Anti-Evictions Bill 2016: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to provide for greater security of tenure by making all tenancies over two months Part 4 tenancies, by making Part 4 tenancies of indefinite duration, removing sale of property as a ground for terminating a tenancy, providing for compensation where a tenancy is terminated on the ground that the dwelling is required by the landlord or a relative of the landlord for their own occupation, extension of notice periods for new rents and for the termination of tenancies, and inclusion of receivers and lenders that have taken possession of properties in the definition of a landlord.

The reason the Bill is needed should be very clear. We have a housing emergency which the Government and Dáil do not recognise but which is well known on the streets and in wider society. The latest homeless figures are 6,709 people. In Dublin alone this year, 736 families have been made homeless and this includes a huge number of children. We have a homeless emergency and the figures are rising relentlessly with the Government taking no action. One of the key reasons is rent increases. The Anti-Austerity Alliance has proposed real rent controls. There are other key reasons for which people are becoming homeless, much of it related to what Threshold calls "dubious terminations". These are evictions for dubious reasons.

The Minister may think the figures look good, but they are going to rocket in January. This is the pattern. January is a grim month for evictions. Therefore, our Bill is timely on 17 January. Last January, 500 extra people were made homeless compared to the preceding month. Many landlords wait until after the Christmas period so they do not turf children out on the street before Santa arrives. However, this does not stop them doing it when Christmas is over. In January last year, 109 extra families were made homeless compared to the usual figures, including a huge number of children.

Although this has been happening for several years, the Government's response has been completely impotent. For several years we were told the sacred market must not be interfered with. Obviously, the market does not work for people who face eviction, homelessness and rent increases. We were told there was no need to interfere given that the market would sort it all out. The Government has obviously had to recognise that is not the case.

My constituency, Dublin West, is a homeless blackspot. Based on a survey we have done on our case load in the constituency, 31% of families are made homeless by being evicted due to the sale of the property. This is banned in other countries. In the Bill, we propose that sale of a property be banned as grounds for eviction. If somebody must sell a property, he or she must do so with the tenant in situ. It is the law in Germany, the Netherlands and Scotland, which is a very similar jurisdiction to ours. However, we give such priority to property rights that the Government will not consider it. In a housing emergency, this view must be cast aside.

The Bill also proposes to target the dubious practice of a property suddenly being required by a family member of the landlord. Sometimes it is genuine and we do not propose to outlaw it. We propose that the landlord be required to pay compensation if a tenant is moved from the property for that reason. This happens in other jurisdictions such as the Netherlands. We propose the landlord pay six months rent in such a case in order to assist the tenants and prevent them becoming homeless.

The Bill also proposes to abolish the six month rule whereby a tenant loses any protection for six months. We propose to change it to two months. We also propose to make tenancies indefinite. The Government is proposing to increase the tenancy cycle to six years. We have families who have been in a property for eight, ten or 11 years. Suddenly, at the end of a four year cycle, people lose all their rights. It is completely unfair and we must get rid of this loophole.

The Bill clarifies who is a landlord. Threshold reports that last year alone it dealt with 371 cases of receivers and banks making it very unclear to the tenant who is the landlord. We propose to change this.

We have been hearing myths from the Minister all morning. He said landlords would be driven from the market and supply would decrease if we introduced such measures. Why would they leave the market? It is absolutely lucrative. The average rent increase is €200 or 25%. Why would they go? In 2011, there were 237,403 tenancies. In November 2016, there were 323,602. This year alone, 4,283 extra landlords have joined the market. Where would they bring their houses if they took them off the market? Why does the Government not impose a vacant property tax in order to stop it happening?

We will bring forward the Bill in January. It is exactly what is needed in order to prevent homelessness from developing and expanding. If the Minister does not agree, we will challenge the Government parties and Fianna Fáil to debate the issue in constituencies such as Cork, Dublin South-West and Dublin West. Let us see if the Ministers and their counterparts in Fianna Fáil are willing to debate it with the people on the ground who are affected.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.