack of security for tenants is a major issue inhibiting the development of a strong, reliable rental market in Ireland. Unlike the European norm, Irish leases are primarily short-term, which generates great uncertainty for families and other long-term renters, and limits the appeal of renting for those for whom home ownership is not a preferred option, in particular families with children who require stability and certainty rather than the current situation where tenancies can be brought to an abrupt end. That is the major issue here.

Why should householders in larger developments enjoy greater security of occupancy than other tenants, however? We believe the criterion of 20 units should be reduced to five units. The Bill is all about security for families and children. It is not about landlords. We have a duty to the children and families of Ireland to ensure they have a secure home. To do so, we must ensure we can provide them with a rental scheme that will make them secure and that they are not worried every year about whether they are going to be evicted. I ask the Minister of State to reduce the number of units from 20 to five to assist those in rural parts of counties like Carlow. This needs to be addressed.

The purpose of amendment No. 28 from Sinn Féin is to prevent any landlord who bought a property with a buy-to-let mortgage or who availed of a section 23 tax relief to purchase a property for the purposes of renting or who is a professional landlord with three or more properties from issuing a notice to quit on the grounds that the property is to be sold. This amendment would have two benefits. First, the tenant gets greater security of tenure and, second, it would ensure that the property would remain in the private-rented sector, which is an important point. I echo the sentiments of Senator Landy and others that this is about protecting the rights of tenants. We have seen situations like Tyrrelstown where vulture funds have bought up swathes of property and then evicted people almost immediately. We are trying to stop that happening. It is important that tenants are not only allowed to stay but that they stay as part of the private-rented sector. I hope the Minister of State will be open to accepting these amendments.

I will deal with the amendments in one go. On security of tenure, including the termination of tenancies for the purpose of sale, the strategy, as I said earlier, will examine all options to improve security of tenure for tenants. This will include scope for a move to indefinite leases to replace the Part 4 four-year tenancy and incentives for landlords to waive their right to terminate a tenancy in the event of the sale of a property. For that reason, we cannot accept amendments Nos. 26 to 29, inclusive, as they pre-empt the proposals in the strategy relating to security of tenure. I went through a lot of that earlier and will not go back through the whole thing again. As I said, the strategy will be a toolkit to deal with the various issues. I ask Members to please wait for a couple of weeks, although it is up to them.

Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 propose to reduce the number of dwellings in the Tyrrelstown amendment from 20 to five or 20 to ten, respectively. We have not been of that view that these should be accepted, but to be fair it is an issue all sides are raising. Report Stage is on Tuesday and it is something we can look at between now and Tuesday. The whole idea was that anything above 20 was definitely in the medium to large area. We can look at the figures around the five or ten before Tuesday. I am not promising to accept the proposals but we will take a real look at it and come back to the House before Report Stage on Tuesday given that it is an issue most Members are raising. We acknowledged that the amendment proposed was limited in scope, but that it was right to send some message to the market in that regard. We want to deal with this in the overall rental strategy also. We do not want a repeat of what happened in Tyrrelstown.

Amendments Nos. 32 to 37, inclusive, relate to the exemption in the Tyrrelstown amendment. Amendment No. 32 proposes to delete section 33A entirely. Amendment No. 35 proposes to delete that part of the provision relating to hardship. Amendment No. 36 proposes to remove the words "undue unfairness". We then look at the breakdown. Section 30 relates to constitutional issues in respect of property rights due to the restrictions in place in circumstances where landlords seek to sell a property. There are a couple of issues we can look at there in terms of the wording of the amendments on Report Stage. Amendments No. 33 and 34 relate to the figure from 30% to 40% and I am not accepting them. To make them would not be fair. We will listen to the arguments again on Report Stage but we are not on for accepting them now or for lifting that figure. The figure of 5% is quite high. I understand that it is argued that the daft.ie report showed an average of 10% or 12% but that is probably over the last year. I am not sure it would be as easy to show a 20% loss as Senator Higgins thinks but we might listen to the argument again on Report Stage. We will look at it over the weekend. We will also look at the wording.

Amendment No. 37 relates to the definition of "market value" for the purposes of the section and proposes that it be determined by an independent State body. I am not accepting the amendment because where a tenant is served with a notice of termination under the section and does not believe the exemption in sections 3A or 3B applies, he or she may refer a dispute to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. The board is an independent statutory body with quasi-judicial powers. Any order made by an adjudicator may be appealed to a tribunal which holds an oral hearing for that purpose. The tenancy may not be terminated during the dispute process. No other body could provide such a robust and independent assessment of the market value of a dwelling in these circumstances and, as such, I do not propose to accept the amendment. In short, it is unnecessary, which I hope people understand.

The Private Residential Tenancies Board is quite sufficient to do that job.

Amendment No. 39 would require compensation to be paid to tenants where their tenancies are terminated. If compensation were to be granted in these cases, assuming lawful notification and all other requirements had been met by the landlord, there would seem to be no reason a tenant in a Tyrrelstown situation should receive compensation while a tenant in any other tenancy where the Tyrrelstown situation did not apply should not also be eligible to be compensated if a tenancy were terminated on the ground of sale of property. In other words, the measure would be unfair on other tenants. As such, I cannot accept this amendment. It is not something that one could have for every tenant, so it would not be fair to bring it in for anybody. We are not prepared to accept that amendment.

On the other suggestions, we will look at tightening up the exemptions around that and the wording. We will come back to the Senator before Report Stage on Tuesday next, if that is okay.

Senator Reilly must be brief.

I will be brief. I thank my Seanad colleague, Senator Coffey, for allowing me in. I wanted to speak to amendments Nos. 30 and 31.

I am afraid Senator Reilly will not have time.

I will not speak to them. I merely want to mention I support-----

The Senator can only add a sentence or two. It is 6 o'clock.

Sorry, with respect, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, if you do not interrupt me, I will be one minute. If you keep interrupting me, we will be standing here for five minutes, back and forth.

We will not, because I am in the Chair, it is 6 o'clock and I am going to the Order of Business as agreed by the House.

I will be standing and you will be sitting. All I want to say is that I very much appreciate the sentiment behind this, that tenants need security and they should not be victims of the sale of properties. We understand and accept that there those who buy properties, and I object to some of the language used by Sinn Féin Senators earlier when they spoke about this being a class issue. If one considers two retired nurses who invest in a home for one of their children later in life and a bit an investment in terms of their pension to be a class set aside, I reject that out of hand.

There are many who, because of the paucity of their pensions, look to pensions in houses. I want to see and hope the Minister of State will consider some reduction in the number of 20 units, but I would not tie his hands.

As it is now 6 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Seanad of this day: "That amendment No. 26 is hereby negatived, that section 28 is hereby agreed to, that the Government amendments undisposed of are hereby made to the Bill, that in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, the section or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to, that the Schedule, as amended, is hereby agreed to, that the Title is hereby agreed to, and that the Bill, as amended, is hereby accordingly reported to the House."

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 9.

  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Maura Hopkins and Gabrielle McFadden; Níl, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh..
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Next Tuesday evening.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 29 November 2016.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Next Tuesday at 11.30 a.m.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 November 2016.