I move amendment No. 2:
In page 8, line 2, to delete “commenced” and substitute “commenced,”.
I propose to take amendments Nos. 2 to 10, inclusive, together. Amendment No. 2 is a technical amendment to insert a comma at the end of the substitute paragraph (a) of the section 19(5) of the Act of 2004. Amendment No. 3 is also a technical amendment to put the new text of section 19(5B)(2) of the Act of 2004 in better English.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 are consequential technical amendments which relate to the Government's amendment No. 5, which introduces a further alternative description of works that constitute a substantial change in the nature of accommodation provided under a tenancy for the purpose of qualifying for the exemption from the rent increase restriction in RPZs. Deputies will remember that, on Committee Stage, we went through the changes that had been proposed at that stage by the Government to the initial draft of the legislation, and there is a further change here, reflecting the discussions we had. The effect of the proposed amendment is that if the works improve the building energy rating, BER, of the dwelling by seven or more ratings, then the dwelling will qualify for the exemption. I am proposing the addition of this provision in recognition of the fact that works that very substantially improve a dwelling's BER are desirable from the perspective of reducing emissions. The benefit for tenants in terms of cost reductions and increased levels of comfort are also desirable. To qualify under this exemption, a dwelling at the lowest energy rating of G will have to be improved to at least a C2 rating. Before this, we had the square footage of 25 sq. m or three or four conditions, but we will now also have this as an additional improvement of seven BER ratings.
Amendment No. 7 is a technical amendment relating to this group of amendments. Amendment No. 8 amends the existing BER related provision that is one of the three provisions of the four in the Bill that provide the BER improvement of two ratings as an option and one of the three works outcomes required to qualify for substantial change. Arising from the Committee Stage debate, we have considered this again. The amendment on Report Stage requires a greater improvement in the BER where the dwelling to be improved is starting from a lower BER base. Accordingly, amendment No. 8 requires an improvement in the BER by three ratings where the original BER was D1 or lower, and an improvement of two ratings where the energy rating was C3 or higher. It is just recognising that it is much easier to get a two-level BER improvement where the BER is already very low and to take out that opportunity.
I cannot accept Fianna Fáil's amendment No. 9. We had a discussion on Committee Stage with regard to a rules-based versus a principles-based approach. Unfortunately, given the amendment that has been proposed, I have concerns that stipulating an amount per square foot would be problematic to verify.
It would also require further amendment, which would have to happen in the Seanad, after which the Bill would have to come back to the Dáil, so I cannot accept the amendment.
Opposition amendment No. 10 concerns inspection. The landlord is already required under the new section 19(5B) of the 2004 Act to serve a notice in the prescribed form, together with all the relevant supporting information, to the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, setting out the reasons why, in the landlord's opinion, the annual rent increase restriction under section 19(4) does not apply to his or her dwelling. The new section 19(6B) of the Act provides:
A person, who in purported compliance with subsection (5B), furnishes information to the Board which is false or misleading in a material respect knowing it to be so false or misleading or being reckless as to whether it is so false or misleading shall be guilty of an offence.
The RTB now has the power to make inspections on the basis of its own decisions without the need for it to be reported. Those new measures in the Bill are sufficient to address what is intended by that amendment. As such I unfortunately cannot accept amendment No. 10.