Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Questions (747)

Maureen O'Sullivan


747. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that the rent pressure zones are working adequately to tackle the housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9779/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 sets out the procedure for the Minister to prescribe, by order, an area as a Rent Pressure Zone. It provides that the Housing Agency, in consultation with the relevant housing authority, may make a written proposal to the Minister that an identified area be prescribed as a Rent Pressure Zone. Within 1 week of receipt of such a proposal, the Minister shall request the Director of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to furnish him, within 2 weeks, with a report on whether the proposed area satisfies the criteria specified in subsection 24A(4) for designation as a Rent Pressure Zone.

The criteria to be satisfied by an area under section 24A(4) of the Residential Tenancies Acts for designation as a Rent Pressure Zone are as follows:

(a) the information relating to the area, as determined by reference to the information used to compile each quarterly RTB Rent Index report, shows that the annual rate of increase in the average amount of rent for that area is more than 7% in each of at least 4 of the 6 quarters, preceding the period immediately prior to the date of the Housing Agency's proposal.

(b) the average rent for the area in the last quarter, as determined by reference to the information used to compile the RTB Rent Index, is above the average national rent (commonly referred to as the Rent Index national standardised rent) in the last quarter.

The Housing Agency will continue to monitor the rental market and may recommend further areas for designation. Where, following the procedures set out in the Act, it is found at a future date that additional areas meet the criteria, they will be designated as Rent Pressure Zones.

The RTB's news page link in relation to its Rent Index - https://onestopshop.rtb.ie/news/latest-data-from-rtb-quarterly-rent-index-q3-2017/ - provides access to the most recent RTB Rent Index quarterly report (for Q3 2017) and summarises its key findings. Information is also provided as part of the RTB's education and awareness campaign relating to Rent Pressure Zones.

Table 9 in the RTB Rent Index report illustrates the recent rent changes at Local Electoral Area (LEA) level. The table outlines for each LEA the number of quarters within the last 6 Quarters where the annualised rent increases have been greater than or equal to 7% and how rent levels in each LEA compares to the Rent Index national standardised rent.

In September 2017, as part of the review of the Rent Predictability Measures, I announced a series of measures in relation to the rental sector, including a two-year change plan to develop and strengthen the role of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), particularly with regard to enforcement.

Charging rents above those permitted by the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2016 will become an offence and the RTB will be provided with the required powers of enforcement so that it will no longer be solely up to the tenant to initiate a dispute. A landlord will be required to notify the RTB of any exemption claimed from the rent increase limits and the RTB will be empowered to take follow up enforcement action, if required. These changes will strengthen the impact of the Rent Predictability Measure and will further slow the growth in rents. These enhanced enforcement procedures to be introduced in 2018 will reform the Rent Pressure Zone mechanism to deliver a more effective and transparent approach to its operation.

The Government has given priority to the drafting and early publication of a Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill to address this and other urgent issues in the rental sector.