Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Committee on Housing and Homelessness díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Free Legal Advice Centres

Before we commence, I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

The opening statements will be published on the committee website after this meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I am pleased to welcome the Free Legal Advice Centres represented by Mr. Paul Joyce, Mr. Ciarán Finlay and Ms Eithne Lynch. The full submissions have been circulated to the members. I invite Mr. Joyce to make his opening statement summarising the submission made to the committee.

Mr. Paul Joyce

I thank the committee and officials for the opportunity to address the committee on what, by common consent, is an extremely urgent issue. It is welcome that the committee has been appointed to examine these issues. Our emphasis primarily is on the mortgage arrears problem. It is the issue in connection with housing and homelessness with which we are most familiar, and the potential danger of loss of accommodation leading to potential homelessness. Our presentation looks at a few social welfare issues and also some legal aid issues and mentions the right to housing. I am conscious that members have had a long day with many presentations so we will skim over our submission.

We do not work in the broader housing area. We support and respect greatly a number of the organisations with which the committee will be familiar, from charities and NGOs dealing with homelessness campaigning and services to a number of our colleague independent law centres, organisations such as Threshold and all the housing associations working throughout the country. On the broader housing issues, we have a couple of very short observations. First, we believe that the privatisation of the housing market into a mortgage lending market is the main cause of the housing crisis that we are dealing with.

We can also see evidence of a supply problem and concerns around development finance, planning and regulatory issues and obviously each of these issues needs to be addressed. We are of the view that rent certainty measures are unlikely to have any real effect on increased rents and associated evictions until the private and public housing supply is dealt with.

With regard to the mortgage arrears issue, we have presented a number of sets of statistics - damned lies and statistics and so on - which I will summarise. The clearer problem at present is the two years-plus category and the one year-plus category. One particular figure of importance is that the number of principal dwelling house mortgages in arrears over two years has grown exponentially as a percentage of the overall arrears total. It is now 40% and if one adds the one-year to the two-year category, it comes to over 50%. It is very clear where the intractable problem lies. It is in the two year-plus category, and the average amount owed by those accounts is considerable. It is 36,000 accounts. We do not know exactly how many households that is but we think it is fairly close to 32,000 or 33,000 households in danger of loss of accommodation, and that is an extremely urgent problem.

There has been a lot of restructuring over recent years but just because a mortgage has been restructured does not mean it is out of the woods. In our view there has been an over-reliance on split mortgages and particularly on the capitalisation of arrears as a sustainable restructure. There is already evidence of a number of these accounts getting into difficulty although they are restructured.

With regard to actual possession orders which have been executed, contrary to popular belief, there have been 1,300 in the past three years. There have been 2,300 voluntary surrenders of family homes. That is 3,600 family homes that have gone back to lenders in 2013, 2014 and 2015. We do not believe anybody is tracking what happens to those households once the property has been vacated.

There is also a clear and seemingly increasing problem in the buy-to-let sector with 1,500 buy-to-let mortgages repossessed in that three-year period, of which more than 800 were in 2015 alone. This is a growing problem with approximately 6,000 rent receivers brought in on buy-to-let properties.

The principal instrument for resolving mortgage arrears up to now has been the Central Bank's code of conduct on mortgage arrears, about which quite a lot of information is contained in our presentation. We believe it has been ineffective and very unbalanced with the balance of power remaining very firmly with the lender at all times. I can go into this in greater detail with members during the question and answer section if the committee wishes. For us it is a fair procedures nightmare and it would not stand up in a court. In many cases there is very little given to borrowers by way of proper written information about the decision-making process. Most important, there is no right of appeal to an independent third party.

To complicate matters further, in May 2015 the Supreme Court decided in the Dunne and Dunphy cases that the code of conduct is not admissible fundamentally in legal proceedings, apart from the necessity to comply with the three-month moratorium. This means that when one is faced with repossession proceedings, non-compliance with the code is of no huge use as an argument in the courts. I would like to take a brief moment to quote from the decision given by the Supreme Court in the cases of Irish Life and Permanent plc v. Dunphy and Irish Life and Permanent plc v. Dunne and Dunne:

If it is regarded, as a matter of policy, that the law governing the circumstances in which financial institutions may be entitled to possession is too heavily weighted in favour of those financial institutions then it is, in accordance with the separation of powers, a matter for the Oireachtas to recalibrate those laws. No such formal recalibration has yet taken place.

The Supreme Court is saying it is up to the Legislature to legislate in this area and the courts will not invent defences for borrowers. We know that in courts throughout the State, county registrars are doing their best to prevent the unnecessary repossession of family homes, but they are fighting against the tide. There is a new scheme of legal and financial advice about to be rolled out.

However, we would call into question at this point what use it will be fundamentally in the long run for borrowers to have access to this legal advice service when, first, anecdotally, only approximately 10% of borrowers turn up and respond to the proceedings and, second, because of the Supreme Court's decision. We believe - it will be no surprise - that there needs to be serious legislative amendment and we have listed a number of recommendations. We think the code of conduct on mortgage arrears should be a ministerial regulation expressly admissible in legal proceedings. We have been on the record saying that for many years at this point, going back to 2010.

A mortgage rescheduling tribunal should be set up to deal with appeals from decisions under the mortgage arrears resolution process, MARP, and should have the statutory power to impose solutions where necessary, including debt write-down. The one thing that is not happening is people remaining in their homes with a debt write-down, where the amount owed is reduced to something resembling the current market value of the property, which is provided for under the Personal Insolvency Act 2012.

Borrowers must be entitled to a full range of services, both financial and legal advice, to make their cases. The hearings need to take place in private. For those whose mortgages are manifestly unsustainable, access to an expanded and beefed-up mortgage-to-rent scheme seems to be absolutely essential at this point. The State needs to take responsibility and show leadership in terms of promoting access to these services as a way to finally solving a personal debt crisis that has been going on now functionally for about a decade.

A number of social welfare reforms are required. Mortgage interest supplement might be usefully reintroduced in cases of short-term arrears. There are cases still going into arrears for the first time. There has been a lot of discussion of the rent supplement and housing assistance payment, HAP, caps. Again, and as a temporary measure, it is agreed that those payments need to be increased. It is not a long-term solution but it will help in the short term. We believe the social welfare payments for those under 26 years of age causes serious danger of incipient homelessness. According to Focus Ireland, some 600 people under the age of 26 are homeless now. We support a legal right to housing, whether in the Constitution, through legislation or, belt and braces, through both.

FLAC has always been an organisation that focuses on improved civil legal aid services and has always campaigned for improved civil legal aid. The failure, for example, to have legal aid available for local authority tenants faced with eviction really is something that needs to be immediately redressed.

As a final observation, it is obviously very welcome that this committee has been formed. We are a little uncertain as to why it is only on a temporary basis. Given a senior Minister with responsibility for housing has been appointed, it would be a good idea if this committee existed on a semi-permanent or permanent basis to monitor the plan that is to be put in place. I thank the committee for its attention.

I will clarify the last point. This committee was set up in advance of a Government or the appointment of any Ministers and given a role until 17 June. In the ordinary run of events, other Oireachtas committees will be established and that will be a matter to be dealt with. However, this committee was set up and given a job of work to do before the Minister was appointed. I am not pre-empting what might happen afterwards but this is per this point in time. A number of members have questions. I call Deputy Quinlivan.

I thank Mr. Joyce for his presentation and for mentioning that he believes the cause of the crisis is the reliance on privatisation. It is really important that we stress that each time and practically everyone on the committee will agree with that. The previous Government's plan, the 2020 plan, was to deliver 80% of housing through the private sector. That will not happen and it will not solve the problem. Therefore, I welcome the fact that Mr. Joyce said that in his opening statement.

On his list of recommendations, No. 7 is on the mortgage-to-rent scheme. Mr. Joyce used the term as well but the State needs to take "leadership". That is what must come out of this committee in a final report also. It has to be simplified for people. How does Mr. Joyce suggest we simplify it?

How long is the waiting list to access FLAC services? Does it have a waiting list or how do people apply for the services?

Mr. Paul Joyce

To take the last question first, Free Legal Advice Centres are often confused with the Legal Aid Board, which is the State civil legal aid service.

We are a voluntary organisation. However, we have legal advice centres throughout Ireland. They are staffed by volunteer lawyers who are in private practice and who give of their time to offer basic legal advice, mostly at evening clinics. Generally speaking, there are no waiting lists but some centres operate by appointment only. Sometimes, a person might not get to a centre on a given evening because of a queue but, in general, the centres provide fairly quick access. However, the service is for advice only; it is not a legal aid service.

Another question was on the mortgage-to-rent scheme and how it can be improved. We are not intimately familiar with the scheme. Clúid Housing is the housing association with the most experience and it has processed the most cases under the mortgage-to-rent scheme. An announcement was made by the Government last May. The then Minister, Deputy Kelly, suggested the mortgage-to-rent scheme was to be expanded. However, there have not been any developments since then.

A number of the accounts in arrears for over two years are probably financially unsustainable by any yardstick. A mortgage-to-rent arrangement seems to be a necessary step at that point. Factors include the valuation of the property and the earnings of the individual. One problem which has not been mentioned to any great extent is the fact that quite a number of these properties may have judgment mortgages registered against the property by an unsecured creditor who has obtained a court judgment. These may constitute a barrier in terms of the housing association being able to buy a property with a judgment on the title. That needs to be examined. The question of finance invested by the State in the scheme is also an important issue to address. The mortgage-to-rent option is not available if the property is in positive equity. Should that necessarily be the case if the borrower is in such clear arrears and financial difficulty? Clúid Housing undertook a review in 2013 and proposed a long list of potential improvements to the scheme.

FLAC has made several recommendations, including a mortgage reschedule tribunal, which it envisages as an appeals mechanism. Will Mr. Joyce give us some more information on that? I think that would be a good idea. I agree with the point Mr. Joyce made about not having an appeal. I used to work for a trade union. One of the fundamental things we always argued for was the right of everyone to an independent appeal. The fact is that we do not have this for people in mortgage distress. The committee could possibly explore these options more and it would be helpful to get some more detail on them.

Mr. Paul Joyce

Under the code of conduct for mortgage arrears, there is provision for an appeal from the lender's arrears support unit. This unit assess the financial information and standard financial statement and looks at the potential range of so-called alternative repayment arrangements. Then the unit decides to grant an arrangement or otherwise at its discretion. Then, there is an appeal from the lender's arrears support unit to the lender's appeals board. In our experience, many of those appeals are rubber-stamping exercises under which the appeals board upholds the decision of the arrears support unit, often with little detail on how the board has arrived at its conclusions.

In our view there should be a proper independent appeal to a third party. Furthermore, borrowers need to have the tools at their disposal to make the arguments and set out why they believe their mortgages are sustainable or may be sustainable in the long run. We have called for this since 2010. Unfortunately, the code of conduct on mortgage arrears is a very one-sided equation. It looks good in theory, with a series of criteria through which an assessment has to be made. Those involved are supposed to look at the current indebtedness of the borrower as well as the current income, the payment record in the past, future access and so on. It talks a good show but, unfortunately, when push comes to shove it is an imbalanced instrument. The fact that a person cannot use alleged failure to comply with the code in a repossession case in the court caps it off from the borrower's point of view.

I do not think it would be a dramatic step to allow for an independent appeal.

It is a good idea and something we should definitely consider.

Mr. Joyce mentioned that at the end of 2016 there were almost 6,000 buy-to-lets in the hands of receivers. They had gone beyond being in difficulty, the banks had taken action and appointed receivers. He mentioned that the future occupation by tenants of these dwellings is insecure. My sense, from dealing with constituents, is not that it is insecure but that in virtually all the cases we see, the tenants are served notice to quit and the properties are vacant and sold that way. Is that what Mr. Joyce finds?

Mr. Paul Joyce

No. In some instances tenants remain but the rent is being diverted from being paid to the landlord or borrower to the lender who lent under the buy-to-let mortgage in the first place. The tenants can remain in situ-----

In practice, I find they are not remaining, the properties are being emptied and sold vacant. My concern is at a time of housing shortage or crisis, a substantial number of units are being taken out of circulation because by the time the bank goes through the whole process, a property could comfortably be vacant for a year or more while the receiver is appointed, the tenants are moved on and the property is sold. It is not a straightforward sale and is not as quick as selling a normal property. It is an extended period. That is what many of us see. When the receiver is appointed, the first thing that seems to happen is the tenants go.

Mr. Paul Joyce

That happens in several instances but it appears from the Central Bank figures that there are 6,000 rent receiver cases in place. The receiver is presumably appointed in order to take control of the rent. It assumes that if there is a rent receiver, a rent is being paid. It is also the case that some properties are being vacated in order to be sold. Many of those will be in negative equity. That is perhaps also one of the reasons there are several possession orders that have not been executed. They appear to be the figures: just short of 6,000 rent receivers but 1,500 properties repossessed that are buy-to-let mortgages in the past three years.

I was interested in Mr. Joyce’s suggestion that we need legislation to make the code of conduct obligatory rather than voluntary in respect of mortgage distress and lenders. The committee had a session on legislation that we felt would be necessary to deal with the housing crisis. That suggestion should definitely be added into the mix. I will be interested to hear the comments of the other witnesses working in this sphere. We discussed rent controls. I do not know if the witnesses have an opinion on them but there has been a debate where the Minister suggested that there was a constitutional impediment to these. We heard speakers who said there is not. I would be interested in the witnesses’ view.

The biggest increase in homelessness I see is due to people being asked to leave because the landlord wants to “sell” the property. In some cases, they are selling and in others, they are just getting rid of the tenant, particularly if the tenant is in receipt of rent allowance, in order that they can increase the rent. There is plenty of evidence of that. I would be interested to hear Mr. Joyce's view. Would he agree there should, for example, be a ban on evictions given that we have a housing emergency? The Government could impose a ban for a year or whatever period until the crisis eases and more houses are built or become available.

I am glad the mortgage writedown suggestion has been raised. We tend to hear more about split and stretched out mortgages.

The problem is that one third of those are experiencing difficulties, from my reading of it. The point is that those people should not have had that debt in the first instance. It was not sustainable. They were sold overpriced housing.

Another issue I want to raise, which was mentioned by another witness to the committee and which might surprise a lot of people, is that somebody who is losing his or her home, which he or she might have been paying for over 20 years or whatever, does not have an automatic entitlement to free legal aid. We have all seen people showing up in the courts who have no legal teams with them and who are completely ignorant of their rights. I have seen a couple in my own area who are pensioners and who were renting a house for 12 or 15 years. They showed up in their dressing gowns. The witnesses might remember that case in the High Court. All through that process, they never received any advice whatsoever. It is shocking that this is happening to people now, while we see very wealthy individuals in and out of the courts every day. Would the witnesses agree that this right should become automatic for somebody who is facing the loss of what is probably the biggest thing in their life?

What do the witnesses think about awareness of tenants' rights? I find it shocking that the people I deal with seem to have no conception of what I think we would all agree are the very limited rights of tenants in this country compared to others. There are still things people can do but they are completely oblivious of their rights. I am wondering why there are no education or awareness campaigns through the length and breadth of the country, considering that we have people being made homeless every day. People should be told what they can do if they are told to leave a property, what over-holding means - all of these things. People should not have to come to a Deputy to be told but they do not necessarily have the means to access the information easily. What would the witnesses think of that? It seems so surprising. People leave properties every day. Sometimes they could have done more to stay in them.

We all know that if people leave a house now, they are on the homeless list. There is nothing else for them, particularly if they are on rent allowance. Even if they are not, they will be on the list if they do not have a strong income. Has FLAC approached the Government about anything like that? I am sure it would be willing to give its services to an advertising campaign.

Mr. Paul Joyce

That is a large enough agenda. Starting with the final issue, that relating to awareness, there is a lot of information available. FLAC has a leaflet on tenants' rights, for example. Threshold, which we would view as the primary agency providing information on landlord and tenant law, has a lot of information and services available. Part of the problem we have seen over the years is that people in difficult situations - over-indebtedness, rent arrears and so on - are not necessarily feeling normally about their lives. That is a very bad way of putting it. We have carried out research that involved interviewing indebted people after they had gotten out of their problems and to the other side. They said they just temporarily did not really understand what was going on, found things very confusing, were very stressed and so on. It is very important to accept that over-indebtedness and being in financial difficulty are very disabling for people.

On the scheme that is about to be rolled out by the Legal Aid Board, MABS, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Social Protection - a number of agencies are involved - the critical thing is to publicise it properly through the proper media. Leadership has to be taken. The State has to promote this, take ownership of it and explain why it is being introduced. It must articulate what the problem is and why we are trying to resolve it this way.

On the legal aid side, the Legal Aid Board has law centres all over the country. While it does an excellent job, it operates primarily in the family law area, where there is still huge demand. It is understandable that it would prioritise family law. However, the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 only excludes certain areas of law. Debt is not one of them.

Rights or interests over land are excluded areas under the civil legal aid legislation. This is something that needs to be amended. The board is doing the best it can with the resources that it has; it does not have the resources to cover a wide number of areas of law. Again, this is something for which FLAC would have campaigned for a long time.

On the mortgage write-down issue, under sections 102 and 103 and various subsections of the Personal Insolvency Act, there is a suggestion that a personal insolvency arrangement, PIA, application being made by an insolvency practitioner might propose the write-down of an existing secured debt to something approaching its current market value. For example, a person may owe €300,000 but the house is worth 200,000 and the PIA proposal would incorporate that write-down. There is even a right within that section, if the PIA is accepted, for the creditor to claw back the difference if the property is sold for a greater amount in the future. I contacted the Insolvency Service of Ireland this week, which told me it does not have a category for PIAs with the write-down feature because they do not appear to be happening.

Deputy Coppinger is quite correct about split mortgages being promoted as a kind of implicit write-down. However, a split mortgage involves servicing one part of the loan and warehousing another. The warehoused part will become due for payment some day and nobody is exactly sure how it will be treated at that point. It has been suggested by some credit institutions that there will be a right for borrowers to remain in the property for the rest of their lifetime but there is still a capital balance to be paid. Any of the split mortgage arrangements I have seen do not propose to write that down. There is evidence of split mortgages already. The number of split mortgages is well beyond 25,000 and over 20,000 have been agreed in the past three years. Some 5% of them are already failing. A quarter of the capitalisation of arrears restructures are now back in arrears. We think there is evidence that what looks like a restructure is likely to cause difficulties down the road.

We do not have particular expertise in cases where landlords want to sell. I understand that, under the residential tenancies legislation, if a landlord proposes to evict someone with a tenancy of between four and six years, he or she may evict on the basis that the property is to be sold within three months. The property would have to be sold within three months. However, I see no reason why a temporary amendment could not be introduced to put in place a moratorium on the amount of notice that might be required in a particular housing emergency.

That brings us back to the first question on constitutional issues. The committee has heard from a number of speakers about what is constitutional and what is unconstitutional. The Dáil will today debate a Bill that proposes to impose some kind of imperative on lenders not to increase variable rate mortgages and so on. Is that unconstitutional? I understand Mr. Edmund Honohan, when he came before the committee, summed things up fairly well when he said it is a question of competing interests. All personal rights in the Constitution, as I understand it, are subject to regulation in the public interest. There is only one way of finding out if something is unconstitutional and that is in the High Court or the Supreme Court.

We have had a personal debt crisis since 2008 but not many daring pieces of legislation. If something is unconstitutional or potentially unconstitutional, it can be referred to the Supreme Court before it is enacted and the Supreme Court can adjudicate upon it. A Bill has to be created in the first place, which has not happened in a number of instances. Whether it is compulsory purchase orders, compulsory write-downs or imposing a moratorium on how houses can be repossessed and tenants evicted, it is the same constitutional question.

Mr. Joyce specifically referred to the right to housing and asked, in his opening statement, whether it should be a matter of law or a constitutional change. What is his preference and why?

Mr. Paul Joyce

The experts or those who have done the work in this area recently are those in the Mercy Law Resource Centre. Their view and the view of the Constitutional Convention is that a right to housing should be enshrined in the Constitution. It would take time to do that in the sense that a Bill would have to be put together and a referendum would have to take place but as an immediate priority, a right to housing could be put on a legislative basis. The view of the Mercy Law Resource Centre is that legislation could be amended and the intention of legislation could be reversed whereas if something is in the Constitution then it would require a further referendum to reverse it. The constitutional route has more firm grounds. I think both options should be taken.

Mr. Ciarán Finlay

Irrespective of the approach which is taken, having a right to housing would be important because if there is a right to housing that could be enforced, it would guide and strengthen decision making and the development of laws, policies and practices. If Government decisions and expenditure were geared towards the goal of a right to housing and fulfilling that right, whether by means of the Constitution or in domestic law, it would be of benefit and would provide a legal remedy for people to enforce and vindicate their rights. FLAC is an organisation which promotes access to justice. When there is not a specific right on which to rely, it is very difficult to argue. I would say we could have either one or the other but both options would be great.

My question might have been asked. I have read the presentation by FLAC. When people go to FLAC for legal advice, for example, in the context of court cases, how long does it take before they get help?

Mr. Paul Joyce

FLAC is a voluntary organisation so anybody can access the service. There is not a means test. Generally speaking, there is not any kind of waiting list but the person in the centre is a volunteer lawyer who is at work during the day and will give the person a steer on his or her legal query. Often it is a signposting service more than anything else and in many cases, an application for legal aid from the Legal Aid Board might need to be made at that stage, in particular if it is a family law matter. In some instances, the suggestion from the volunteer lawyer will be to engage a solicitor or to go to another organisation. It really depends. The most important thing to say is that those centres do not involve taking on clients or giving legal representation. FLAC does a small amount of casework but generally speaking with a public interest litigation focus to it. FLAC will take cases but usually in order to potentially benefit a wider range of people rather than act as a service provider.

I thank Mr. Joyce.

I acknowledge FLAC's very focused recommendations, which is what people are being asked to do. What percentage of the work FLAC does involves housing issues? I am aware of the wide range of work in which FLAC is involved. Where does housing come in the bigger scale of things?

I thank Deputy O'Sullivan. When Mr. Joyce is answering, to put matters in some perspective, could he give us an idea of how many centres there are and the number of clients FLAC might see over the course of a year?

Mr. Paul Joyce

I do not have those figures but perhaps my colleague, Mr. Finlay, does.

Mr. Ciarán Finlay

Yes, I have the figures in relation to the telephone information line, which we operate in addition to the advice centres. In relation to housing, 14.3% of all our calls were housing related in 2014. In the FLAC clinics, housing was 6.4% of all calls.

Mr. Paul Joyce

We have a telephone information and referral line as well as the centres. We have one office in Dublin but that office has a number of people ready to answer phone calls. We do not provide legal advice over the phone but legal information to improve people's knowledge of their position.

Ms Eithne Lynch

I might add that FLAC has a public interest law alliance project and within that, we are part of a group that brought a collective complaint before the European Social Charter. That was lodged in July 2014. The purpose of that collective complaint was to focus on the rights of local authority tenants. We were examining the adequacy of the accommodation and also the legal remedies available to local authority tenants. Deputy Coppinger raised the issue of awareness raising and access to legal aid. The complaint submitted has been declared admissible. The Government has come back with responses on it and we are expecting a decision by the end of the year. It is looking at legal remedies and the fact that local authority tenants do not have access to a tribunal in the way they would have in terms of the Private Residential Tenancies Board. They do not have access to legal representation. If they have a dispute in that they are potentially being evicted from their home, they must go through a Circuit Court process without access to a lawyer.

In addition to that we have noticed, with our partners who have been involved in this collective complaint, that there are serious issues around adequacy and standards. That is the reason there have been many submissions on the standard of health of the family or the children and also social exclusion poverty because while Ireland ratified the charter 16 years ago, Article 31 on housing was unable to be argued. Additionally, we did not ratify the optional protocol, which means that non-governmental organisations or individuals in Ireland cannot make a collective complaint. However, we can do it through an international body, and that is what FLAC has done with our membership with the FIDH, which is an international human rights body. We are hopeful that by the end of the year, we will have an outcome from that. Those findings will be put to the Government and at that point it will have to respond. It is a topical issue. Yesterday, there was the decision on Traveller accommodation and there have been serious findings in that regard.

On a previous occasion, we got a small pamphlet from FLAC. Would it be possible to get more of those because it was useful to give them to people who came to our clinics?

Mr. Paul Joyce

That landlord and tenant pamphlet is being updated to reflect changes in the residential tenancies legislation. I believe the new version will be available shortly. There are pamphlets and leaflets on many other areas.

I know that. I thank Mr. Joyce.

That concludes this afternoon's meeting. I thank the members of FLAC, Ms Eithne Lynch, Mr. Paul Joyce and Mr. Ciarán Finlay, for attending and not just answering the questions but providing the document they submitted. In particular, they adhered to our request and made specific recommendations. We always discuss the issue but we are trying to find solutions to improve the position. An issue raised a number of times today, which resonated with the members, is giving statutory recognition in terms of the code of conduct and so forth. The witnesses mentioned that today but that point has been made forcefully on other occasions.

The committee adjourned at 4 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 19 May 2016.