Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Debate resumed on amendment No. 8:
In page 6, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:
“(c) in the Table—
(i) by deleting paragraph 3, and
(ii) in paragraph 5, by substituting “, no reasonable measures can be taken to maintain the dwelling fit for human habitation during the refurbishment or renovation” for “in a way which requires the dwelling to be vacated for that purpose”,
and”.
- (Senator Marie Sherlock)

Does Senator Mark Wall have anything more to add?

I wish to make a point on behalf of Senators Ruane and Black, who could not be here. I wanted to note that they hope to table an amendment for Report Stage. They are concerned about people occupying a dwelling in the course of or following renovations in respect of disability access in particular and retrofitting. They said tenants should not fear eviction because they have requested essential disability access improvements or proper insulation. They hope to bring amendments related to that forward on Report Stage. I do not know if the Minister of State received a reply yesterday.

Gabh mo leithscéal.

Does the Minister of State want to speak on the amendment?

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 24.

  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Keogan, Sharon.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
  • Seery Kearney, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fintan Warfield and Mark Wall; Níl, Senators Robbie Gallagher and Seán Kyne.
Amendment declared lost.
Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has advised the Cathaoirleach that she has entered into a voting pairing arrangement with Senator Eileen Flynn for the duration of Senator Flynn’s maternity leave and accordingly has not voted in this division.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Government amendment No. 10:
In page 6, line 24, to delete “subsection (3)” and substitute “subsections (3) and (4)”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 11:
In page 6, line 26, after “section” where it secondly occurs to insert “and section 6”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 12:
In page 6, to delete lines 27 to 33 and substitute the following:
“(3) (a) A landlord under a tenancy of a dwelling—
(i) created, or that came into being, under the Principal Act before the commencement of this section, and
(ii) in existence on such commencement,
may, by notice, in writing and in such form as shall be specified by the Board, inform the tenant under the tenancy that the landlord consents to the tenancy continuing in existence for a period of unlimited duration and, upon receipt by the tenant of such notice, that tenancy shall, subject to Chapter 3, continue in existence for a period of unlimited duration from the date of the notice, and accordingly Part 4 of the Principal Act as amended by paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1) and section 6 shall have effect in relation to that tenancy.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 13:
In page 6, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“(4) Where a Part 4 tenancy or further Part 4 tenancy of a dwelling—
(a) was created, or came into being, before the commencement of this section, and
(b) expires on or after such commencement,
then, upon its so expiring and unless a valid notice of termination in respect of the tenancy was served under paragraph (a) or (b) of section 34 or section 36 of the Principal Act before its so expiring, a new tenancy of that dwelling shall stand created and that new tenancy shall, subject to Chapter 3, continue in existence for a period of unlimited duration.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS
Government amendment No. 14:
In page 6, after line 38, to insert the following:
“Amendment of Principal Act consequent upon section 5
6. (1) The Principal Act is amended—
(a) by the substitution of the following section for section 29:
“29. For the purposes of this Act, each of the following is a Part 4 tenancy:
(a) a tenancy that continues in existence by virtue of subsection (1) (inserted by subsection (1) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021) of section 28;
(b) a tenancy that continues in existence in accordance with subsection (3) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021;
(c) a new tenancy referred to in subsection (4) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021.”,
(b) in section 30, by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):
“(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), the terms of a Part 4 tenancy shall—
(a) in the case of a tenancy that continues in existence by virtue of subsection (1) (inserted by subsection (1) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021) of section 28, be those of the tenancy of which it is a continuation,
(b) in the case of a tenancy that continues in existence in accordance with subsection (3) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021, be those of the tenancy of which it is a continuation, and
(c) in the case of a new tenancy of a dwelling referred to in subsection (4) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021, be those of the tenancy of that dwelling immediately preceding the new tenancy.”,
and
(c) in section 64B, by the insertion of the following subsection:
“(1A) (a) For the purposes of this Chapter—
(i) a new tenancy referred to in subsection (4) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021 of a dwelling created immediately following the expiration of a relevant Part 4 tenancy of that dwelling, and
(ii) that relevant Part 4 tenancy,
shall be treated as one tenancy, and references in this Chapter to duration of tenancy shall be construed accordingly.
(b) For the purposes of this Chapter—
(i) a new tenancy referred to in subsection (4) of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021 of a dwelling created immediately following the expiration of a relevant further Part 4 tenancy of that dwelling,
(ii) that relevant further Part 4 tenancy, and
(iii) any Part 4 tenancy or further Part 4 tenancy of the dwelling concerned immediately preceding that relevant further Part 4 tenancy,
shall be treated as one tenancy, and references in this Chapter to duration of tenancy shall be construed accordingly.
(c) In this subsection—
‘relevant Part 4 tenancy’ means a Part 4 tenancy that—
(a) came into being before the commencement of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021, and
(b) expired on or after such commencement; and
‘relevant further Part 4 tenancy’ means a further Part 4 tenancy that—
(a) came into being before the commencement of section 5 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021, and
(b) expired on or after such commencement.”.
(2) This section shall come into operation on the day that section 5 comes into operation.”.

This amendment, if passed, will insert a new section 6 into the Bill to provide for consequential amendments to the Residential Tenancies Acts to reflect the provisions of section 5 of the Bill, as now amended. The proposed new section 6(1)(a) inserts a substitute section 29 of the principal Act to define a Part 4 tenancy. For the purposes of the Residential Tenancies Acts, each of the following will be considered a Part 4 tenancy: where a person has been in occupation of a dwelling under a tenancy for a continuous period of six months and no notice of termination giving the required period of notice has been served in respect of the tenancy before the expiry of the period of six months; a tenancy that continues in existence where the landlord has consented under the amended section 5(3) of the Bill to the tenancy continuing for an unlimited duration; and a new tenancy of unlimited duration that continues in existence under the amended section 5(4) of the Bill in direct succession to a Part 4 tenancy or further Part 4 tenancy in existence before the commencement of section 5 and due to expire thereafter, and in respect of which no valid notice of termination has been served in line with paragraph (a), dealing with grounds for termination by a landlord, or paragraph (b), dealing with the termination of a Part 4 tenancy or a further Part 4 tenancy, or section 34 or section 36, which relates to termination by the tenant.

The proposed new section 6(1)(b) inserts a new subsection (1) into section 30, relating to terms of a Part 4 tenancy, of the principal Act. This amendment, if passed, will provide that the terms of a Part 4 tenancy shall, where a person has been in occupation of a dwelling under a tenancy for a continuous period of six months and no notice of termination giving the required period of notice has been served in respect of the tenancy before the expiry of the period of six months, be those of the tenancy of which it is a continuation. The amendment further provides that the terms of a Part 4 tenancy shall, where a tenancy that continues in existence where the landlord has consented, under the amended section 5(3) of this Bill, to the tenancy continuing for an unlimited duration, be those of the tenancy of which it is a continuation and, in the case of a new tenancy of unlimited duration that continues in existence under the amended section 5(4) of this Bill in direct succession to an existing Part 4 tenancy or further Part 4 tenancy, and where no valid notice of termination has been served, be those of the tenancy of that dwelling immediately preceding the new tenancy.

The proposed new section 6(1)(c) provides for the existing amendment to section 64B of the principal Act, as provided for in section 6 of the published Bill. Section 64B of the principal Act is amended to provide that the duration of tenancy under any tenancy of unlimited duration and under any preceding Part 4 tenancy and-or further Part 4 tenancy would be treated as one tenancy in calculating any termination notice period to be given to a tenant.

The proposed new section 6(2) provides that section 6 will come into operation on the same day as section 5 of the Bill, which will commence on the day that falls six months after the passing of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.

Amendment No. 17 has already been discussed with amendment No. 8.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 6, after line 38, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 34 of Principal Act

6. Section 34 of the Principal Act is amended by the deletion of paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Table to that section.”.

May I speak to the amendment?

It has already been discussed with amendment No. 8.

Are you serious? May I speak to the amendment, with the indulgence of the Acting Chairperson?

It has already been discussed. Does the Senator wish to comment generally?

Yes, if I may. I thank the Acting Chairperson. I appreciate that. This amendment is very important. I am sorry I missed the grouping. I made the point on Second Stage of the Bill, and to the Taoiseach when he was before the House last Thursday for statements, that the term "tenancies of indefinite duration" should not be used if sufficient protection is not provided to tenants. Doing so is disingenuous and dishonest. Essentially, how can the Government use the term "tenancies of indefinite duration" when it refuses to protect renters in the overwhelming majority of eviction cases and cases of notices to quit?

We all know what they are. According to the RTB, 70% of all notices to quit are for sale of the property and for use of the property by a landlord or a family member. If the Government wants tenancies of indefinite duration and if we are serious about protecting renters, we must get rid of those paragraphs in the table to which we refer in the amendments. We must remove paragraph 3, that is, on the sale of property, and paragraph 4, which relates to the use of property by a landlord or a landlord's family member. Paragraph 3 is the biggest cause of homelessness, especially family homelessness. It has been driving the numbers of homeless people back up since the ban on evictions was ended. In that context, the amendment proposes to get rid of the sale-of-property and use-by-family-member provisions. I thank the Acting Chair for indulging me.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 22.

  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Keogan, Sharon.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fintan Warfield and Lynn Boylan; Níl, Senators Robbie Gallagher and Seán Kyne.
Amendment declared lost.
Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has advised the Cathaoirleach that she has entered into a voting pairing arrangement with Senator Eileen Flynn for the duration of Senator Flynn’s maternity leave and accordingly has not voted in this division.
Section 6 deleted.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 7, after line 36, to insert the following:

“Private residential tenancies register: publication of certain details

7. Section 128 of the Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the following subsection 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—

(i) the number and duration of any previous tenancies in respect of the dwelling,

(ii) the date and duration of any works of refurbishment or renovation that were the subject of a notice under paragraph 5 of the Table to section 34,

(iii) the date and duration of any works causing a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation provided under the tenancy in relation to which the landlord sought to rely upon section 34(5), and

(iv) the amount of the rent payable under the current tenancy and any previous tenancies of the dwelling.”.”.

This is an attempt to form a register to protect renters. We have all heard stories about people saying they could have told us what the previous rent was or that some work needed to be done on an apartment or house before people moved in. I have heard stories on a daily basis over the years, and I am sure the Minister of State has heard them as well. What we are trying to do here is to create a register whereby any works carried out and the costs would be available to the renter before they move into an apartment or a house. I have heard of cases where people have come to renters after the event to say that a house needed work or the work was not completed on a house. This is about protecting renters. It is something we believe should be inserted into the Bill. I look forward to hear what the Minister of State will say in reply.

Amendment No. 18 seeks to amend section 128 of the Act of 2004 to include the amount of rent payable under a tenancy in the published register. This proposal was debated previously during the passage of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 and during Private Members' time. Section 29 of the 2019 Act amends section 151 of the principal Act to require the Minister to request the RTB to provide to him specific information relating to rent levels in the private rental sector. The Minister is required to make such a request of the RTB at an appropriate time during the three months' time frame immediately after the first year of the operation of the annual registration of tenancies. The Minister will be required to provide the RTB with no more than three months to comply with the request. The RTB will be legally required to comply with that request. In turn, the Minister will be legally required to report on the prevailing private rents in the Houses of the Oireachtas within three months of the date on which the RTB is to provide him with the requisite information. I accept that the provision is less impactful than our collective wish in 2019 for a full published rent register, but as legislators we must operate within the legal framework.

The Minister will report to the Oireachtas on rent levels. To be useful, I do think that a minimum of one year's worth of rental data collected via annual registration by the RTB would be required to inform a meaningful report on the matter. Once the RTB has sight of the annual rental data, a sense can be developed of what might be possible in terms of enhancing rent transparency at a local level.

It is the Minister's intention to commence the provisions relating to annual registration of tenancies in quarter 1 2022 just as the RTB's ICT infrastructure is ready. For this reason I cannot accept amendment No. 18.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 27.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Keogan, Sharon.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
  • Ward, Barry.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fintan Warfield and Mark Wall; Níl, Senators Robbie Gallagher and Seán Kyne..
Amendment declared lost.
Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has advised the Cathaoirleach that she has entered into a voting pairing arrangement with Senator Eileen Flynn for the duration of Senator Flynn’s maternity leave and accordingly has not voted in this division.
Amendment No. 19 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill."

I had hoped that the sensible amendment tabled by the Labour Party Senators might have been accepted as it is better than the current section 7 in that it addressed the issues of the duration of tenancy and sequential tenancies.

It is important that we recognise Part 4 and recognise that there is a duration issue beyond the question of simply qualifying as a Part 4 tenancy. For example, we may and should look to having longer periods of notice and I know the option already exists to an extent. I want to indicate my intention to table amendments that seek longer periods of notice as they relate to the longer periods of Part 4 tenancies, which is a grid within the legislation. I may table amendments at Report Stage because I am concerned about the 28-day notice period that was mentioned and I know that amendment was not moved. Plus I am particularly concerned at the length of notice periods for people who may have extremely long tenancies.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Report Stage ordered for Thursday, 25 November 2021.
Sitting suspended at 3.40 p.m. and resumed at 4.55 p.m.