Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, back to the House. I remind Senators that they may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment, who may reply to discussion on the amendment. Furthermore, each non-Government amendment must be seconded. Amendment No. 1, in the names of Senators Craughwell and McDowell, arises out of committee proceedings. I call Senator Craughwell.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:

“(VI) refurbishment that meets a per square foot value investment as set by regulations published by the Minister for properties that are pre 1963,”.

I welcome the Minister. I appreciate his urgency regarding this Bill but this amendment has the backing of this country's leading expert in building energy rating, BER. I am told this part of the Bill concerning housing which predates 1963 could be illegal in the context of European legislation. Those regulations call for a national policy to cover major renovation where more than 25% of the building envelope is being refurbished. There is no requirement for a member state to link this to rent caps but there is a requirement for all major renovations to be undertaken in a cost optimal way. In other words, the refurbishment being done should not be so expensive as to result in no practical realisable saving for occupants.

Will the Minister point to where I might find a report on cost optimal studies that may have been done for such buildings? My information is that no such study has ever been done. The same consultant advises that in his professional opinion, as one of the leading BER assessors in the country, it is almost impossible, in practical terms, to reach a seven point improvement in a building that dates from before 1963. The practical reasons include the walls of architecturally sensitive buildings, which can only be dry lined. To avoid condensation risk, that can only be done with specially formulated materials, such as calcium silicate boards, to absorb moisture from breathable brick structures.

Those materials do not reach the U-value requirements, for example, that are required by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to support grant-eligible measures for dry lining, meaning homeowners would have to take the costs involved. This appears to directly contradict the stated position of An Taoiseach, who indicated at the weekend that the Government will help to grant-support retrofitting. As matters stand, all these folks would be excluded from the grant scheme because of the nature of the materials used.

In these pre-1963 buildings, many internal features, such as architraves, skirting boards, etc., are conserved, making it absurdly expensive for all but those with the deepest of pockets to undertake the necessary dry-lining in an architecturally sensitive way. As there is a practical limit on the U-values to be achieved, there is also a practical limit on the renewable technologies that can be used in such homes to replace existing heating systems. We should remember that most of these homes were originally designed to be heated with coal and turf fires and that the walls are inherently breathable. As there is a U-value constraint-----

This is a Second Stage speech.

It is not Senator Buttimer's business to make such a remark.

I am trying to put some important facts on the record.

Members should speak through the Chair.

A heat pump operates most efficiently at a narrow-operating delta-T temperature range and would be very inefficient and costly to operate in such a home. A demand-response heating system, such as oil or gas boilers, would be much more effective.

Under the current rules it can be practically impossible to obtain window energy performance certification for bespoke wooden sash windows. It can often be impossible to verify that the savings made under the current rules of the building energy rating system, even when the homeowner has installed the best available components in line with architecturally sensitive practice. It is not simply a matter of the market responding to this demand either. By its nature, bespoke or craft windows and door manufacturing is undertaken by one-man bands who do not have the resources to file for certification in accredited laboratories. As windows dominate the front-facing facades of these types of buildings, this is a major issue.

If the Minister insists on pushing through this legislation this evening, I would want some reassurance for those who own pre-1963 properties that he will put in place a form of compensation for the homeowners affected, perhaps by means of grant aid or something of that nature. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment. I would not ordinarily be a great supporter of the landlord class, as the Minister knows, but in this case I can see that the Bill is flawed and needs to be dealt with on that matter.

As long as the Senator spoke to the amendment, I did not consider his contribution a Second Stage speech.

I dispute the statement that there is a landlord class. There are many different kinds of landlords, including huge institutional investors, individuals, pensioners and all the rest. It is not appropriate to say there is a landlord class.

I can add a sentence or two of context. Last Monday, we hit two new national records. The first was the lowest number of dwellings ever offered to rent and the second was the highest figure for average rent. The person who contacted me about those asked why anybody would be surprised because, for the past five or six years, punitive legislation has been enacted in waves, with each wave more extreme than the last. I can provide some evidence a little later. Another correspondent told me the following:

Substantial refurbishment, which is in a tenant's interest too, can cost up to €10,000, and this feature, if enacted, will cause deterioration in existing rental properties and create very poor accommodation as time goes by. Substantial refurbishment is not financially possible when, effectively, rent control is in place.

The two elements are in conflict and, as the Minister can see, I have a sheaf of correspondence from landlords. That is only a small portion and I have edited it so as to speak appropriately to the first amendment.

The Bill is so restrictive with regard to the definition of "substantial renovation" that most property owners will find it impossible to comply with the criteria and will not be able to increase their rent even after substantial expenditure. Apartments and pre-1963 multi-unit accommodation will be hardest hit.

If enacted, investors will no longer purchase this type of accommodation, which will further decimate supply in the rental market. That is the market responding to the situation. Three issues, in particular, are causing concern. First, a permanent alteration of the internal structural layout cannot be made. This means that disability access changes may be impossible where, for example, an apartment block has no lift. Second, a permanent increase in the number of rooms will invalidate fire certificates. Third, an improvement in BER of two or more ratings is difficult to achieve and impossible for protected pre-63 buildings, which are exempt from BER. A logical solution is to link the substantial refurbishment spend to the existing rental price of the property such that a substantial refurbishment would involve an expenditure of more than 80% of the annual existing rent up to a maximum of €10,000. Under that model, apartments with rents of €1,500 per month would require an expenditure of €10,000, while properties renting for €500 per month would require an expenditure of €4,800.

Another item of correspondence, from Mr. Graham Farrington-Christie of Haden Properties in Dublin, accuses the Minister of conveniently brushing over two of the three additional measures, particularly the provision dealing with permanent alterations to the internal layout of a building The correspondent notes that the altering of the internal layout of a pre-63 building goes against the basis of the pre-63 legislation in the first instance. In terms of dwellings being adapted to provide for access and use by a person with a disability within the meaning of the Disability Act, it is noted that this type of accommodation is traditionally three floor over basement, which does not lend itself to any disability modification works given its status as a protected structure. The Minister's proposed solution for these properties is unattainable, the correspondent argues, a point he has highlighted to the Minister several times since meeting him on Monday, 13 May to explain his organisation's difficulties with the Bill. Mr. Farrington-Christie states in his letter to me that the issue is that the majority of the buildings in question are protected structures and are exempt from BER, as set out by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. He refers to the specific scale that is suggested to be utilised as a grading against refurbishment. He notes further that because they are protected structures constructed more than 100 years ago, should he follow the direction of the Minister and go against the legislation on protected structures, the buildings will only come up to the BER scale between three to four scales without external or internal insulation, both of which are blocked. In effect, landlords in this situation are caught in a catch-22 situation.

This is one type of horrifying situation landlords sometimes face. I accept that there are good and bad landlords. My sister, who went to a clinic in Malawi as a volunteer on no pay, let out her house in Kilkenny to a friend for a nominal rent of €500 per month. Being a good citizen, my sister declared the extra income only to be hit by penalties. I let out the basement apartment in my house, and I have had good tenants but also horrendous tenants. In one case, the tenants left the apartment in such a condition that I made an 11-minute television-quality film of it. I have a photograph here showing what the sheriff and I found last week when we inspected the property. It does not show the bedroom and bathroom, which I have not been able to get to yet. The woman involved owes me €11,000. I had to pay the solicitor €4,000 and the sheriff €2,700 to send two men out for ten minutes, and it will cost me at least €20,000, with no comeback, to repair the house. I would only be wasting more money trying to chase the tenant down for the moneys owed. The process to get her out took nearly two years from start to finish. Yet, if I as a landlord do anything wrong by a tenant, he or she can claim 15% to 20%-----

Does the Senator have more to say on the amendment?

I have only a few more points to make. What do I get from a tenant who leaves my house in this condition and owing so much? I get only the deposit of €900. This is not the first time the property has been returned to me wrecked but it is the worst case. As the owner of a pre-63 house, I am saying that for landlords of such properties, the restrictive clauses contained in the legislation will be impossible to satisfy. Even if we invest thousands of euro improving the premises, we are not guaranteed to get market rents in years to come. In other words, there is a significant expenditure for no return.

A woman who recently bought an older pre-63 building which is on the Record of Protected Structures says in a letter to me:

The building is greatly in need of refurbishing as it is unsustainable and unlivable in its present condition. Had I been aware or given advance notice of the introduction of this Bill and its restrictive criteria, I would never have considered purchasing the building. As it stands, my plans to spend a substantial money on refurbishment works are in question as I feel they are very unlikely to meet the proposed criteria. I am faced with an impossible situation, unable to move forward with the improvements and making units available for sufficient rent but also unable to resell as we would not sell for a respectable price...

The provisions in the Bill effectively impose a burden on the building which will attach to its future value. There is clearly an issue here with properties that have the double status of pre-63 building and are on the Record of Protected Structures. As this correspondent notes, "Having considered the refurbishment criteria set out in the Bill, I now realise that despite having had plans to spend in excess of €230,000 on refurbishment works, I would still be unable to satisfy the very restrictive criteria as set out in the Bill."

Senator Norris is making his points well but is beginning to repeat himself.

I am seeking to give an indication of the volume of resentment that exists regarding these provisions. The proposed amendment contains a substantial refurbishment definition that is making it difficult for most and impossible for some to make any useful investment. Another correspondent writes:

I could do substantial refurbishments, the first of which is the crazy 25% extra floor area, and I would probably do some others. I would prefer not to do that as the properties are interest only and still in negative equity, because of section 23 of the previous Government's-----

The Senator has made his points well.

I am almost finished. The writer continues:

I could increase the number of bedrooms by converting the attic. Planning permission has already been obtained for the same. However, I will not achieve the 25% increase.

The correspondent asks that the required increase be reduced to 15%.

I am making the case for this amendment in the context of the considerable distress in which some landlords find themselves. I did not refer to the people who contacted me who have six or 12 properties as their situation is not the chief cause of my concern. My concern is for the individuals operating on a small scale, who have taken out an investment with a view to guaranteeing their old age but are now facing these restrictions. As a landlord, I usually had very nice tenants and I never put up the rent. Now, when I am re-letting, I am faced with only being able to increase it by 4%. I do not mind all that much because I am not dependent on the income, but there are elderly people who are dependent on the rent they receive. I ask the Minister to take them into account in the legislation.

I welcome the Minister to the House. All Senators have received similar emails and telephone calls to those outlined by Senator Norris. Will the Minister lay out clearly, at the earliest possible stage, the implications of these particular provisions in the Bill? There is confusion about what he is seeking to do. I accept that his aim in this legislation is to improve the standard of rental accommodation throughout the country, which is the driver of this particular section. However, speaking to landlords about it, there is clearly some confusion. Shortly after the legislation goes through, it would be useful if the Minister were to produce an information booklet which sets out in an understandable way the implications for landlords. This would be especially useful for accidental landlords and those with only one rental unit to cover their pension. I realise it is not the Minister's intention to drive such people out of the market, but there is an issue regarding the clarity and readability of the Bill. The original legislation has been amended several times over a decade and when one tries to read it in its entirety, it is difficult for Members and advisers to follow, never mind for an individual who might only have one property for rent and who wants to obey the law.

It is no longer clear, if one takes the Bill in its entirety. Sometimes we need to do that.

I will not be supporting the amendments, as outlined, but I ask the Minister to consider issuing some manner of a clarification document on the exact implications of the Bill for those I call single-property or accidental landlords.

I said two or three days ago that I found the Bill to be one of the most unbalanced Bills. I think the Minister actually admitted that. There is a kind of rush here. We are all rightly in a panic that people have nowhere to live, or cannot find a place to live, but blaming landlords for the crisis is not the way to go. The Minister might have three, four or five prongs to try to solve the housing issue but it seems that this Bill has every landlord standing at the gates of hell, with something wrong with every one of them.

I cite the example of a landlord who was owed €11,000 by his tenant. He had to pay a solicitor €4,000 and then had to pay a sheriff €2,700 to send out two men for ten minutes. It will cost him €20,000 to repair the house and he has no comeback, and he would be wasting his time trying to follow the tenant. The whole process took him two years from the get go. If a tenant wants to do something to a landlord, it can cost €15,000 to €20,000 for the landlord to get out of the trouble. The Bill is totally unbalanced. Where is the law and regulation for the tenants?

I do not agree with the Bill, although there are aspects of it I like. It is extremely important young people have a home or the prospect of a home, but the Government seems to be extremely smug about this. Where are they? It is the most important issue in terms of electioneering at present. Why are they not in here arguing against me or arguing for me? Where are they? They are out banging on the doors of people who happen to have a house who are asking, out of generosity, worry and anxiety, whether they will do something about housing. I understand that it takes time to build a house. If it takes time for local authorities to realign themselves with the ability to build houses, let them do it. By blaming landlords, the Bill is entirely unbalanced. That is why I worry about it. The Government should worry about it because landlords - the best and the worst of them - will run for cover. I am not suggesting there are not bad ones, or bad, good or great tenants, but there is no balance in the Bill and the landlords are at the gates of hell ready to burn. Where is the balance? If I was to vote in the local election, that is what I would ask about. It is all very well, but where is the balance?

Leaving out all the other architectural matters, pre-1963 and those areas that the Government and the officials know all about, because they are extremely well informed of them, as are many Senators, I do not understand where the balance is. We are always looking for balance and equality, equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, which my learned friend has spoken much about, equality of this and that, including equality of education. Where is the equality here? It is not in the Bill. There is no balance anywhere in it but there must be because there are good and bad landlords and there are certainly good and bad tenants.

I despair and I think there will be a reaction to it, and it is not going to be good. I am not a landlord. I am the tenant of a vulture fund, to which I openly admit, but I can see landlords running out of the country, saying that it is just not worth it. We see vacant houses which people will not rent out because the law is not balanced. It is balanced on the side of the tenant and that is wrong. It is wrong, both in the good times and in the bad times. I am not supporting this under any circumstances.

It is taking the eye off the ball because we should be building. I cited Mulvey Park, primarily because I know it. It is in lower Dundrum and it is county council housing with greens in the front, back gardens and a community. Half the country was reared in places like that. Why can we not bring in expertise and say to it to build such housing. Such housing is all done in circles and diamond shapes and there are wonderful communities. Now we have people who cannot even speak to each other because they cannot see their neighbours and have no right even to an architectural vista. I am against it, lock, stock and barrel.

I was not going to speak but the amendment is around raising the standards of the accommodation and for Senators who have been arguing for decent housing for people to then come in with an amendment that tries to carve out ways for people to evade rent caps is completely hypocritical. If one is willing to invest and use a property as an investment, one should be investing in it to meet a certain standard in the first place without it having to be written into the law for one to bring it up to that standard.

It is not fair to talk about balance in the Bill. If a person is a landlord and is in a position to have an investment property, the balance already lies with him or her. It does not lie with the tenant. The tenant is the one requiring a service and is renting the home. The balance never lies with the tenant.

This is about raising the standards. This amendment is about trying to find ways for landlords to evade rent caps. That is all it is. If one does not want to bring one's home up to the standard, one does not have to do it. The only reason one would want to do it is that one could evade the 4% cap. It is hypocritical for Senator Craughwell to come in here talking about tenants, housing and standards of living, and the conditions in which people live, and then table a landlord amendment because of some emails he received. I am sure Senator McDowell wrote the amendment for him and he should be here speaking on it himself instead of sending Senator Craughwell in.

That is outrageous. I do not need anybody to write amendments for me. The amendment is based on professional advice from one of the leading BER consultants, Mr. Liam Donohoe, registered SEAI BER assessor and heat pump technical adviser, of Glen of Imaal. That is who gave me the information I needed.

On a point of order, I have listened to Senator Ruane many times here and I have agreed with her on many occasions. If one wants to talk about balance, I am trying to get balance on both sides, not only because somebody happens to have an investment property. I am talking generally across the Bill. Balance is both sides of an argument.

That is definitely not a point of order but I gave the Senator some level of latitude.

Senator Ruane has argued about herself on many occasions on different issues.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell may be right. It was not a point of order but I let the Senator in anyway.

I have concerns about the Bill and I have said so. We have worked on this in the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. It is good for tenants. There are good landlords and bad landlords. Across the board, as previous speakers said, we must achieve that balance.

On the report, I seek clarification from the Minister on how many pre-1963 buildings are listed. How many do we have? What did the Department come back with? My other query relates to protected structures. One of the biggest issues with those who are living in old protected structures, whether a family home or a residence being rented, is that when one wants to get work done it costs twice as much as a normal works. I am dealing with a person in my own area who is living in an old bungalow that is a protected structure and the grant was applied for. There is a small grant for protected structures every January, and applications must be in within four weeks. It is difficult to get them. These are small grants for protected structures, which would be old buildings. Has the Minister looked at this in its entirety, including the grant for protected structures, to find out exactly how many there are in the country and how many are pre-1963 that would be listed?

I do not know how many such structures are in existence. There are not many pre-1963 houses in my area, for example. The telephone calls I have been getting are mainly from people in Dublin. What does the report indicate? I did not see a copy of it at the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. I would like to know what the figures are in that regard. If they are provided, when we pass legislation we will at least know that we have the correct information regarding the number of properties involved.

I thank Senators for their contributions. I obtained agreement from the Cabinet this morning on a motion for early signature by the President. The legislation will go to the President for signing once we have concluded our proceedings, which this means that it will come into effect as quickly as possible.

I wish to touch upon a couple of points but not necessarily in the order in which they were raised. Senator Norris referred to landlords and the landlord class. It is worth repeating that 70% of landlords own only one property. Many of them are accidental landlords because of what happened in recent times. It is wrong to tar every landlord with the same brush. We must find another word for those landlords who are abusing people's human rights when it comes to the standard of accommodation being offered, overcrowding and other matters.

It is also important to note that the proposals in the Bill are not new. The Bill has been six months in the making. At the relevant committee and again in this House last week, Senator Murnane O'Connor referred to the amount of time we have given to the Bill. The proposals are not new and the Bill is not being rushed. In fact, it is late. The Bill is not unbalanced. It is trying to bring balance to a sector where there are already very strong laws relating to landlords. The Bill is trying to rebalance some rights in favour of tenants. We have statistics and if someone wants to have a Commencement debate on the issue, we can discuss what happens in the RTB, the percentage of cases that are taken by landlords and by tenants and the percentage of cases where the landlord wins compared with where the tenant wins. There are very strong laws already in place but since the first day I came into this office I recognised that we are at risk of losing more and more landlords from the sector. As more landlords leave, that increases housing insecurity for many because they serve notices to quit, as is their right. In everything we do, we must ensure that we find a balance. We must also ensure that we push back against lazy arguments that are being made, day in and day out, in the Dáil against landlords. That is very important. In the previous budget we introduced 100% mortgage interest relief for landlords. Last year I introduced new guidelines for the build-to-rent sector in order to encourage more landlords to enter that sector. We are doing things for landlords as well and it is important to be aware of that.

It is also interesting to note that what we are trying to do is improve standards in accommodation. This is about raising standards and ensuring that landlords invest in their properties. We must find a balance and ensure that we do not introduce a definition that will put landlords off and have the unintended consequence of bring investment in property to a halt. The definition strives to strike that balance and does so well. The reason we believe that is because we examined the issue in great detail at the committee. We considered the idea of linking it purely to expenditure so that if a landlord spent a certain amount of money, he or she would be able to step outside of the rent caps. However, that was not seen to be viable or easily certifiable. It was not seen as the best way to proceed. We also recognised on Committee Stage that we would like landlords to prioritise in their investments certain things that will bring about greater affordability for tenants in terms of bills and fuel security and that assist in reaching objectives relating climate change and the environment. That is the reason we made two changes to the definition of what constitutes substantial refurbishment. We made changes, via the amendments we brought forward on Committee Stage, to ensure that there would be different ways of achieving a definition of substantial refurbishment that would not include BER. This matter was also dealt with on Report Stage. Senator Norris read out a list of different things but it is a case of using a combination of those. There are a couple of things one can do which, if done on their own, allows one to step outside of the rent cap limitations. Another section refers to a combination of things. In the combination category, we introduced changes in the BER ratings in order to try to incentivise BER improvements by two or three points, as well as improving disability access. They are all very important things to do. We also introduced a stand-alone definition in respect of the seven points on the BER scale. We did so because of the consultation we have had on pre-1963 properties.

Senator Craughwell and I both need to recognise that we are not experts when it comes to the physical works that are done on buildings. He will have meetings, he will get documentation and he will work to advice. As Minister, I will do the same. One of the things that I asked my officials to prepare was a report which we could publish and which Senator Humphreys sought. That report goes through different types of pre-1963 buildings and the different types of work that can be done. It also deals with the different costs that will allow someone with a pre-1963 building to be able to get up those seven points on the BER scale and step outside the rent caps. Therefore, they are not disincentivised from investing and the tenant gets a much greater improvement in the context of the property. If the target is reached, the landlord can increase the rent by more than 4%. However, we brought in rent caps for a reason, namely, so that landlords would not increase rents by more than 4%. The goal is for rent caps or rent controls to be in place, but we must recognise that one of the unintended consequences of not allowing a step-out for refurbishment purposes might mean that people might not invest in their properties. The ultimate aim of the definition is to ensure that we do not disincentivise investment in property and, more importantly, that we get rid of so-called renovictions - there have been reports on these in so many places - whereby people are spuriously invoking substantial refurbishment in order to try to abuse the law when it comes to rent caps or, worse, get their tenants out. Given the amount of attention that this aspect of the Bill has received at different points, we are of the view that we are going to be able to capture that. Where the works might be significant because of the age of the property and the different stages might take up to 24 months, the landlord will not be bound by the rent caps in the next rent setting but only that setting. It is also true to state that even when no works have taken place, the landlord can still raise the rent each year, but by no more than 4%. However, it still is an opportunity to raise the rent, which is important. From the evidence that has been provided, I am of the view that it is possible to meet the new definition, even for pre-1963 properties, but I accept that it is more difficult when it comes to protected structures. We will keep the measure under review and I will publish the document very shortly in order that people can see the work the Department has done.

I think there are in the region of 40,000 to 45,000 protected structures in the country. I do not have the figure in my head for how many are rented properties. From the engagements I have had, I recognise that the owners of pre-1963 properties that are protected structures will find this more challenging but we believe that the documentation we will produce will show that it is possible. We will continue to engage. If further amendments need to be made in time, then we will make them. This is a very robust change to the law to protect tenants but also to ensure that landlords can continue to invest in their properties and avail of their own rights under the rent changes.

I thank the Minister for his considered response. Like everyone else, I want to ensure that tenants have good quality accommodation. When I went to London as a young man of 15 and a half years of age, I recall having to share a single room with four other men whom I did not even know. That was the name of the game in those days. I remember the landlady charging us 10 shillings a week for milk. I also remember that if one put a steak on a pan, by the time one came down to the kitchen again somebody would have eaten it, so do not talk to me about the quality of accommodation.

Was the Senator not doing well for himself?

I will not take lectures from anybody.

Senator Craughwell should be allowed to speak without interruption from Senator Ruane.

What I was discussing here was not something to enrich landlords, it was the engineering difficulties that exist in the context of bringing pre-1963 properties up to standard. The grave danger we have is that single property owners of many pre-1963 properties will find it too expensive to upgrade and that those properties will be placed on the market or will be left to just sit there. We will then see a recurrence of what is happening in many towns. I do not want to make anybody rich and I do not want to make anybody poor. I do not want anybody to have to live in miserable accommodation. I stated earlier that there is a belief that European law is being broken. The one fear I have is that some of the big institutional investors will take this to the European Court if it comes to it. The professionals are telling me that it is not possible to come up seven points in a pre-1963 home. That is not the case with all of them but it is with some. That is the reason I fear the legislation will be challenged when it leaves this House.

I accept the Minister's bona fides.

I accept what he is trying to do but I advise him that there will be an attempt - if not here then in the courts - to overturn this and that would be bad for all of us.

I appreciate the Senator's point. If the property is in as poor a condition as the Senator states it is, needs significant works but is still unable to get around the BER exemption, it cannot have been let on the market any time soon. In which case, when the landlord brings it to market after the works are done, he or she will be able to set it at a market rent. That will not change. That balance is there. We will publish the information and keep it under review, as we do with everything. Let us wait and see what the people involved in this work think about the possibilities to get the BER rating there. Again, when we talk about significant investments, examples of which have been given to me regarding properties, they cannot have been rented any time soon in which case they will not be bound by the first rent setting relating to a rent pressure zone.

Senator Humphreys cannot come in again. Nobody can come in again because it is Report Stage.

I am not coming back in with regard to the debate. It is just a point of clarification. It is a one-answer question.

I cannot bring anyone else back in.

I just wanted to know when the information-----

It is Report Stage and they are the rules. They are not my rules. They are the rules of the House, which I am enforcing. I reminded Senators that they may only speak once except for the proposer, who can come in at the end. That is it. I now ask Senator Craughwell-----

Can I make one contribution?

I have not yet spoken.

It is after the debate has concluded. Senator Craughwell concluded the debate and allowed the Minister to respond to his points. The rules are that a Senator may speak only once, not the Minister. The Minister can come back in.

I have not spoken.

I know you have not yet spoken but you came in too late.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 2 in the names of Senators Murnane O'Connor and Ardagh has been ruled out of order. It was previously rejected by the committee of the whole Seanad.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Amendment No. 3 in the names of Senators Warfield, Conway-Walsh, Devine, Gavan, Mac Lochlainn and Ó Donnghaile arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Will I move amendments Nos. 3 to 5?

The Senator can only move amendment No. 3. We can get to amendments No. 4 and 5. The amendments must be discussed together but Senator Warfield will move amendments Nos. 4 and 5 when we have dealt with amendment No. 3. He can discuss them all together now.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 12, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"Amendment of section 34 of Act of 2004

13. Section 34 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraph 3 of the Table to that section.".

I have resubmitted amendment No. 3, which removes the selling of a property as a ground for ending a tenancy. In the context of the current rental crisis, we have seen prospective landlords purchase houses for buy to let where they have no intention of living in the house but see it as an investment opportunity that was a return in terms of rent and perhaps in terms of sale later on. The difficulty here arises when the new owners of the property seek to end an ongoing tenancy. Under the 2004 Act, they are permitted to do so. Many of those outside rent pressure zones or those seeking to evade rent pressure zone obligations seek to do this so that they can inflate rents substantially and see greater return on the investment. However, for the tenants in situ, it ensures eviction without reasonable cause or fairness. It ensures that under the current market, many families that have built a life and that, for all intents and purposes, are good tenants find themselves re-entering a market where rental options in that locality are usually limited and probably at an inflated price compared with what they were paying. It does not only affect families; it affects many students and young professionals who, typically, are not of great means. For example, a couple I know renting in a shared Dublin city apartment were recently given notice to quit for the purposes of sale of the property. They were paying €750 per month for a double room. Two months later, they found a property that would accept them and are now paying €1,250 per month for a room in an apartment 50 m away from their original letting. They may have found cheaper options but, in reality, time was against them as they had less than two months to uproot their lives and go into a market of two-tier rents. These are the people who are now being told by the Minister that co-living spaces at €1,300 per month are now a viable option for them. So-called co-living is not a solution to the rental crisis. As Sinn Féin sees it, it is a step on the road to future tenements. The Minister's comments about young people having to make sacrifices in terms of rental accommodation are frankly bizarre.

The Minister also referred to the awkward situation where a young couple buys a rent-to-buy property and must look to evict current tenants. While this is not a nice situation for anyone involved, the awkwardness of this situation is not sufficient for us not to allow for leniency for the tenants in situ. The consequences of evicting tenants, making them vulnerable to homelessness or condemning them to inflated rents, far outweigh the consequences for the buyers here. While we discussed this on Committee Stage, I remain unconvinced that this amendment is not a legitimate call to make. It should receive the support of Government.

On numerous occasions, the Minister has referred to the constitutionality of such an amendment. However, he has not elaborated on the basis for this. While commercial properties are typically different arrangements and involve longer leases, owners still cannot use sale as a reason for ending a tenancy. The Constitution is not so prescriptive that it discriminates between commercial and residential lettings and without being furnished with any legitimate legal opinion to question the constitutionality, I must proceed with my amendment.

Does anyone else wish to speak on amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive?

I have not yet finished.

Amendment No. 4 is related. It refers to removing the references to occupation of the property owner's family members as the basis for a notice to quit. The Minister mentioned on Committee Stage that the purposes for its retention is that if a landlord has a family member who has fallen on hard times, he or she may be able to assist the family member with this property. Having thought about it after the last debate we had, I still do not agree with that. It is insufficient to allow for what is the current situation and what is a constant occurrence in the market as its stands. What we did not discuss is the fact that many landlords make the decision based not on assisting a vulnerable family member but on availing of tax incentives that having a family member in situ brings when renting other rooms. In a four-bedroom house where one room is occupied by a family member, the three remaining rooms would be far more profitable than had all four rooms been rented to non-family members due to the tax incentives for such a scenario. A situation where landlords end tenancies to do this are far more prevalent than the Minister has described, and I suspect the RTB has made him aware of this. While nobody has an issue with family members availing of property in this way, the issue arises when the tenancy is ended somewhat prematurely for the landlord's financial benefit as opposed to its natural end when a family member may move in.

Amendment No. 5 extends notices to quit to 90 days for tenancies of six months or less. While the Minister was correct when he said that lease agreements must be adhered to before a notice to quit is given, in instances where tenants are subject to a six-month lease or a periodic tenancy, the landlord may end the tenancy at any time during the first six months without having to give a reason. While circumstances change or sometimes tenancies simply do not work out, 28 days for a family to find alternative options is not good enough and is unfair given the realities of the rental crisis and the lack of affordable options. It is not reasonable to ask a family that has found accommodation in a suitable area that may be close to the children's school or the extended family who then find themselves issued with a notice to quit, to find another affordable option within that locality within four weeks. Last week, we discussed about how daft.ie reported there were just 2,700 homes available to rent across the State on 1 May, which is the lowest recorded since daft.ie started to compile these statistics in 2006.

That has filtered down to what may be local and affordable accommodation. The reality is that options are often not readily available in 28 days and this has contributed to homelessness. I do not believe such provision is unreasonable to expect from landlords.

On the ability of landlords to cite as a reason for eviction their wish to move a family member into a property, all politicians will have seen abuse of this right. We have heard on many occasions of family members moved into a property and suddenly leaving after three, four or five months. I understand where Sinn Féin is coming from in proposing these amendments.

I debated this issue at length during the passage of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2017 and has reason to read over that debate. The Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, brought through the legislation which provides for co-living. At the time, it was argued that co-living accommodation would be aimed at hipsters and would be ideal for people moving to Dublin to work in the information technology sector for a year. I described co-living, as proposed in that legislation, as student accommodation for adults. To expect an adult to live for a long period in a co-living setting, which is one third the size of a one–bedroom apartment, is not acceptable. A number of planning applications for co-living developments have been submitted. One application is for a development with 220 bedrooms in Tallaght, which is not in the city centre. It has not been identified as accommodation for people who would be living in the city for only a year. It is a development for long-term accommodation. This has horrible implications for the future of Dublin. It is totally wrong. While I accept that co-living is not covered by this Bill, I will continue to raise the issue. This type of accommodation is the only option developers are offering people, certainly in the Dublin area, and that trend will spread to other cities. I support the amendments proposed by Sinn Féin.

I thank Senator Warfield for proposing these amendments and those who spoke on them. I will deal with the issues raised and speak to amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, as they are related and grouped together. On the ability to serve a notice to quit when somebody wants to sell a property, we going over ground we have covered already in the Seanad. It is the case that if someone has a lease with a landlord, it is the same as a commercial lease. That cannot be torn up by the landlord by serving a notice to quit on the tenant. It operates in exactly the same way as a lease in the commercial sector in that regard.

Legal advice was given by the Attorney General's office and I will go through the four elements of it again. The first is that this was not constitutional because it was seen as an unjust attack on one subgroup of a sector regarding a problem in society that is larger than this one particular issue. I have had conversations with the various non-governmental organisations, the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive on capturing accurate data. According to the RTB, arrears is a bigger issue and we should be doing more on the arrears side. We are now engaging with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to do that. Even if this proposal was constitutional, it could not be retrospective. We would not, therefore, be able to introduce a temporary measure to protect current tenants, as members of Sinn Féin keep saying in the Dáil. It would not work in that way.

Even if this proposal was constitutional and retrospective, would it be a good policy decision? I do not believe it would be. Many landlords are accidental landlords who have been in arrears for a long time. They are now reaching the point at which they can sell their properties and pay off their debts. If we were to enforce this provision, we have evidence that indicates that as much as 30% of the value of the property, as opposed to the profit on it, would be lost. In order to help one family or individual, which is a noble intention, we would be hurting another one. That would not be acceptable when introducing a new policy. Furthermore, even if we decided that was still okay from a policy point of view, we would not solve the problem because the person buying the home could then serve a notice to quit. We would move the obligation to get the tenant out of the property from the professional landlord or person who has been operating as a landlord for a number of years to the new buyer or new family. We could have circumstances where a young family is trying to serve a notice to quit on a family living in a house. That is not the right thing to do. It does not solve the problem because a notice to quit can still be served by the person who has bought the property. It displaces the problem and places an unfair burden on the people buying. The societal risks of that are very great.

Notwithstanding that, we are making considerable improvements in the notice to quit periods that will be allowed. I mentioned the figures previously. If a person has been living in the property for more than a year, the notice to quit period is currently 42 days. Once this legislation has been signed into law by the President, the notice to quit period for such tenants will be 128 days. That is a significant improvement and the right decision to make. Where people have been renting an apartment or house for less than six months, the period is too short to lock either side into a further three months by extending the notice to quit period for this particular cohort of people. In the case of people who have been renting for six months or or more, the notice to quit period will increase from 35 days to 90 days. For those who have been renting one year or more, it increases from 42 days to 128 days, and it increases as the period living in the property increases. A notice period of 28 days for those renting for less than six months is considered fair for both sides of the equation.

Co-living is not a response to the housing shortage. It has been well flagged in discussions as a way to allow for greater choice in the rental sector. Everyone should have choice when it comes to housing. It should not be the privilege of those who have more money or different circumstances. Too many people are trapped in accommodation circumstances in which they should not be trapped. This is about providing choice. When we are younger we make sacrifices because we have different priorities. We spend our money differently from the way we might spend it when we are older. We work in different jobs. We put up with things we would not put up with when we are older and have families and different responsibilities. At certain times in our lives, we want live in the city centre and enjoy what that brings. At other times in our lives, we might want to move away form the city centre and enjoy what that brings. We must recognise that there is a large mobile workforce coming to work and live here for six months or one or two years. They want an accommodation option as well. They are not coming here to live long term. They do not necessarily want to move into a four-bedroom semi-detached house with people they do not know, nor do they want the isolation of a studio or one-bedroom apartment. That is why co-living his is another option that will be available.

One application for co-living accommodation has been submitted. I cannot speak about individual applications but we should not be judging this new concept, which was welcomed by all the experts at the time and is still welcomed today, based on one application alone. We are talking about six to eight units of private accommodation with private bathrooms and shared communal facilities. There are very clear guidelines on this and they were developed taking account of best practice abroad. That is what we are trying to do. People are judging this based on one application. They are making this a political issue and in doing so they are reducing choice for people who are coming to work here or starting their first job. Standards are improving for rental accommodation. In the previous amendments, we spoke about how we can improve rental standards. It is inconsistent to then say that we are trying to lower standards in a separate move. That is not what this is about. It is about choice.

Regarding definitions around family members and what is and should not be possible, we should not change the definition of what a family member is in the legislation. If someone has a second property, there are very legitimate reasons he or she might want to give it over to a very close family member. This would reduce the burden on the State and potentially free up other property elsewhere for someone else to rent. If we consider the Bill rather than the amendment only, it contains new protections in cases where someone seeks to abuse the section 34 right to move a family member into a home. Where this right is abused, the RTB can take new sanctions against the landlord. There is also a new right for the tenant to be rehoused in that home if the relative moving in has not lived there for a sufficient period as per the Bill. If Members read the detail of the Bill, they will note those new protections have been put in place, which are welcome.

Does Senator Warfield wish to respond?

No. We can proceed to a vote.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 21.

  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fintan Warfield and Rose Conway-Walsh; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Frank Feighan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 12, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 34 of Act of 2004

13. Section 34 of the Act of 2004 is amended in paragraph 4 of the Table to that section, by the deletion of “or for occupation by a member of his or her family and the notice of termination (the “notice”) contains or is accompanied by a statutory declaration”, and the substitution of “and the notice of termination (the “notice”) contains or is accompanied, in writing, by a statement.”.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 20.

  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fintan Warfield and Rose Conway-Walsh; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Frank Feighan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 15, to delete line 41 and substitute the following:

"

Less than 6 months

90 days

"

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 20.

  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fintan Warfield and Rose Conway-Walsh; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Frank Feighan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 17, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Private residential tenancies register: publication of certain details

22. Section 128 of the Act of 2004 is amended by substituting the following for subsection (4):

“(4) The published register—

(a) shall not contain any information, as respects a particular dwelling, that discloses or could reasonably lead to the disclosure of the identity of the landlord or the tenant of the dwelling,

(b) shall disclose, as respects every dwelling, the amount of the rent payable under the tenancy of that dwelling.”.”.

I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 7 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 42, line 28, after “regulations” to insert the following:

“(which shall include but is not limited to persons, whether established in the State or otherwise, who provide for consideration advertising, agency or management services in respect of short-term lettings)”.

I second the amendment.

I ask for silence please. Senator Humphreys has the floor.

I am not going to delay proceedings. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are intended to allow proper enforcement of regulations on short-term lets. They will allow for desktop enforcement rather than-----

I ask those not participating in the debate to leave the Chamber, please. There is too much noise and we cannot hear Senator Humphreys.

These amendments would make it much easier for planning enforcement officers to uphold the legislation as it is proposed. I put them forward as a suggestion for the Minister. I am not inclined to press either amendment to a vote if the Minister gives some reassurance on enforcement. I am not confident that his proposals will work. I understand these two amendments would have to be dealt with by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and that the Minister, Deputy Ross, would have to introduce legislation to provide for regulation in this area. I urge the Minister to give me some reassurance now that he will revisit this Bill if it is found that the enforcement elements regarding short-term lets are not working.

I agree with Senator Humphreys. This is an important issue. We have been working on this Bill for months in the housing committee and I have some concerns about it. We spoke today about the different amendments. The Minister spoke about the regulations, the Revenue Commissioners and approved housing bodies or AHBs. There are 30,000 AHB properties and the Minister wants all of them to be registered with the Residential Tenancies Board. That will cause problems. There are also 6,000 volunteers involved. This process will not work. There are issues with this Bill, which I have discussed previously with the Minister. My main issue is with the registration of AHB properties every year, as they already register every year with the housing regulator. There is much confusion in this Bill and issues such as this need to be sorted out. It is not possible or realistic for AHBs to register 30,000 properties every year with the RTB.

We will let the Minister respond to Senators Humphreys and Murnane O'Connor to see if is possible to appease them.

The amendment on AHBs on which Senator Murnane O'Connor spoke has been ruled out of order.

I know that but it is an important issue.

We are speaking on the amendments related to short-term letting. What Senator Humphreys is trying to do with these amendments is the right way to go about this. Unfortunately, the regulation of online platforms in this area does not fall under the remit of my Department or the Revenue Commissioners. That does not mean that our work stops with the enforcement procedures we will introduce in the regulations once the proposed amendments to the Bill have been made. Short-term letting has to be a transparent activity if it is to work and to enable members of the public to find properties easily online.

This in a way will lend itself to enforcement by our planning authorities. Dublin City Council has already been enforcing short-term letting to a degree but since it did not have the legal powers or the legal clarity, it was not in a position to do so as robustly as we might have liked. We are bringing that clarity forward in the legislation and the regulations as to what is and is not allowed. These authorities will be responsible now for enforcing these new laws. They will need new staff to do that and we will work with them to ensure that happens. As we begin these new enforcement procedures, like new laws, they will have to be kept under review to ensure they are working in the best way possible. We also have to recognise that what we are doing around short-term letting is being done through the planning code, which has happened in other jurisdictions.

This is just one part of it. There is a second tier to come, which is the regulation of the activity itself. We need to recognise that in the future, concepts around the shared economy will not go away. When the pressure comes off the housing sector, because supply will have increased sufficiently, we may decide three, four or five years down the line to loosen what we are bringing in here which is a prohibition on a second property being let in a rent pressure zone to the short-term market. Now is the time to start building proper regulation of the sector by bringing in the online platforms.

It is the case that Revenue can request the information it needs. Even if I thought there was a way of getting at this through my Department, I am reluctant to allow the sharing of the information between one party and another where it concerns a third party. That will need to be looked at more carefully.

As proposed in this House, we need to look also at activities not just around short-term letting but all lettings on online platforms, where certain platforms are allowing properties that are completely substandard to be advertised and let on their websites. They cannot say it is not their responsibility. That is not good enough. We need to move on that as well and we will work with Members of this House who have ideas on the activities of online advertising platforms to ensure they do not allow substandard apartments to be advertised on their websites, in the same way that there is a responsibility on certain websites not to allow certain comments or material to be posted on their sites. The same responsibilities should fall on private operators running websites that allow properties to be advertised that are not suitable for letting. That is further work we need to do but we are not trying to do it in this Bill. I accept that the motivation behind the amendments represents something that can be done but unfortunately it cannot be done through these amendments or the regulations that will follow.

This is probably one of the problems in this regard. If one looks at what has happened in other jurisdictions, online platforms have set out to undermine legislation and regulations and actively advertise property on their platforms and get around the regulations. They have succeeded in getting around the regulations in London and can get around them in Dublin, purely through sponsored ads on the platforms. That was the purpose of the Private Members' legislation I put forward, that is, to impose a level of responsibility on those platforms, which Revenue has done. What one sometimes needs to do is to work co-operatively across Departments. I totally accept that it is not the Minister's Department alone that has a role here, but it concerns the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Revenue Commissioners.

The Minister said he actively reviews new legislation, of which I am aware. There is a need to review very quickly the enforceability of the regulations we are bringing in on short-term letting. The Bill will be undermined if the platforms set out purposely to undermine it, given the difficulty in bringing enforcement actions against those who set out to breach the legislation. I accept what the Minister said but the two amendments would assist him in doing exactly what he wants to do. Last night, while canvassing, I came across a person who had eight properties on Airbnb, and that is not to criticise one platform as many of them do short-term lettings. This person explained that she was on the Airbnb platform and had moved eight long-term residential properties away from family lettings to short-term lettings. She said she would have to sell them back into the market and I told her that was correct and was what the legislation was supposed to. I fully support it in that regard.

These amendments were to assist in the success of the legislation. I ask the Minister and his officials to review the position of platforms that purposely set out to get around the legislation because there is a large amount of money being made in short-term lettings.

Out of curiosity, I put my own property on one of these sites to find out what offer or money it would make. I answered the ad on the site and the site came back to me and said it would give me €5,000 a month for the property and anything above that amount would be its profit margin. This was for a two-bedroom terraced house in Dublin 4. The amount of money and the profit to be made in this area can be seen from this. These sites will set out to undermine the legislation.

I ask the Minister to strengthen his commitment to an early review of enforcement, because planning enforcement officers will, with good intentions, make an effort to enforce the legislation he has outlined. However, I do not believe they are being given the tools to do the job really well. We are asking them to do a tough job. Enforcement will involve visibly seeing the legislation being breached. That will not be possible from a desktop. One would not have to recruit as many planning enforcement staff if the platforms had to maintain a register on the basis that a hefty fine would be imposed if they did not do so. A simple email could be sent to the different platforms to request the information, which the Revenue Commissioners currently do.

I am requesting a whole-of-Government approach involving the Revenue Commissioners, the Minister's Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. I will not press these amendments if the Minister can give me a stronger guarantee that he will review the enforcement of the legislation.

Co-operation is key and it happens across many aspects of Government, because life does not fall into the silos of Government Departments. I could not risk any unnecessary delays, as there have been enough already, and I had to progress with the planning laws, as per my responsibility. I knew I could do that within a certain time horizon.

On enforcement, a breach of planning laws is very serious. People need to understand that they will be in breach of planning laws where they are not engaged in home sharing but in a short-term letting. Much of the work will and can be done on the desktop in terms of how we enforce this.

In regard to those who seek to step outside of this, I will look at this very carefully because the property still needs to be advertised online. Even if a company approaches an individual and says that it can get around this, in order for that individual to be able to identify a site on which to rent, it has to be online for this to work. That would, therefore, be a route for us to be able to identify those properties seeking to step outside of this. There are also other methods where an address may not be registered publicly online but that will not stop us from engaging and in trying to get addresses. We will, of course, need to review this and to ensure that enough time is given to see how properly this is working. To give an example, if we had reviewed the operation of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme after six months, most people would have said, as they did, that it was not working, whereas we knew it was working very well, and more successfully than anticipated. We will need to have a period of time to get a proper understanding of exactly what is happening before we engage in a formal review.

Like most things we are doing in housing now, we are constantly looking to ensure that the changes and improvements we are making in law are having the intended consequence. I appreciate the amount of work the Senator has done in this area since he entered the Seanad, and I will be happy to see this legislation passed today. I will bring the regulations to the joint committee next week to be ready for 1 July when the new laws will take effect.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.