I welcome the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and his officials. This meeting has been convened for the purpose of consideration by this committee of Committee Stage of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018. Before we begin our consideration of the Bill, I propose to deal with some housekeeping matters. To ensure the smooth running of the meeting, any member acting in substitution for a member of the committee should formally notify the clerk to the committee now, if he or she has not already done so. I have already noted that Deputy Boyd Barrett is substituting for Deputy Mick Barry. Deputy Neville will substitute for Deputy O'Dowd later on in the meeting. I propose that we take a break after approximately two hours, depending on where we are in the Bill, and suspend at approximately 1 p.m. to resume at 3 p.m. in order to allow members to take a break and vote in the Dáil. Is that agreed? Agreed. I ask members to ensure that their mobile phones are turned off or switched to airplane mode for the duration of the meeting as they interfere with the broadcasting system.
Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018: Committee Stage
Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 182 are consequential on amendment No. 188. The amendments may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 5, line 17, after "Act" to insert "(other than section 27)".
I acknowledge that this group of amendments on short-term letting, while well publicised in the media in recent months and subject to review by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, are a new element to the Bill as introduced. I will not go through the strategy for the rental sector or why we propose to regulate this area of the tourism market and will instead speak directly to the amendments. The substantive amendment is amendment No. 182. This amendment proposes the insertion of a new section 3A into the Planning and Development Act 2000 and it consists of a number of important provisions. I propose to briefly outline these provisions, along with the related consequential amendments in the group, and then explain their overall intended effect.
Subsection (1) of new section 3A provides that the short-term letting of a house in a rent pressure zone, RPZ, is a material change of use in the house, thereby requiring planning permission, unless otherwise specifically exempted from this requirement. Subsection (2) provides me, as Minister, with specific regulation making powers that will enable planning authorities to require persons involved in short-term letting in RPZs to provide specified information to their local planning authority. Subsection (3) is closely related to subsection (2) and provides that the contravention of a requirement of such regulations will be an offence, subject to a summary fine of up to €5,000, which is a class A offence. Subsection (4) is important as it clarifies that the new provisions, which are focused on short-term letting, as defined, will not affect short-term lettings outside rent pressure zones and long-term lettings within rent pressure zones. Subsection (5), which is central in understanding the core framework principles underpinning these proposals, sets out the necessary definitions for both short-term letting and rent pressures zones. In this regard, "short-term letting" means the letting of a house or part of a house for any period not exceeding 14 days, while "rent pressures zones" means any area designated by me, as Minister, as a rent pressure zone under section 24A or 24B of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.
Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 188 are all consequential and technical amendments relating to the substantive short-term letting provisions I have just outlined.
Amendment No. 188 is a technical amendment to the Long Title of the Bill inserting a reference to short-term letting and the planning code. The other two amendments to section 1 of the Bill are also technical in nature. Amendment No. 1 amends the collective citation for the Residential Tenancies Act to exclude these short-term letting provisions from that Act, while amendment No. 2 inserts a collective citation for the Planning and Development Acts to include these new provisions.
I can discuss in greater detail the reasons for making these changes.
I thank the Minister for outlining the amendments. There is no doubt that we need to ensure short-term lettings are regulated and do not have a disproportionate impact on rental stock which is diminishing year on year. This is part of a response to that problem but obviously not the whole response.
There are many accidental landlords who are renting out what was their principal private residence, perhaps a small apartment, and renting another home. Even for tax treatment purposes, which is a different issue, and one that my party has been raising on a regular basis, they are disproportionately affected. Will these measures have an impact on those who use a property that is not their second home but their principal private residence for short-term letting?
I am someone who bought an apartment in 2007 and had to move out of it due to family circumstances. I am now renting somewhere else that is bigger. There are lots of families in a similar position who could not afford to buy elsewhere. Does the Minister see these regulations having any impact on such families?
Where someone is an accidental landlord and now has a second property, they must regularise the letting. In a rent pressure zone, it could not be a short-term letting but would have to go to a traditional long-term letting. Outside of rent pressure zones, it would not have a material impact on a change of circumstances.
I get that we are talking within the context of the rent pressure zones. I refer to somebody who only owns one property and is renting it, which is the case for many accidental landlords. They may have had to move out because of family circumstances and are renting a larger house because they cannot buy. All of us know many of these people. They own one property which they are renting but it might be done on a short-term basis. They would not be affected by this.
If it is their principal private residence, under these changes, it is only allowed if it is home sharing, that is a room in which the owner is living, or else the full property capped at 90 days.
Therefore it will affect them.
I welcome the proposed legislative changes before us. This committee has argued for some time for the need to have good quality regulations of the short-term letting sector, not only because of the housing crisis but also because it is the proper thing to do for the sector overall to protect guests, hosts and the wider rental market.
I will set out my understanding of the Minister's amendments so that he may correct me if I am wrong on anything. It is very important that people, whether currently engaged in short-term letting or interested in the issue, are very clear about what the amendments do. I also have three very specific questions.
It is good that the legislation makes it very clear that these regulations apply only within the rent pressure zones. Notwithstanding my criticism of the rent pressure zones, many of us have received representations from those who have short-term letting properties in tourist areas outside the rent pressure zones who were unsure where they fell. It is important to be clear that if we pass these new rules, they will apply only in the rent pressure zones. For those people who are engaged in peer-to-peer home sharing, either a room or an entire property, but for less than 90 days, there is really no change. They will not have to apply for planning permission and they will have to do little beyond what they are currently doing. Those who engage in peer-to-peer home sharing for more than 90 days will have to apply for planning permission. While it is not in the legislation it is in the note which the Minister provided to the committee. It is worth putting on the record that they would then be subject to a planning application. Those planning fees are in the order of a few hundred euro, depending on the size of the property. If it is their principal private residence, they will not be liable for water charges as commercial businesses are, so there is minimal cost involved, with the exception of the initial planning permission, whereas those who operate short-term lettings from second properties will have to apply for planning permission, and will be subject to commercial water charges as well as the planning permission requirement. That is my understanding and I ask the Minister to correct me if I am mistaken on anything.
No, that is correct.
I refer to amendment No. 188 which relates to 14 days. Let us take the example of someone with a house in Dublin. They live in the house but their job takes them out of the country for three months in the year, which would not be an unusual arrangement. Currently, for those three months, that person short-term lets the property to one, two or three hosts for the three months. It is not a property that is available to the private rental market or that could have long-term letting but it can be used for short-term letting for those three months. My one fear about the 14 days is that whereas today that homeowner can rent out their property as a short-term let to one guest for three months continuously, when this new regime comes in they will have to apply for planning permission. One would expect that they would get it because it is not a property that could enter the rental market but they would then be restricted to only allowing a guest to stay for a maximum of 14 nights. They could let it out for more than 90 days but it could not be to the same person for more than 14 nights. This was the issue which arose previously at the briefing. Will the Minister clarify if that is the case? If it is, we need to look at some way of amending that. If I get planning permission to allow me to rent out my property on a short let basis for three or four months of the year when I am not there because I am working abroad, it should make no difference whether it is let out continuousy to the same person for that period or to different people.
My second question relates to the current rules for planning enforcement. If someone is in breach of planning permission today, and I make a complaint to the local authority, the local authority investigates. However, if the breach was committed seven years ago there is essentially a statute of limitations, it is past and no action can be taken. Deputy Pat Casey and myself have asked about this previously. If the legislation as proposed is passed, and I had been engaged in short-term letting for eight years, can I circumvent the new rules because of the seven year statute of limitations that currently exists? Clearly, there will not be a large number of those because short-term letting has become much more prevalent in recent years, but it is a concern that people could circumvent the new rules if they could prove they were trading for more than seven years as short-term lets.
Finally, the Minister is linking the short-term letting regulations to the rent pressure zones. However, many members of the committee believe this sector should be regulated anyway. When the rent pressure zones expire, and a sunset clause is built into them, does that mean these regulations automatically fall? If the Government of the day was of a mind to keep the regulations, it would have to amend the legislation at that stage. Has any thought been given to that? While the initial impetus for us discussing the short-term letting was the rental crisis, this sector needs to be regulated, just like the private rental sector or the commercial rental sector. What is the Minister's view on what will happen in relation to the amendments he proposes today when the RPZs expire?
Those are good questions. On the example of someone whose employment might take them out of the country for three months, they will be able to do up to 90 days without there being any problem for them because that will be allowed for the principal private residence, or if they wish, they could get involved in executive letting. That can be handier than having to manage people coming in every three days. People hire people to manage that as well but it does not prohibit them from having one person continuously for the 90 days. That will be okay. We will not put an extra burden on them that they must move tenants in and out every 14 days.
Take the person with the house who applies for the planning permission because it is more than the 90 days, say four months. When they apply for the planning permission, if they get it, because they are only making the property available four months in the year and the local authority decides that is fine and gives them planning permission, can they let it out continuously to the same host for more than 14 nights even when they have the planning permission?
If they are successful in getting permission then yes they may. If they were worried about not being successful and getting permission, that person would have to turn to an executive-letting scenario which would still allow for beyond the 90 days because it is an executive let and is not captured by the legislation.
To be clear, as this is important, if they get the planning permission and it is their intention to let the property as short-term lets for those four months, there is no restriction on the number of nights within that period that they can let to a single host. There is not a 14 day block restriction. They could let out to somebody for 15 or 20 nights.
No, if they have their permission then they are good to go. I am not saying that they will get the permission -----
No, that is a separate issue.
If they do get the permission, they will not be captured by the 14 day period, that is to define what short-term letting is for the purposes of a second property.
The Deputy is correct about enforcement. Even though we are changing the planning law now, if someone has established use over a seven year period and can prove that, under our planning laws that is an established use, we cannot go after them for enforcement purposes. We believe that will be a relatively small number in the scheme of things but it is something we cannot change because that seven year period is hardwired into our planning laws. However it speaks to the Deputy's third point which has also been raised by Deputy Casey several times in relation to the effective regulation of this sector.
I am responsible for the planning Acts and can restrict the use of people's properties for short-term letting to get those properties back into use in the traditional rental market.
Since this version of the shared economy is disrupting traditional activities in so many ways when it comes to letting, it needs to be regulated. This is a matter for the tourism authorities because it is a tourism activity. I would have liked to have addressed both aspects at the same time. That has not been possible. I am proceeding with what I can control, namely, the planning Acts. This will be good and we will do some good work but the Deputy is absolutely correct that if rent pressure zones fall away at the end of 2021, the measure in question will fall away also so the then Government will have to choose either to extend the period of application of the zones, in which case the measure will be extended, or to extend the measure in a way that does not link it to rent pressure zones. It is my desire that, by that point, we will have moved to regulate the short-term letting sector as an element of the tourism economy. That is how I see this going. That is where it needs to go and that is what has happened in other countries.
I have a supplementary question. With regard to the exemption, the Minister's answer was very clear so I have just one query. The seven-year statute of limitations applies from the date of the breach to the date of discovery. Strictly speaking, the properties we are talking about are not in breach of anything. Is the Minister absolutely sure that the seven-year exemption would apply if those concerned could prove they were trading? Surely it is from the day of the introduction of the regulations and this legislation becoming law that they would be in breach if they did not have the planning permission. In order to have absolutely clarity, has this been checked with the Attorney General? If not, could it be checked before Report Stage or consideration in the Seanad, just so we will be 100% clear?
I will clarify it for the Deputy. My initial understanding was that someone would need to be in breach of the law for seven years from the changing of the law before becoming exempt. It was then clarified to me that, in regard to the planning laws, if one can prove an established use, even though the law has changed, it gets one off the hook. I will clarify it in writing because it is an important point.
I thank the Minister.
At my very first committee meeting with the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Simon Coveney, I was the first to raise the issue of short-term letting platforms. I said I felt short-term letting was having an impact on the rental market. I acknowledge, having come from the tourism industry, that the industry itself needs a certain amount of short-term letting. A holistic approach is needed.
I do not know how many times I have spoken about short-term lettings. I have spoken about this during private session, including today. I am not disputing that the planning regulations are required but I feel the process is cumbersome and will bog down the planners in the local authorities. At the first private meeting, I would look for clarification on what Deputy Ó Broin has said, that is, that when one establishes use for seven years, there is nothing the local authority can do about it. One can then continue to use the property in that way.
Trying to find the properties in question and identify whether they have been in use for seven years will consume local authority time. That is why I always felt we needed the measure in question but the more important regulatory aspect concerns the short-term letting platform. I understand it is not in the Minister's brief but, in the longer term, the only way we can regulate the short-term letting platform is through the regulation of the platforms rather than through regulating property owners letting out their properties.
I have a few more points. We are now saying that anybody who applies for planning permission for short-term rental of a property in a rent pressure zone will not get permission. I come from the tourism sector so I am addressing both sides. Within Dublin, there is a need for a certain amount of short-term letting for the tourism sector, but not to the extent evident at the moment. Who decides the percentage and why somebody should be allowed to engage in short-term letting through a platform?
Does the Minister acknowledge my point that this is cumbersome legislation and that enforcement is expensive? Through the regulation of the platforms, we could have controlled this more easily and quickly. We could simply have stated, in the regulation on short-term letting platforms, that one cannot put a property on the platform unless one has a licence from one's local authority stating one has planning permission. This would be instead of going through the cumbersome process of trying to prove the existence of unauthorised development in the face of owners saying they have been engaged in short-term letting for seven years. We will end up going backwards and forwards. We will end up with legal arguments and clogging up the whole system. I suggest regulating short-term letting and stipulating in a regulation that one cannot put a property on a platform unless one has a licence from one's local authority stating one is approved. This would be in addition to the planning process, which would not be ignored. It would be a lot easier than using up resources of local authorities across every county involved. We will end up with appeals and in courts and just get bogged down. We will not achieve the success we all want to achieve.
Many in my constituency and the tourism sector were worried. I acknowledge that this measure applies only to the rent pressure zones. We must acknowledge that, even within those zones, the tourism sector will require a percentage for short-term lettings. I refer to the old tradition of bed and breakfast, B&B. We are dealing with the modern version of what used to be a B&B years ago. How will a planner in Dublin City Council decide a certain property is really needed for tourism and is not having an impact? Who will get the good news and the bad news?
To make a high-level point, we have to try to regulate the sector. It is important that we do. I have always said that going at it through the planning Acts is not perfect but it is a good approach. It is necessary even if one is talking about regulating the sector in addition. I will come back to why it is necessary.
Let us be very clear that this change will not affect those outside rent pressure zones. If someone is engaged in short-term letting in Kerry, they may continue to do so because it is not a rent pressure zone. Holiday homes will not be covered, as I stated. The holiday home element of the tourism industry will not be affected by these changes.
Regulations are needed and are coming. They are needed for a host of reasons, not just in connection with the number of properties available to rent in a city such as Dublin. We have recently seen issues associated with hidden cameras. Hoteliers will tell one about people staying in a home-share or short-term let not having the same rights or protections in law and not being assured of the same standards. They will make all those points themselves. They all lend themselves to a type of regulation of short-term letting that I agree with. I use the platforms in question when I travel and have been open about that. They are now a big part of our economy and the sector will grow. I refer not only to letting but to other areas where the shared economy is now making inroads and disrupting traditional business models.
With regard to the practicality, I acknowledge that this will require more resources for planning authorities because we are asking them to take on a new function. We are going to provide them with the resources to do that. The activity is very transparent because the platforms are public. That is how it works. It cannot work unless it is very transparent. It is very easy to ascertain, through public searching, what is going on in a given property. Residents all know the short-term letting house on their road. They see people coming in at certain times of the day or leaving at certain times of the night. They will have the wheelie-case. I do not believe it is a hidden activity. It is happening right in front of us and that is why I believe regulation will not be as difficult as trying to discover whether someone's extension three roads into an estate actually complies with planning permission guidelines.
This will have an impact on the tourism industry in Dublin. However, some short-term letting will continue because we have purpose built short-term letting accommodation. A place in Temple Bar was built for that reason and got planning permission to do that. There are also thousands more hotel beds being built. The tourism industry is incredibly strong in this country and in Dublin, and if there is some displacement effect it is probably okay if it means people go to parts of the country outside Dublin to holiday and spend money. While I am a member of the Government my responsibility is for housing. We have a shortage in housing supply so I aim to use every tool available to me to get as many homes back into the traditional rental stock as I can. That is what we are trying to do through the planning law.
This is enabling legislation. The meat of it is in the guidelines which we will lay before the House and discuss shortly. These changes give a mechanism in primary legislation, as we have a vehicle in the rent Bill, to allow us to get to the nub of what we are trying to do. They will do the heavy lifting. In the type of regulation the Deputy referred to he still discussed planning permission, regardless of whether he meant to do that. When we go to regulation of short-term letting platforms it will still require some element of the planning system. When we looked at what other cities have done, that has been used in some instances. In an ideal world we would have both the changes to the planning law that I am proposing today and also regulation that would do more than just regulate the number of properties but would regulate how these properties are used. At present, that type of regulation is left to the platforms. Rights in terms of whether there was a breach of the agreement a person had in letting the property over a weekend fall to be remediated by the company, but there probably should be more robust regulations in law so people have rights outside of what the company says are their rights.
Is there any communication with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport regarding the regulation of short-term letting platforms?
There has been extensive communication between both Departments as to what must happen here in respect of tourist activity. What we will do through the planning law is reduce short-term letting as a tourist activity in rent pressure zones and get the homes back into the normal letting stock. The regulation part falls to tourism and that has been clearly outlined to that Department.
Is there no indication of when that Department will tackle the regulation?
I cannot speak for a different Department.
I thank the Minister for the clarifications. He referred to enabling legislation and the guidelines coming shortly. Can he give us a timeframe for that? He said he cannot answer for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, but when can we expect this regulation to be in place?
What we were discussing was the regulation of short-term letting as opposed to a change in the planning laws.
Yes, but I am talking about the reference in amendment No. 182.
Yes. That is separate from what we were just discussing, which is the regulations the committee already has and which will be discussed next week. Then it is my intention to formally lay them before the Houses in the first week of May after the Easter break. That is where the meat of this is. There is a wait of 21 days before they become law. As a result of the delay, and I indicated this earlier, we are now looking at 1 July next for these becoming law. It was previously indicated in October that it would be 1 June but to be fair to everyone there must be a period, once the law is passed, in which we can tell everyone in rent pressure zones that this change is coming. Anybody who is in this sector knows this is happening. I doubt that anybody can claim not to know, but to be fair I have pushed the date back by a month.
I have questions about the 14 days. Is there a particular reason that the Minister decided on 14 days?
From the information we have retrieved, and we picked Dublin, typically most people visiting Dublin are coming on a city break for between three and five days. However, people can holiday for a week and sometimes two weeks. By going to 14 days we are preventing that activity from happening. There are a number of other types of short-term stays which we would not wish to exclude, such as executive letting. A company might control a couple of properties where the executives let them out. A person coming to work in the company might arrive there and use it as a base for a number of weeks before he or she finds a home to rent for a year or two. We also know from talking to people in the Department of Health that if somebody is undergoing a particular type of surgery, the person might have family come to live near the hospital where it is taking place. The family might do that for three weeks, a month or longer. We do not wish to exclude that. Obviously, there is also the situation, which was flagged to us by the RTB, where somebody renovating a property might have to vacate it for a month or a longer period of time. That must be allowed to occur.
The 14 days allows us to tackle short-term letting as we do not believe people are short-term letting for 15, 16 or 17 days, and if they are it must be 0.01% of activity, but it does not then unintentionally capture all those other lettings we want to allow to continue.
My next question is about areas outside the rent pressure zones. This measure applies inside the rent pressure zones. Approximately one third of the city in which I live is in the rent pressure zone but the rest of it is not. I am aware there are other elements of the legislation which will probably make it easier for places to get into the rent pressure zones due to the way the averaging will be done. Does the Minister envisage problems in urban areas that are not in rent pressure zones but in which there is still a great deal of competition for rental properties, there is still a difficulty for people to rent privately and there is a shortage of accommodation? I am thinking of the rest of Limerick, Waterford and other large towns around the country as well as places just outside the rent pressure zone in Dublin and neighbouring counties. There could still be issues with a lack of available, affordable rental properties in those areas. Has the Minister any plans in that regard?
It is true there might be issues in those areas. It would be more difficult if we said this is the national law and left it up to each authority to decide whether there was significant pressure in that area because we would get too much inconsistency. As we worked on it further with the Attorney General, we found we could not do that in any event. We had to link it to something that was already evidence of significant pressure on rents and significant demand on accommodation, which is the rent pressure zones. That is already in the law. We are changing the qualifying criteria for them and doing other things. We assume there will be more rent pressure zones so places such as Limerick, although I will not prejudge data and everything else-----
The Minister should not. His predecessor said it would get in and it did not, so the Minister should not predict.
I will not, but we are making these changes for a reason. We saw hyperinflation in certain parts of the country but they were not going to be captured by rent pressure zones because the average rent in Dublin was racing ahead. One would assume that if these changes are correct, other areas where there has been high inflation will be captured because the national rent will be tied to something different.
Again, this is not the perfect solution. It is a good one. One wants to get to the point where tourism short-term letting is a regulated activity as a tourism activity. This is a planning measure, with regulations to regulate the planning aspect of it, to get the bulk of the properties back into use. We believe it will be most of them.
It might be something that would have to be reviewed at some stage if it turns out that there are other areas-----
Absolutely. Six month or 12 month reviews of any policy are a good idea to see how it is operating, as long as the data are available to make the review meaningful. I have no problem with that.
With regard to subsection (2), within the RPZs a person would have to apply for planning permission to continue to let a property on a short-term basis. In real terms, however, what decision making autonomy will the local authorities have? Does the Minister see it, effectively, as a mechanism for a blanket refusal, with the Department saying it does not want the authority to grant any of these permissions? That is the first question. The reason I ask it is that within the RPZs in my area of Fingal, there are a number of rural villages where houses are let on a short-term basis for tourism. Even within that RPZ, there are no pressures in those villages for rent yet they are important for tourism.
The Minister continually mentions Dublin. Dublin is more than Dublin city, as he knows. It is important to peripheral areas such as Fingal that people exiting Dublin Airport turn left as opposed to always going into the city for city breaks. I have received specific representations from people concerned about the application of this provision within an RPZ area where there is no pressure as such on rental supply. These small operations bring business to rural constituencies in Dublin. In this regard, does Fingal County Council as the local authority have the autonomy to grant a licence for the short-term letting?
The Minister mentioned that these regulations will come into effect from 1 July. I understand the need for an appropriate lead-in period to allow people to get their houses in order. I accept that we need to regulate short-term letting to ensure properties come back into stock but there are issues with the regulations that we need to do further work on. Is there sufficient time for people to regularise their situations? For example, in the case of an application made now for permission for a second property let the minimum processing time is eight weeks. If this law comes into effect from 1 July will this permission be in breach of it? In other words, having not had sufficient lead-in time in terms of the application, will the person be operating illegally? If this Bill is passed by the Dáil and Seanad in the next couple of weeks and is signed into law by the President on, say, 1 May, is there sufficient time for people to ensure they are not operating illegally through no fault of their own?
As Minister with responsibility for local government I am either being told to give local authorities more autonomy or to take more functions away from them, depending on the issue. My responsibility and first concern is people living and working here. A person returning to Dublin to trace relatives or whatever is welcome and we like that to happen but our primary concern is accommodating people living and working here. Essentially, what we are talking about is a blanket refusal. Good law allows for flexibility and exceptions. For that reason, I do not favour mandatory minimums. What we are providing for is blanket refusal but we have to allow local authorities to apply common sense. People get so frustrated when we bring in laws that do not allow for the person on the ground with the knowledge to apply some common sense in his or her decision making powers without having the flexibility to abuse those powers. In the regulations, we will allow for that common sense approach. Essentially, we are taking a blanket approach unless it can be shown that there is scope to show some flexibility in a part of an RPZ area, of which there will be only a small number of instances.
I agree with the Minister in that I would see it as being the exception rather than the norm but to legislate for a blanket refusal and at the same time say local authorities will have a certain amount of discretion is contradictory. I accept this will happen in only a small percentage of cases. There are many viable businesses within RPZs in rural areas that will be affected by this provision. For them, this discretion makes sense. I agree with the Minister that the bulk of the applications should be refused but there are notable and significant exceptions where they should be allowed.
We must be careful that the message that goes out from here is not such that someone in Temple Bar could chance their arm and get through a gap. A landlord in an RPZ will not be allowed to let a second property on a short-term basis. There may be one or two instances where that would not be appropriate and the guidelines will allow flexibility for the local authorities in that area.
I am with the Minister on this. I am not being unrealistic or unreasonable. I am not talking about Temple Bar or bustling city centres where tourists are tripping over each other. Rather, I am talking about places like Ballyboughal, Oldtown, Garristown. The Minister needs to alloew th local authorities in the RPZs to use common sense, but which can be open to challenge. In the case of applications for permission, it is a public process where people can make observations and objections. I find it unusual that the Minister would include in the Bill a section that allows for a planning application to be made in respect of which the position of the Department is a blanket refusal. I do not think the Minister can do that. There will be notable, significant exceptions. I would see the vast majority of second properties coming back into stock. I am speaking particularly of important tourist and accommodation hubs in rural areas in RPZs where there is no other accommodation.
What I will be telling local authorities is that if it is an RPZ area, it will not be allowed to happen. The guidelines will clarify where there may be room for an exception and how that it is to be implemented. We will discuss those guidelines next week.
The message from me will be strong: this activity is to stop.
Will the guidelines further clarify the position?
Will the Minister clarify the situation around the timeframe for planning permissions?
This law comes into effect on 1 July. In the case of persons who then apply for planning permission, there will not be an eight-week turnaround process because 99.9% of the applications will be immediately refused based on their addresses. They will not be in breach of the law until they get that refusal.
In the case of a planning application, it must be open for a minimum four weeks to allow public comment and consultation. That is the planning law in this country. If then takes a further four weeks to process. Is the Minister saying that if I submit an application now it will be automatically refused?
No. I am saying that it is not going to fall foul of the complications we have in regard to, say, an application for an extension to a house.
I am not talking about that.
Public consultation periods and so on are not being impacted because we are not making any amendments in that area. There will be a timeframe within which a person may make an observation but it would not necessitate the complications that we see in other planning cases because it is straightforward.
I agree that it should be straightforward because 99.9% of the applications will be refused but they have to be allowed to follow the process. The process is a minimum of four weeks and a decision thereafter. I am asking if sufficient lead-in time is being provided to allow people to regularise their situations.
Yes. If people think they can, that is no problem.
If they made an application in advance of 1 July they would be deemed to have been engaged in the process. If the local authority takes longer to process the application that would not be the applicant's fault. I do not want to see people being fined when they are engaged in the process.
It would not be their fault.
I thank the Minister.
To ensure people watching in are crystal clear in terms of what we are talking about, when the Minister speaks about a blanket refusal he does so in the context of second properties or entire properties that are being let out, whereas in the case of properties currently let for more than 90 days the planning application process will have to make a determination as to whether those properties can continue to be short-term let. I presume the guidance to the local authority is if a property is not a property that could enter into the long-term rental market it is open to consideration for planning permission. I am clear on the broad blanket refusal for properties that are being commercially or fully let or second properties let on a short-term basis but cases such as the property of a person who is working abroad for four months of the year, which is not a property that can go into the long-term rental market, will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
I would not use the term "blanket refusal" in those cases. They will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I am not saying that it would not get planning permission, but it would be open for consideration.
In some ways, we should hope that nobody is watching this. They say that making laws is like making hot dogs because nobody wants to see how it is actually done.
I have never heard that before.
It applies to sausages as well.
It was said by an American. Once we have finalised this legislation, I can then go out and advertise the change made.
There are many people watching this and people will be reporting on it. I am just asking for clarity; I am not disagreeing with the Minister.
The Deputy's point stands, as does his earlier example.
If this proposal goes through as it is currently drafted - and I hope it does - will the 14-day rule in amendment No. 188 restrict any type of short-term letting to letting to an individual guest for 14 days? I am trying to work this out. If someone gets planning permission for short-term letting in respect of a second property that is not a principle residence, will a 14-day cap apply on those properties for individual guests? Where will that restriction on the length of time a person can let a given unit apply?
Is the Deputy is talking about a situation where a person applies for planning permission for a residence that is not his or her primary residence in order that he or she can carry out short-term letting?
A legal definition relating to 14 days has been inserted, which is quite unusual. In London or Barcelona, 60 days, 90 days or 40 days is used. We have a 90-day rule under which planning permission is required regardless of whether it is a person's principle private residence that is involved. In the context of any short-term letting, I am trying to work out, in circumstances where someone gets planning permission - regardless of whether it is a principle private residence or a second property - if the impact of the 14-day definition is restrictive in terms of letting out that property to the same guest for more than 14 days.
The Deputy is not talking about a principle private residence, but rather a situation where the person applies for planning and gets it.
What the Deputy has described is not my reading of the legislation.
After this legislation goes through, if anyone has planning permission, regardless of the type of property, there is not limit to the length of time an individual guest can stay in a property.
The point of the 14-day rule is to allow for executive letting. I understand from where the question is coming.
I want to pick up on the point made by Deputy Casey. We spend a lot of time in this committee talking about the need to regulate the platforms. I do not have the same level of anxiety as Deputy Casey. We can pass this legislation comfortably if we are of a mind to do so, and then go forward with broader regulations for short-term letting platforms. It is really important to do that. There is an array of information that platforms have which would be very important for local authorities in the enforcement of their planning function. If there were a statutory obligation on the short-term letting platforms to share that information with local authorities, it would make the job of the latter much easier. It would be a relatively easy thing to do. Likewise, one of the concerns we expressed at this committee - it is contained in the report - relates to the need for the platforms to share that information with Revenue. Again, it would make Revenue's job much easier in terms of tax compliance. There is also the issue of platforms, either knowingly or unknowingly, advertising properties that are not in compliance with the law. The advertising of properties for long-term letting that are substandard and do not meet regulation was debated in the Seanad yesterday. We have a 90-day planning permission requirement in law. If I am a host but I do not have planning permission and Airbnb knows that I am now letting my property out for more than 90 days, there should not only be a legal obligation on the host but also on the platform. It should be sanctioned in cases where it is advertising properties that are not in line with the legislation. Responsibility for those regulations should rest with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government because they are much more like the regulation of the private rental sector. I am not seeking that those regulations be inserted into this Bill; that must be done as it is. The regulations that I would like to see for the platforms have to be in that kind of space, and responsibility in that regard should lie with the Minister's Department.
Even in the context of an almost blanket refusal for non-principle residences in Dublin, a huge administrative burden will be placed on Dublin City Council and other councils. I know that some organising work is already under way. What information can the Minister provide in order to assure us that the local authorities, which will have to deal with this very significant administrative burden, will have all of the resources they need to deal with the applications so that there will be no delay? Have additional resources been assigned? Have the local authorities asked for additional resources? Can the Minister share that information? He announced last September that this would commence in June . Is that still his intention, or does he now intend to alter the timeline given the delay in bringing forward the legislation today?
I agree with the Deputy's point about regulating the platforms. If a company publishes content, it is responsible for that content. If it is advertising something, it is, within specific parameters, responsible for that advertisement. It might be difficult to find the person responsible for putting up fake photos, for example. Sinn Féin's Bill in the Seanad speaks to that point. We want to work through that to see how we can improve matters. I do not disagree on that point at all. I took a very comprehensive look at this when I came into the Department because it was one of the things we wanted to move quickly on. If I could do more in terms of bringing the platforms in I would have done it, but this is a responsibility that will fall to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport or perhaps the Department of Finance if the Deputy's suggestion about sharing information with Revenue is taken further. Regularising the platforms is not something I can do.
On the issue of the administrative burden that local authorities will bear, we have been kicking around a couple of different ideas. Dublin City Council developed its own proposals and did its own thinking on this. Greater clarity will be available when we discuss this matter next week, because we will be talking about the substance of how this will be done in each local authority area. This will become legally operable from 1 July for people in this sector, as I said earlier in public session, representing a move of one month compared to what was announced. Anyone doing this as a business activity knows that this is coming. This is being done to be absolutely certain that we can provide a period of advertising to make the requirements in rent pressure zones clear. Rent pressure zones are only being finalised in legislation now, and this is where it is going to apply and where it is going to happen. There can be no excuses for non-compliance from 1 July.
I am probably repeating myself, but we have to find the balance between tourism needs and the needs of the rental sector. We have all provided examples of it. The Minister has said that he will issue a blanket ban as a starting point. In Wicklow there are three rental pressure zones, being Bray, Greystones and Wicklow town. Wicklow is my local electoral area and I have my own business in Glendalough. There are very few hotels in that area. Even the hotel in the Wicklow town has been closed. My hotel is in Glendalough, but it is the only significant hotel accommodation in my local electoral area. Glendalough is the honeypot that keeps Wicklow going, and the tourism sector there requires Airbnb properties. There are many such properties, and in Wicklow town, where there is now no hotel, they are the only option and the only way tourism can be sustained in the immediate future.
A developer in Wicklow County Council looking at the county development plan policy, which clearly states an aim to support tourism, will see an immediate contradiction. Housing requirements dictate that we need properties too. What is the decision going to be? Who is making the call?
Knowing this area quite well, there is also a shortage of hotels in Greystones and Bray. If everybody in Bray, Greystones and Wicklow who is currently operating a short-term letting platform has to apply for planning permission, I am not sure whether the resources are there in Wicklow to deal with that. I do not know what level of communication there has been between the Department and Wicklow County Council with regard to this forthcoming regulation. The same could perhaps be applied elsewhere. It comes back to the tourism matter. That is a practical example.
I spoke with officials yesterday about the planning, rental and inspections function in the local authority in Wicklow. As we talk through the guidelines next week, we can get into that detail. I am not trying to move off the question. We are trying to provide the enabling legislation so that we can get into that detail next week. There has to be some nuance in the guidelines, in what seems like an inherent contradiction of having blanket guidelines but with exceptions. That is essentially because we want to make sure that people understand what is happening here. The Deputy will know better than I how this will have an impact on the tourism industry in parts of Wicklow. That is not my responsibility. My first and foremost concern is people living and working in this country, and making sure that they have places to live that are secure and affordable. That is my responsibility as the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. I accept that we need to regulate the sector better and that that requires more than what I am doing. What I am doing is not perfect; it is good. It will get properties back for people who are struggling to find properties today at rents that they can afford.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 5, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:
“(3) The Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2018 and section 27 may be cited together as the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2019.”.
I did not say anything in the last discussion because I wanted to get my head around it. As it happens, I commend the Minister. I think it is quite a radical measure. It is welcome. I am not sure how many properties it will free up but it will certainly help, so fair play to the Minister. My comment is on the Bill itself. The Bill contains plans to impose administrative sanctions, carry out investigations of landlords, to extend notice periods, registration of landlords and tenancies, publication of determinations and so on. They are all welcome and I will support the Bill. I think this is also a missed opportunity to go further given the scale of the crisis that we are facing. If it was me bringing forward this Bill, it would be called the residential tenancies (emergency measures) Bill and it would have more in it. However much this Bill is a step forward, which it is, it will not address the crisis. It may have some impact, which is to be welcomed, but it is not up to the scale of the crisis. Most obviously, evictions are a major reason for the flow into homelessness and the Bill does not address that. That is a missed opportunity. We have amendments to that effect in different sections so I will not delay at this point. I would like to hear the Minister's response to that.
Across the road from my constituency office in Dún Laoghaire is a block of apartments. In that block of apartments, which I am pretty certain was in the hands of NAMA and then ended up in the hands of a crowd called Apollo Global Management-----
The Deputy cannot refer to people outside the Houses by name.
I apologise. A vulture fund and property speculator got hold of it. It first made attempts to ratchet up the rents by approximately 60%. That was resisted by the tenants with our support. It moved on after that to try to evict everybody on the basis of substantial refurbishment. The residents resisted it. That was successful. It is good that they are still there but many of the residents were so worn down and traumatised by the experience that they just left. Now there are just ten tenants in the place. The big fear that they have, given the previous record of this property investor, is that once it drops to nine, they can move on, because sale is a grounds for eviction. There are now, disgracefully, about nine units just sitting empty, but refurbishments are being done to allow the company to increase the rent and it will almost certainly sell it on. People phone me every few weeks to say that something is happening and to ask whether they are facing eviction, because there have been two attempts to drive them out. This Bill does not deal with that and it should. That picture is replicated across the country. I put that to the Minister. I will not delay. We will discuss some of these issues on an amendment-by-amendment basis further down the line but I think it is a missed opportunity and there is a failure to recognise the emergency situation that we are in.
I will stay away from Second Stage speeches but I acknowledge and appreciate the Deputy's support for the Bill. I thank him for recognising some of the impact that it will make. Putting something like "emergency" in the Title is tokenistic. I do not think it is true that the Deputy would bring those proposals forward if he was Minister because they are not constitutional and they would not be retrospective, so he would not be able to do that. It is important to recognise the help that this will give to people. As for the example the Deputy cited, for instance, there is now a definition of substantial refurbishments within the Bill. There is not a question of protracted engagement with the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB. It is clear-cut. There are measures in section 34 relating to notices to the RTB and the rights that fall to the tenants if section 34 is not applied in the appropriate way. The example that the Deputy cited will help people where it has not helped before. I suppose that is why he is supporting the Bill. I recognise that it does not go as far as he would like it to. There are important constitutional considerations that I have to take on board that I believe the Deputy would have to take on board too if he was in this position.
I accept that the substantial refurbishments definition is an improvement and it is why I am supporting the Bill, but it does not deal with the substantial fear that now hangs over those residents. When the number of residents drops to nine, which it will at some point, a vulture fund or property investor, whatever one calls it, which has a clear history of trying to drive those people out, will move. It will sell it because that is what it does. It will flip that property which has accumulated in value and it will evict those people. The Minister's Bill does nothing to protect them when it happens.
I will allow the Minister to respond and then we will move on.
It extends notice to quit periods. It puts in place greater protections relating to section 34. We know that the Tyrrelstown amendment, as it is colloquially known, has been tested recently and has proven to be robust, but we also know that that was as far as it could go constitutionally. We also know that the majority of landlords in the country own just one or two properties. What material impact would those changes to laws the Deputy proposes have on the landscape? I am not quite sure.
They have to sell with the tenants.
That is unconstitutional.
Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, 7, 11, 13, 68, 71 to 76, inclusive, 78 to 82, inclusive, and 181 are related. Amendments Nos. 4, 73 and 79 are consequential on amendment No. 3. Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 are consequential on amendment No. 73. Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, 7, 11, 13, 68, 71 to 76, inclusive, 78 to 82, inclusive, and 181 may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 3:
3. Section 3 of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (1):
“(1A) (a) Subject to subsection (7), this Act also applies to every dwelling (the subject of a tenancy created not earlier than one month after the commencement of paragraph (a) of section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019) situated in a building, or part of a building, used for the sole purpose (subject to subparagraphs (i), (ii) and (iii)) of providing residential accommodation to students during academic term times under a tenancy—
(i) whether or not the building or part of the building concerned is used for any other purpose outside of those times,
(ii) whether or not any such students are permitted to reside there outside of those times, and
(iii) whether or not any person other than a student resides there, provided that the purpose of the person’s residing there serves the first-mentioned purpose,
but does not include a dwelling in a building or part of a building used for the first-mentioned purpose where the landlord (other than a landlord who is not an individual) also resides in the building or part of the building concerned.
(b) This subsection is without prejudice to subsection (1) and accordingly this Act shall, by virtue of that subsection—
(i) continue to apply to any dwelling to which it applied immediately before the commencement of section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 in the same manner as it applied to such dwelling before such commencement, and
(ii) apply to any dwelling—
(I) occupied by a student under a tenancy created on or after such commencement, and
(II) to which this Act would apply had sections 3 and 4 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019 not been enacted,
in the same manner as it would apply to a dwelling referred to in subparagraph (i).
(c) The definition of ‘dwelling’ in section 4 shall apply for the purposes of this subsection as if ‘residential unit (whether or not self-contained)’ were substituted for ‘self-contained residential unit’.
(d) In this subsection ‘student’ means a person registered as a student with a relevant provider (within the meaning of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012),”,
(b) by the insertion of the following subsection:
“(7) The following provisions of this Act shall not apply to a tenancy of a dwelling referred to in subsection (1A):
(a) paragraphs (k) and (n) of section 16, subsections (2) and (3) of section 78 and clause (II) of subparagraph (i) of paragraph (e) of subsection (4) of section 135,
(b) sections 70, 71, 72, 73, 81, 185, 186, and 195,
(c) Part 4, and
(d) Schedule 1.”.”.
Should I speak to all the amendments in one go?
There are many grouped together.
I am not seeking to delay matters but some of this is very technical. It is important that, as much as possible, we speak to each amendment as we go through. I am not criticising anybody but we only just got the amendments two days ago. A number of us have gone through them but we must ensure we do not unintentionally skip over anything.
If it is amenable to the committee, I will start with amendment No. 3 and we can see how we go. I will speak to related Government and Opposition amendments linked to student-specific accommodation as we come to them. Amendment No. 3 and related Government amendments amend the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2016 to provide for its relevant obligations and rights to apply to tenancy and licence agreements in student-specific accommodation provided by public educational institutions or by private accommodation providers to both part-time and full-time students. For example, the 4% per annum rent increase restriction in rent pressure zones, relevant termination provisions, the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, dispute resolution procedures, tenancy and licence registration requirements, and the new RTB sanctioning regime for improper conduct will apply to the student-specific accommodation.
Amendment No. 3 amends section 3 of the Act of 2004. Section 3 of the Act of 2004 sets out the dwellings, under tenancy, to which the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2016 apply. Amendment No. 3 extends the application of the Acts to student-specific accommodation let under a tenancy that commences not earlier than one month after the commencement of this section of the Bill.
Under the proposed new section (3)(1A)(a) of the Act, every dwelling situated in a building or part of a building used for the sole purpose of providing residential accommodation under tenancy to students during academic terms will be covered by the Acts, regardless of whether that building is used for any other purpose outside of academic terms, such students can reside in the building outside of academic terms, or anyone other than a student, such as a caretaker, resides in the building provided, the residence in the building is for the purposes of providing residential accommodation to students during academic term times. The amendment makes clear that the Acts do not apply to such a dwelling where an individual landlord resides, for example, in "digs". Generally, the Act does not apply to a dwelling within which the landlord also resides. Under the proposed new section (3)(1A)(b), it is made clear that the application of the Acts to the student-specific accommodation sector will not affect regular dwellings, such as a house, where students reside under an existing or future tenancy. Under the proposed new section (3)(1A)(c), the definition of "dwelling" under section 4 of the Act of 2004 is modified to make clear that student-specific accommodation can be self-contained but need not be self-contained. This modification is necessary to reflect the nature of student-specific accommodation.
Under the proposed new section (3)(1A)(d), "student" is defined as a person registered as a student with relevant providers within the meaning of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012. To be clear, as defined in other legislation, "relevant provider" is a "previously established university", "an educational institution established as a university under section 9 of the Act of 1997", "a technological university", "the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland", "the Dublin Institute of Technology", "a provider whose programme of education and training is validated under section 45", an "awarding body under section 48", "a provider to whom authority to make an award has been delegated under section 53", or "a provider who is authorised to use the international education mark under section 61 other than a provider who is so authorised where that provider is also (i) a provider referred to in paragraphs (a) to (g), or (ii) a linked provider". The term "student" covers part-time and full-time students. English language education providers are not currently "relevant providers" under section 2 but will soon become relevant providers under the law. Accordingly, their students who avail of student-specific accommodation under licence or tenancy will fall within the remit of the Residential Tenancies Acts.
A new subsection (7) is inserted into section 3 of the Act of 2004 to disapply a number of provisions of the Residential Tenancies Acts which are not appropriate to the student-specific sector. The provisions disapplied from the student-specific accommodation sector include the following. Section 16(k) is not relevant to student-specific accommodation tenancies as assignment and subletting is prohibited in that sector. Section 16(n) is not relevant in the context of student-specific accommodation as a student has his or her own separate agreement with the provider. Accordingly, a scenario cannot arise where the student is obliged to write to the provider notifying of the identity of residents. Section 78(2) and (3) are not relevant in the context of student-specific accommodation as a student is prohibited from subletting or creating a sublicence. Section 135, clause (II) of subparagraph (i) of paragraph (e) of subsection (4), is amended to modify the required content of the statement that issues by the RTB with its acknowledgement of an application to register a tenancy or licence in the student-specific accommodation sector. That RTB statement will not be required to set out the security of tenure provisions under the Residential Tenancies Acts, as Part 4 does not apply in the student-specific accommodation sector. Simply put, a student residing under tenancy in student-specific accommodation for longer than six months will not accrue the legal right to stay there for another 5.5 years. The RTB statement will reflect that.
Sections 70, 71, 72, 73, 81, 185 and 186 will not apply to the student-specific accommodation as subletting and multiple tenancies do not apply in that sector. The agreement between a student and a provider is made in the student’s personal capacity. Section 195 will not apply in the student-specific accommodation sector as proposed overholding under a fixed term tenancy cannot arise. Students are required to vacate student-specific accommodation in accordance with the terms agreed with the provider. Security of tenure provisions under Part 4 of the Act will not apply. Schedule 1 of the Act does not apply to student-specific accommodation as subtenancies cannot occur.
I fully support this amendment as it is very significant, particularly for the thousands of students throughout the country who have engaged with all members of this committee and the Department. I put on record my thanks to those student unions throughout the country, as well as the Union of Students in Ireland and others, for their input into this. The committee worked in unison on this across parties. We in Fianna Fáil had a Bill on purpose-built student accommodation and bringing them under rent pressure zone and RTB provisions, as did Sinn Féin and others. We engaged with the Minister and through the Chair to try to bring about a workable solution that would see an end to double-digit rent increases for students. In some instances, they are the reason students have not been able to complete their college education. We want to ensure people can have access to such education.
Much work has been done on licence to reside, and it is very significant. It should make a significant impact. I note the exemptions listed by the Minister, which make sense. I have a question about on-campus accommodation. Purpose-built student accommodation under the previous planning Act is defined. That is welcome and it was in the Fianna Fáil Bill. This will also apply where colleges provide their own accommodation on campus. Are there any nuances as to what applies to purpose-built accommodation that is either on or off campus? Is there any difference? We will wholeheartedly support the insertion of this section into the Act. It is crucial that this legislation is passed so it can be in effect before the new college year starts in August and September.
It is worth noting it was almost a year ago this month that students from Dublin City University's Shanowen Court and then those in Cúirt na Coiribe were hit with those 27% rent increases. Like Deputy O'Brien, I pay tribute to the students who organised and mobilised on that issue. They held sleep-outs and they protested in their colleges and here at Leinster House. They met Deputies from almost all parties. It is those students and their political activity that forced it on the agenda of this committee. There was good bipartisan work by a range of members to put it on the Minister's agenda, and I acknowledge the Minister's openness in working out with those of us on the committee the best possible way of ensuring these students can be fully protected, particularly from excessive rent hikes.
It is a good example of what happens when young people become involved in politics, engage with the political system and politicians put aside party political differences and do the right thing. When we pass the Bill, it will have a very beneficial impact on students in both private sector, purpose-built student accommodation and on-campus accommodation.
The Residential Tenancies Act is highly complex, which we knew when we were drafting our legislation. The departmental staff have proposed good amendments that deal with the complexities of the Act well. I wish to ask some clarifying questions in order that we will all be clear on the record. Despite the word "tenancy" being used at the beginning of amendment No. 3, Part 4 of the Act, which concerns tenancy rights, will not apply in this case. Student accommodation providers and students will continue to operate under licensing arrangements but they will protected by, for example, the rent pressure zones and other aspects of the Residential Tenancies Act which have not been excluded.
Yesterday, I had a good meeting with the Irish Universities Association, which manages approximately 15,000 units of on-campus accommodation, that is, bed spaces of accommodation. It was a constructive engagement and the representatives were trying to get their heads around the Bill. They asked a couple of questions, in respect of which I am interested in hearing responses. Given that part of the universities' financing model to ensure that the student accommodation stacks up is what they do outside of term time, such as lettings for academic conferences and so on, none of that will change as a result of the Bill. It purely governs the licensing arrangements with students for the purposes of student accommodation. I assume, although the Minister might clarify, that the short-term letting regulations that we are passing will not have any impact on the bed spaces in the on-campus student-specific accommodation. That is something we need to think about. If it will have an impact, and if there are any issues with it, we might have to address that on Report Stage or when the Bill proceeds to the Seanad. If it will not, it would be helpful if that were clarified.
An issue that arises for the university sector, as well as for the approved housing body sector, which we will address at a later stage, is the requirement that universities will have after the Bill is enacted to register those licences, or what are referred to as "tenancies" in the amendment. Will the Minister provide some clarity on the requirement of the private and the university student-specific accommodation providers for registration, the cost thereof and the benefits of registering multiple tenancies at a discounted rate? Was there was any consideration for treating universities like approved housing bodies, given that they are registered charities, and allowing them the lower rate of the registration fee, or was there a reason which prevented that?
My final question might be better directed at the RTB. There is an administrative burden for student accommodation providers and the RTB. Given that there are 15,000 bed spaces but that the leases are not necessarily all for nine months, as some will be for three or six months, will the Minister briefly talk us through his conversations with the RTB on how to minimise the administrative burden for both the providers and the RTB in order that bed spaces can be turned over as smoothly as possible?
I, too, welcome the amendments and thank the Minister and his staff for providing a great deal of detail in the various amendments. Amendment No. 11 in my name is virtually the same as amendment No. 5 in the Minister's name. I will not push my amendment. In any event, I do not think any of us will want to push our own amendments because we want there to be a solution. I pay tribute to the Union of Students in Ireland and the various student bodies, particularly that of Dublin City University, which travelled to the gates of Leinster House and raised the issue with us, following which much work has been done. Students find it hard enough to manage and live, without being subjected to excessive rents, and the amendment will certainly ease the burden for them.
On the timing, I agree with Deputy Darragh O'Brien that the sooner we pass the Bill, the better, particularly as the new term will start in September or October. In that regard, I am sure the students' unions will spread the message. It is important that nobody signs up in advance to something above what is allowed given that people's rights will be protected when the legislation is enacted. That probably cannot happen but the Minister might provide clarity in order to ensure that people do not end being covered by the legislation. We cannot control the timing of the Bill because it must be progressed through the Upper House. However, insofar as is possible, we will all co-operate to ensure that this measure and the others are in place to protect people, in this case students, as soon as possible.
I welcome the amendments, the role that the students' unions throughout the country played and how we in the House reacted to that collectively. I acknowledge the Minister's role and that of everyone else in the tabling of the amendments. They amount to a positive move.
We had a number of cross-party sessions in private where we tried to put forward different proposals and amendments. We had a bit of fun over who could draft the best amendment and the officials came up trumps in that regard. In the series of amendments that must be made to get the Bill right, they covered everything, which is great. I also thank the students, although I think we must be careful about what political forces we have unleashed for the future. The students came looking for something and succeeded comfortably. Although it is a little late, unfortunately, they will have it for the next term. I also thank the Minister of State with responsibility for third level education, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, for the role she played in respect of the Bill.
On-campus accommodation will be covered. I do not recall the other question asked by Deputy Darragh O'Brien but I wrote down: "I do not think so." What was the question?
I thank the Minister for listening and paying attention. It is early in the day; I wonder how he will be at 7 p.m.
I have had only one cup of coffee and I need another.
Perhaps the Deputy's questions were as badly worded as his amendments.
The Deputy will find that the Fianna Fáil draft of the Bill was far superior to that of Sinn Féin. At least we included a definition in respect of student accommodation.
I have remembered the question.
I knew the Minister would get there in the end.
On-campus accommodation will be covered. There will not be any changes to the period of summer lettings. The Bill will cover all types of accommodation. Nevertheless, similar to the engagement that Deputy Ó Broin had, I engaged with one of the universities. As it transpires, the permission it received for its on-campus accommodation does not allow it to offer summer lettings. That is an anomaly which means it cannot benefit from the types of lettings that others do in order to help subsidise student rent. The law will apply evenly.
To respond to Deputy Ó Broin's question, Part 4 will not apply and it is important to clarify that. These clarifications are not for the benefit of students but rather they are technical clarifications for the universities. The period outside term will not be covered and universities are free to engage in the activities in which they engage, provided they have permission to do so. Short-term letting regulations will not have an impact on how they operate out of term. On registration, we will address that later because some amendments relating to it have been tabled. We have provided for a reduced cost, which will be €40 per tenancy, while if there is a group of ten student licences or tenancies, the cost will be €17 per student.
Does that specifically apply to on-campus and off-campus students?
Yes. There will be an extra burden on the RTB, partly due to the extra money that will be received from the registration of the tenancies but that is being provided for in the extra 67% we allocated in budget 2019 as part of a change in the management programme. We have done all this in lockstep with the RTB to ensure that it is aware of, and can manage, what is coming. On what is coming and when, about which Deputy Jan O'Sullivan inquired, if we get our timing right, everyone will go off on their J1 visas, or whatever they do as students, knowing that this will be the law of the land when they return. What will not be the law of the land on their return, however, are the registration changes, which will take effect in quarter 1 of 2020 because that will be when the RTB can accommodate annual registration of tenancies. While the tenancies will still have to be registered, and that will not change, the annual registration, the new fees and so on will not kick in until quarter 1 of 2020.
In order for a tenant to take a case against a landlord, that tenancy must be registered. Does that mean that in September, October or November 2019 a student tenant who feels their landlord is in breach of the RPZs will not be able to take the case RTB because they are not registered?
No, there is still an obligation to register the tenancy, but annual registration of tenancies does not come in until 2020. That comes with the proviso that they must register every year. As a result of registering every year, their costs will be much reduced.
However, they will have to register in 2019 in the first instance.
Students who have been staying in a particular residence may want to stay for the following academic year. I am concerned there might be some pressure on them to sign up to that old rule. I presume that will all be clarified by way of information anyway.
That was flagged to me. I am not aware of that having happened or of it being an issue from the engagements I have had with the university sector.
I am thinking more about the private providers rather than the universities. Presumably the universities will be aware of their obligations.
The universities will be. On the private side, this is not the law yet. The sooner we can get it into law, the less the risk of people being captured in that way.
The committee received very clear advice from the RTB that any students living today in private sector purpose-build student accommodation in RPZs, who get hit by rent increases for the next academic year above the 4% limit, should take cases to the board, because the board believes they are covered by the RPZ. We need to repeat that. It does not apply to on-campus accommodation but, according to the RTB, private sector off-campus purpose-built student accommodation has the protection of the RPZs. While the Government amendments clarify that, to make it crystal clear we should still encourage students to take those cases if they feel their rights are being infringed.
Amendment No. 4 amends section 3A of the 2004 Act, which prohibits the subletting or assignment of an AHB tenancy and disapplies section 16(k) of the 2004 Act in respect of AHB tenancies.
Section 16(k) of the 2004 Act obliges a tenant not to assign or sublet a tenancy without the written consent of the landlord. Accordingly, section 16(k) is not relevant to AHB tenancies as such assignment and subletting is prohibited in that sector.
Amendment No. 4 is a technical amendment to place similar restrictions on student-specific accommodation tenancies.
Amendment No. 5 amends section 4 of the 2004 Act, which provides definitions of certain terms for interpretation purposes. A definition of "public authority" is provided which includes under paragraph (g), "educational institutions". Amendment No. 5 deletes paragraph (g) from the definition of "public authority". Under section 3(2)(c) of the 2004 Act, the Residential Tenancies Acts do not apply to a dwelling let under tenancy by a public authority.
The effect of amendment No. 5 is to apply the Acts to dwellings let under tenancy by educational institutions. The aim is for all students residing in student-specific accommodation to be protected by the Residential Tenancies Acts.
The Deputies who tabled amendment No. 7 are not present. Does the Minister wish to comment on the amendment?
No. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan said she might withdraw.
Amendment No. 7 in the names of Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan.
I cannot accept it.
If those Deputies come in before the end of this grouping, I will allow them to speak to it.
As my amendment No. 11 is the same as Government amendment No. 5, I will not move it.
Amendment No. 13 is in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
Do I need to move amendment No. 13?
No, we are discussing them together because they are grouped.
This relates to the definition of landlord. Is that correct?
It states that any financial institution, equity fund or investment fund that has taken possession of a dwelling that is the subject of an existing tenancy but where no receiver has been appointed would be included in the definition of landlord.
It also proposes to change the definition of tenancy to include a periodic tenancy. It states:
‘tenancy’ includes a periodic tenancy, a tenancy for a fixed term, a periodic licence to reside in student specific accommodation, or a licence to reside for a fixed term in student specific accommodation, whether oral or in writing or implied, and, where the context so admits, includes a sub-tenancy and a tenancy, sub-tenancy or licence that has been terminated.
It also proposes to change the definition of tenant. It states:
‘tenant’ means the person for the time being entitled to the occupation of a dwelling under a tenancy or licence to reside at student specific accommodation and, where the context so admits, includes a person who has ceased to be entitled to that occupation by reason of the termination of his or her tenancy or licence.
I would like to hear the Minister's response.
I cannot accept the proposed amendment. The amendment is trying to deal with the rights of the tenant where properties are in receivership. I want to address that issue, but I am not addressing it through this Bill. I will address it in follow-up legislation. I cannot, therefore, accept the amendment.
I do not see why not. When debating the previous Residential Tenancies Bill, we highlighted many loopholes that existed. We turned out to be right and at the time we were either dismissed or promised that they would be addressed in the future. Those loopholes were subsequently exploited to the detriment of many people who were evicted or found themselves in difficulty because of loopholes in the previous Bill. The Minister should take the opportunity to address any loopholes or grey areas that could allow landlords to evade their responsibilities or to act in a way that is detrimental to tenants, particularly in cases of receivership. We should also cover all angles relating to students so that students can enjoy all the rights that tenants should enjoy. That is the purpose of the amendment and I fail to understand why the Minister does not want to deal with that in the Bill because we do not know when the next Bill will be.
I will speak in favour of half of the amendment and explain why I do not support the other half. With respect to landlords and particularly the legal grey area, the general practice is for receivers or banks and funds that repossess properties to behave like landlords. They accept the rent and that means there is a tacit acceptance that they are accepting the obligations of a landlord. In general, they employ a property management company to meet them. The problem is that it is the general practice but it is not codified in law. There is an urgent need to ensure that the law is crystal clear when a bank, a receiver or a fund takes over a property from a landlord. As more buy-to-let properties exit the market, some through repossessions, etc., this is urgent. I know the Minister will not accept the amendment and I know nothing Deputy Boyd Barrett or I say will change his mind. However, he needs to address the issue at some point.
There is one significant Part in the Residential Tenancies Act that should not apply to students. They have appeared before the committee and told us they do not want Part 4 to apply to them. Everything else, with the exception of subletting, which does not apply to students, will apply as a consequence of the Government amendment. All the measures students have requested, including on rents and access to the RTB for disputes, are provided for.
Through the Deputy's amendment, we would end up giving students a set of legal rights that they neither want nor need in Part 4, which would complicate student accommodation. Nonetheless, I want to insist that, with regard to the definition on landlords, at the earliest opportunity the Minister needs to come back to us with something because it is a pressing matter.
If Sinn Féin is not supporting the amendment, I definitely am not.
I am supporting half of it.
Deputy Boyd Barrett is not wrong and I agree with what he wants to achieve. This amendment does not do that. It is not that simple. This is something that needs to be addressed and I want to address it. However, given the purpose of this Bill, which was stated at the outset, it was not going to be an opportunity to do that, unfortunately. When the Deputy looks at the complexity of what we are trying to do, it is not facilitated in this Bill and that amendment would not achieve it either.
I will take on board what Deputy Ó Broin said about students and I will look at that. To use exactly the same example that I used earlier, the tenants do not know who they are dealing with, given the place has been taken over by a fund, and they do not know if the place is changing hands. One minute they are dealing with property agents or people employed by somebody who manages the place, but it is not clear. They do not know who to go to when there are difficulties. It is an unacceptable and stressful situation from the point of view of those tenants. I fail to not understand why the Minister would not want to deal with that in this Bill.
I do not disagree but this Bill cannot do everything. I said at the outset last year that we were going to progress two rent Bills. This first Bill is doing more than it was meant to in regard to the extension of RPZs, changing the qualifying criteria, and closing some perceived loopholes which, again, will benefit people who are letting from large institutional investors in many cases. There is also what we are doing around short-term letting, the extended notice-to-quit period and section 34. This Bill is doing many things it was not intended to do because of what was sought by the joint committee, as well as NGOs, people representing unions and everyone else. While the Deputy might think a simple amendment like this would capture what he wants to capture, it would not. It is far more complex than is being presented. However, it is something I want to tackle.
We passed over Deputy Catherine Martin's amendment No. 7 but she can come back to it, if she wishes.
The need to extend tenants' rights to students has become clearer in recent years, as everyone will agree. Amendment No. 7 aims to include private purpose-built student accommodation within the coverage of the 2004 Act in order that students have access to the same protections as other renters. We are happy to withdraw this amendment because we welcome that the Government has put forward amendments to the Bill. The bipartisan, positive work that is being done in this committee in this regard is great. I reserve the right to resubmit the amendment on Report Stage.
We now deal with amendment No. 68 in the name of the Minister.
Amendment No. 68 amends section 78 of the 2004 Act, which prescribes a non-exhaustive list of matters that may be referred to the RTB for dispute resolution under Part 6 of the Act. It is a technical amendment to amend paragraph (f) of section 78(1) to reflect that the Part 4 security of tenure provisions do not apply to student-specific accommodation but that, in general, the Part 5 procedural requirements apply to tenancy terminations in that sector. Under amendment No. 53, section 66 of the Act has been modified to provide that the tenancy termination notice period for the student-specific accommodation sector must be at least 28 days.
I think I understand. To be clear, if a landlord of student accommodation was to attempt to terminate the licence in breach of that licence agreement, although not in breach of Part 4 tenancy rights, the student would still have the right to bring that type of case to the RTB. I want to confirm that is the case.
That is correct.
The next amendment is Deputy Darragh O'Brien's amendment No. 71.
This is pretty simple. Given we are applying extra annual registrations, it seeks to allow a facility whereby a reminder notification would be sent to the landlord one month before the expiration of the annual registration. It does what it says on the tin.
Amendment No. 72 is also Deputy O'Brien's amendment.
I would like to have the Minister's response to amendment No. 71 first.
I do not believe there is a need to legislate for this to happen. There is an obligation that, of course, they have to register. The RTB will issue such reminders as a matter of course, so I do not believe it is necessary in legislation. However, if the Deputy wants to press the amendment, I can consider this for Report Stage. We worry about the unintended consequences of everything. I cannot accept an amendment now, without having had a chance to properly go through it, given all the other changes we are making and even though it seems minimal. I need to check this, so I could not accept it today. However, I do not think it is necessary in any case.
The Minister is saying that the RTB will, as a matter of course, issue reminders to all registered tenancies and licences to reside, effectively, which is something we will get to later in regard to the onerous nature of doing that with AHBs in the context of the annual registration, although that is separate to this issue. I do not intend to push the amendment and I just ask that this issue be reconsidered. In that context, I will withdraw the amendment, subject to seeing whether a commitment is given that the board will issue those reminders.
In that case, I will withdraw it and that is the end of that.
We move to amendment No. 72 in the name of Deputy O'Brien.
This is related, so I will also withdraw amendment No. 72.
Amendment No. 73 is in the name of the Minister.
The amendment relates to section 12 in connection with the registration of tenancies. I will also speak briefly to related Government and Opposition amendments in the grouping.
Section 12 amends section 134 of the Act of 2004 to require landlords to register their tenants on an annual basis with the RTB. The aim is to gather accurate and detailed tenancy and rental data on an annual basis. The key provision in amendment No. 73 requires that a tenancy related to student-specific accommodation commencing during the first three months of the application of the Act of 2004 to that sector must be registered with the RTB within four months of the tenancy's commencement. Thereafter, registration will be required within one month of the commencement of the tenancy on a similar basis to all other tenancies under the Act. The amendment is provided to facilitate the smooth integration of the student-specific accommodation sector into the RTB registration system. Amendment No. 73 is the key amendment and amendments Nos. 75 and 76 are consequential and technical in nature.
Amendment No. 74 proposes to delete the timeframe of "within 1 month from each anniversary of the date of the commencement of the tenancy" for the purposes of annual tenancy registration obligations. I cannot accept this amendment. Annual registration must be timely and this timeframe corresponds with the timeframe for registration of a tenancy within one month of its commencement.
Will the Minister repeat his response to amendment No. 74?
If I understand the Deputy's amendment correctly, it seeks to delete the phrase "within 1 month from each anniversary of the date of the commencement of the tenancy". We want it to state that when people are re-registering a tenancy on an annual basis, they do it within a month of the tenancy expiring. The amendment seeks to remove that. We want to make sure there is an efficient re-registration process.
It is related to the previous amendments, which were withdrawn. It related to the fact that if there are to be annual reminders before renewal of the registration, I believed there was a necessity to remove that. In that context, I will withdraw amendment No. 74 as well.
That means amendment No. 74 does not need to be discussed.
We move to amendment No. 75 in the name of the Minister.
As I said, amendments Nos. 75 and 76 are related to amendment No. 73 and are consequential and technical in nature, so I do not need to go into the detail of them.
Amendment No. 77 was ruled out of order, although that is in a different grouping. We move to amendment No. 78 in the name of the Minister.
This Government amendment relates to section 13, which amends-----
Is this a new section?
They are all grouped together.
So I can still comment on the section because-----
Section 13 of the Bill amends section 135 of the Act of 2004, which supplements the provisions connected to the requirement on landlords to register their tenancies on an annual basis with the RTB. A consequential amendment is provided in the Bill to delete subsection 1 of section 135 as it is superfluous on foot of a move to annual registration. Otherwise technical amendments are provided regarding the required content of the statement to be issued by the RTB with its acknowledgment to a landlord and tenant of an application to register a tenancy.
Government amendment No. 78 refines the language of section 13 of the Bill and provides that the RTB statement will now be required to set out that RTB registration fees are required upon tenancy commencement and annual registration thereafter. Other consequential technical amendments relating to the statement are also provided on foot of the application to the Act of 2004 - the student-specific accommodation sector in particular - to reflect that the security of tenure provisions of Part 4 of the Act will not apply. Simply put and as we have discussed, the Part 4 requirements under the 2004 Act do not apply to student-specific accommodation.
Obviously, annual registration kicks in from 2020 but student-specific accommodation is not always annual. For example, if one looks at websites today, one will see three, six or nine-month licences. If I sign up to the September to December licence but renew that licence from January to three months after that or if I sign a licence from January to March and then opt in April to sign a new licence from April to June, how will that work? Unlike standard tenancies, which are 12 months, these things do not follow that calendar period.
Obviously, annual registration of tenancies is one of those areas that will apply to student-specific accommodation that will not capture perfectly the kind of data it would capture in other parts of the market. What we want to achieve with it is to know at a given point in time how many student bed spaces, even though it is a form of accommodation, are under the remit of the RTB in order that it can have an accurate picture of what is actually going on versus things like the number of disputes it is taking as a subset of that sector. The obligation will not be every time the tenancy changes in the student sector. It will be-----
Just once a year.
To be clear-----
It will not be perfect.
I am not criticising it. My query is more for clarity. For example, in a case where a student signs up to a licence for three months in January, obviously, there is an obligation to register that but if that student then signs up to another three-month licence after that or if that student moves out and another student moves in, there is no obligation on the student-specific accommodation provider to do anything else that year because it has already registered one licence that January. Does the Minister see what I am saying?
If a person is renewing his or her tenancy in the way described by the Deputy, he or she is fine but if it is a new person coming in, that is a new tenancy and that requires registration.
That is fine.
My apologies, I had a second question. It might not be pertinent to this. Will a version of the reduced rate charge for group registrations apply to the approved housing body, AHB, sector or is it just specific to this?
It will. We might come to that but I have numbers, processes and prices-----
That is fine.
Amendment No. 79 is in the name of the Minister.
This relates to section 15 of the Bill, which amends section 137 of the 2004 Act, which provides for tenancy registration fees in respect of private tenancies. The Bill amends the existing registration fees to reflect the new requirement to register tenancies on an annual basis. These amendments to section 15 of the Bill are required on foot of the application of the Act to the student-specific accommodation sector. The opportunity has been taken to better refine the text of section 137 of the 2004 Act. The key changes are as follows. Section 137(1) is amended to provide that following the move to annual registration, a fee of €40 will apply to a tenancy registration upon commencement and on an annual basis thereafter. The current registration fee is €90 upon commencement of the tenancy. The RTB will continue to have the power under section 138(1) of the Act to vary the registration fee in line with changes in the value of money. The new section 137(1)(b) provides that the registration fee for the tenancy in the student-specific accommodation sector will be €40 immediately from the application of the Act of 2004 to that sector, which is likely to predate the move to annual registration. The registration fee relating to that sector will remain at €40 following the general move to annual registration.
Section 137(4) of the 2004 Act, which deals with the single registration fee that applies where a landlord simultaneously applies to register up to ten tenancies in dwellings comprising the same property, for example, up to ten apartments in the same apartment block, is also amended. In line with section 15 of the Bill, following the move to annual registration, the single registration fee payable in such circumstances will be €170 both upon tenancy commencement and upon subsequent annual registrations. The amendment applies a single fee for tenancy registrations in respect of student-specific accommodation tenancy registrations in such circumstances but immediately from the date of the application of the Act of 2004 to that sector. As I have stated, this is likely to predate the general move to annual registration. The single fee for tenancy registrations in such circumstances will not change for the student-specific sector upon the move to annual registration.
Government amendment No. 80 gets into late registration, which we might come to separately.
Are there any comments?
Is this amendment about registration fees?
I saw something from the Irish Council for Social Housing regarding its concern about AHBs having to pay registration fees, given that they are not for profit and are largely publicly funded, and the financial burden.
I think we will come to that a bit later.
That is a later one - okay.
So the AHB piece is-----
That is under Government amendment No. 82.
That is fine. We will leave that till later. One of my amendments was ruled out of order. The Minister has been moving on from the section related to-----
When we go to agree that section, the Deputy can comment on it then.
Okay, I will do it then.
Amendment No. 80 concerns late registration and provides for a refinement of section 137(6) of the 2004 Act, which relates to the fee for late registration of tenancies and is subject to amendment by section 15 of the Bill. Currently, under the Act, the late fee amounts to an extra €90. That is a doubling of the registration fee. With the move to annual registration, the Bill provided for a late fee of a once-off extra €20, that is, an extra 50% was added to the annual registration fee of €40. Upon reflection, following the discussion we had here, it is now proposed to more strongly incentivise compliance with the requirement to register tenancies with the RTB by applying a late fee of €10 for every month or part thereof where registration remains outstanding. That will continue and build and build.
Are there any comments?
This was one of the issues a number of us raised. I welcome the fact that the Minister has made the change. I probably would have preferred to see not just a fee building up but also a fee incrementally increasing over that period of time but I think it is a very positive change from the flat additional charge of €20 so I welcome it.
Amendment No. 81 is in the name of the Minister.
This amendment inserts a new subsection 2 into section 15 of the Bill to clarify in laws that fees for any registration that should have occurred prior to these amendments to section 137 coming into force will be required to be paid in line with the existing registration fee structure, that is, €90 per tenancy registration and doubled if late. The other associated changes are of a consequential or technical nature or both.
In the absence of any comments, amendment No. 82 is in the name of the Minister.
This relates to section 16 of the Bill. This section deals with AHBs, upon which we have been touching. Section 16 of the Bill amends section 137A of the 2004 Act, which provides for tenancy registration fees in respect of AHB tenancies. The Bill amends the existing AHB registration fee to reflect the new requirement to register tenancies on an annual basis. The Bill provides that an AHB tenancy registration fee will be just half the usual amount payable by private landlords. These amendments to section 16 of the Bill propose to better refine the text of section 137A of the Act. The key changes are as follows. Section 137(1) of the Act is amended to provide that following the move to annual registration, a fee of €20 will apply to a tenancy registration upon commencement and on an annual basis thereafter. The current registration fee is €90 upon commencement of the tenancy. The RTB will continue to have the power under section 138(1)(a) of the Act to vary the registration fee in line with changes in the value of money.
Section 137A(4) of the Act deals with the single registration fee that applies where a landlord simultaneously applies to register up to ten tenancies. In line with section 16 of the Bill, following the move to annual registration, the single registration fee payable in such circumstances will be €85 both upon tenancy commencement and upon subsequent annual registrations.
Section 137A(6) of the Act, which relates to the fee for late registration of an AHB tenancy, is being refined in line with section 16 of the Bill but with the following key difference. Currently, under section 137A(6), the late fee in respect of AHB tenancy registration amounts to an extra €20 for every month or part thereof during which the registration remains outstanding. Under section 137A(7) of the Act, an overall cap of €240 applies to the fee payable by an AHB to register a tenancy. The fee of €240 includes the original €90 registration fee.
With the move to annual registration, the Bill provided for a once-off late fee of €10, which is 50% of the annual registration fee of €20, to be paid in addition to the annual fee. On reflection and having received advice from the RTB, amendment No. 82 proposes to more strongly incentivise compliance by AHBs with the requirement to register tenancies by applying a late fee of €5 for each month or part thereof that the registration remains outstanding. A new subsection (2) to section 16 of the Bill will clarify in law that the fees for any registration that should have been made prior to these amendments to section 137A coming into force will be required to be paid in line with the existing registration fee structure, that is, €90 per tenancy registration and €20 per month if late, subject to an overall cap of €240. The other associated changes are of a consequential or technical nature or both.
The Minister has heard the concerns of many of the AHBs in regard to the onerous nature of an annual registration for them and, particularly, for many of their tenants. All members hope that tenants will remain in the properties in the long term, for 25 or 30 years. This issue was previously discussed by the committee. If I did not table an amendment to this section on this Stage, I will do so on Report Stage. An amendment should have been tabled in my name on this issue. It may be one of the many amendments ruled out of order.
The Deputy should resubmit the amendment.
That is why we have Report Stage - to resubmit all of the amendments.
The Deputy should ensure his amendments are better drafted before they are resubmitted. We will give him a hand.
This is a serious issue for approved housing bodies, which are a very important part of delivering secure tenancies for many people who need them. I share the genuine concerns raised with me by the Irish Council for Social Housing on behalf of the approved housing bodies regarding the additional administrative work that will be required under the section. I am not convinced that it will be as simple as pressing a button every year to renew the registration. On the additional penalties for failing to re-register, a single registration should be required and perhaps the tenancy should be rolled on every five years, as was previously the case. I do not agree with the proposed new section in its current form. I understand the reasons for which the Minister may be proposing it, but I do not believe annual registration is required.
Obviously, there is a re-registration when a tenancy changes. If a tenant of an approved housing body moves on, the tenancy will be re-registered. AHBs are not-for-profit organisations which play a big part in the delivery of housing. We should not make it any more difficult for them to operate in the sector. From my experience as a Deputy and spokesperson on housing, it is not the approved housing bodies as landlords, per se, that are posing any of the difficulties we are trying to address within the Bill. For that reason, the section may be unnecessary. I am interested to hear the response of the Minister in that regard. I will not flatly refuse to support the amendment but I would like to know how he thinks it would work for an organisation such as Clúid, Tuath, any of the other big AHBs, or the smaller AHBs that are willing to get into the market. There are currently approximately 260 AHBs in Ireland. I am interested to hear the comments of the Minister. I ask him to expand on why he and the Government believe that an annual registration for the sector is required.
This was one of the sections of the Bill as originally presented. I was torn on the amendment. I am very sympathetic to the approved housing bodies, which have communicated with all members regarding the financial and administrative impact on them. However, I have listened very carefully to the Residential Tenancies Board regarding the need for accurate annual information such that we can fully understand what is going on in the sector. The reason I have decided to side with the RTB and the Minister on this issue is that even though a tenancy may be long term, the details of the tenancy such as the rent paid or the number of people per household may change, and that is very important information for us to have. I would like that information to be readily available for the entire social housing sector, not just the approved housing body sector. I will be supporting the amendment.
I wish to acknowledge that the Minister has made a concession to the approved housing body sector. In the vast majority of cases, the cost of the annual registration will be €8.50 rather than €20, which is a significant reduction.
There are two issues on which I share the concerns of Deputy Darragh O'Brien. The first is that the administrative process must be very straightforward. I have spoken to the RTB on this issue and it outlined that, for example, in the case of a long-term social housing tenant there would be a detailed registration in year 1 and one could simply resubmit electronically with the click of a button on its online portal each year thereafter. Unless there was a material change, all of the data would not have to be inputted again. That is vital. The approved housing body sector works down to the bone of the administrative margin it is given and we must insist that the process is made as easy as possible for the sector.
Another concern is that although the five or six large approved housing bodies have the capacity to deal with this measure, the many very small approved housing bodies, including some that built five or ten units in their local villages which are now managed by pensioners, may not have that capacity. They are not professional organisations and it will be a significant struggle to make them aware of and have full understanding and knowledge of this issue. There may be difficulties in terms of how the requirements are communicated, the engagement with the AHBs and in terms of the penalties. I am thinking of a local Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference with three units in a small rural town, the governance of which is not at the level of that in the larger approved housing bodies. Serious thought must be given to engaging with such bodies and ensuring that they do not end up in very difficult situations through no fault of their own. I am not currently proposing an amendment to deal with that issue, but it is a matter on which the Minister should respond to the committee today or revert to it having consulted with the RTB and the Irish Council of Social Housing. To use a phrase of which the Minister is fond, we must ensure that there are no unintended consequences for such very small voluntary approved housing bodies.
I see the logic in having as much up-to-date information as possible about all tenancies, including those of AHBs. I understand that that is presumably the consideration of the Minister and echoed by Deputy Ó Broin. However I have very serious concerns about the administrative capacity of approved housing bodies to deal with the proposed requirements. The extra burden under the new section would dovetail with substantial additional burdens that are being placed generally on AHBs large and small.
In the past week or two, I came across a concrete example of how ill-equipped approved housing bodies are to deal with welfare issues, anti-social issues and complaints and so on about the quality of the accommodation. The case to which I refer arose in a new approved housing body development in my area that came in under Part V. AHBs do not have the administrative resources to deal with those issues. This amendment would place a further administrative burden upon them. Although I see the logic behind the amendment, I point out to the Minister that there is a real difficulty. A general burden is being imposed on AHBs and they simply are not capable of dealing with it. This amendment would add to that burden. The inability of the AHBs to cope with the administrative burden will become more and more apparent because of the over-reliance on AHBs.
I do not understand what is the logic or criteria when deciding to give responsibility to develop a Part V social housing project to an AHB rather than the county council, which has more administrative capacity to deal with these issues. The decisions seem completely arbitrary. In my area, much of the Part V development seems to be going to AHBs, which do not have the capacity to cope. This amendment will add to their burden. I am raising a wider issue but it needs to be flagged. Notwithstanding that there is a rationale for the amendment, it will add to the administrative burden on AHBs. I would be interested to hear the comments of the Minister in that regard.
I share the concerns that have been expressed already on the capacity of the AHB sector to deal with this. I support those who have said it has to be as simple as possible to reregister. There was a time when Limerick County Council encouraged the small AHBs in villages to provide for elderly people with crescent-shaped places for the elderly in the village to live in and to receive support. There are many such AHBs around the country but I do not know what management capacity they have. I imagine that the bigger ones have better capacity. I would like there to be a hand-holding approach, rather than a punitive approach, in cases where there are difficulties. This may prove to be something that people will not succeed in complying with , even with the best will in the world. The sector provides long-term homes for a large section of our population and when people get a tenancy from an AHB, they see it as their home for the rest of their life. It is not like the volatile private rented sector, though we would also like people to think they could live in a privately rented place for the rest of their life. I accept that there are efforts to deal with the financial cost and the administrative burden but my main suggestion is that there is understanding of the sector in respect of the difficulties it will undoubtedly have. I am aware that this may not be possible in legislation but it is important that it is as easy as possible to do.
The AHBs will register their first tenancy with the RTB and all tenancies are registered. They will also make an annual return to the interim housing regulator. I disagree with Deputy Ó Broin that larger housing bodies will automatically have the resources. The projected cost of the new measures, and the additional annual requirements, is approximately €500,000, which is €5 million over ten years and is significant for a not-for-profit sector. It is not as if these are not tracked or registered as things stand. This is not the sector we were going to focus on as, to the best of my knowledge, it is a compliant sector and does not tend to generate many complaints. The tenants are long-term tenants in the main, and 12-month roll-over leases are rare.
As Deputy Boyd Barrett said, these housing bodies seem to be the main vehicle for delivery of housing in the sector and we do not look for local authorities to register tenants annually. AHB tenancies are effectively the same as they involve Clúid, their tenants are on council waiting lists and they are housed in co-operation with the local authorities but we are considering placing a significant burden on them with this. The market rent aspects of the legislation do not apply to the AHB sector so why do we need to have annual registration? Would it not make sense to require them to make an initial registration and to reregister if there is a change of tenant or every five or seven years? If we are not proceeding with the rent transparency register, capturing details for publication and to get a better picture of the situation is not relevant. We will be placing a substantial financial burden on the sector. There will be a need for extra resources and this will lead to extra costs. St. Vincent de Paul Housing Trust in Malahide has small developments in the town and in Wexford. Who will do the registration for them? The Minister is also proposing doubling down on them by imposing penalties on what is a not-for-profit sector. It is over the top and too onerous so I will have to oppose section 16.
We should be careful not to overstate the potential burden or the financial implications of this move.
I did not make the figures up.
Even if it is €5 million over ten years, they will spend billions of euro over that period on housing for tenancies.
Will these guys spend billions?
Yes. I am talking about housing bodies. The figure is inconsequential but I do not even agree with it.
How much does the Minister think it will be?
I will come back to the finances in a second. We have tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 housing bodies in this country which do excellent and incredible work.
The tier 1 companies are the small guys who may have ten tenancies. They have an obligation to register tenancies with the RTB which requires paperwork for each tenant and is a burden for the volunteers who, in many cases, run these bodies. It will take a few hours for this to be done for ten tenants but moving to annual registration does not meant they have to do all the work which they do in the first year again. We are building a new piece of technology with the RTB for everything it does and we have stressed that we have to facilitate easy annual registration for everyone, particular for AHBs which often do not have a dedicated person to do this and which do not make the profits which a private landlord would make.
We have spoken about the need for the register to be consistent and complete. As the Deputy knows, when one starts to interfere with different datasets and to have different application periods or time periods, it can skew information and not give an accurate picture. A tenant might come in in the first year and be there for ten years but, as Deputy Ó Broin said, the terms of a tenancy could change within that period and it is important for the RTB to have an idea of what is happening in this very important part of the rental market. AHBs have to use the dispute mechanisms of the RTB when they have problems with tenants and an independent arbiter has to decide on the matter, and tenants also use the RTB for this purpose. There needs to be a fee because the RTB needs to be funded in that way as well as through central Government, recognising the burden on the board of disputes between AHBs and their tenants.
These are very positive changes for AHBs because, under the current law, it costs €90 to register a tenancy. The current law exposes them to a liability of an additional €375 if they are late in making a registration but from this point on, it will be €8.50 per tenancy, which will be payable once a year. I do not see that as overly burdensome from a financial point of view. I recognise the issues from an administrative point of view and I have met with tier 1 AHBs in my own constituency who have made that point to me. They stressed that they are volunteers and need things like a new freezer for a kitchen and they also have tax compliance requirements. We are working with the RTB to make sure that reregistration is as simple as possible. If the system is coherent it will be simple but if we start building a system that has to cater for different things in different ways, simplicity is not achieved and it becomes more burdensome and costly. In light of the changes in the wider rental sector and the changes we are bringing in for the RTB, we see this as a positive change for AHBs.
As I said at the outset, the Minister has a point.
However, it is indisputable that approved housing bodies, AHBs, do not have the administrative resources that are available to local authorities. I do not understand how he can say that this does not add to the administrative burden on AHBs in a situation where I would strongly argue they are already under-resourced from an administrative point of view. They have said it themselves. The AHB representatives have come before this committee and said there is a burden being imposed on them, and that was prior to this, for which they are not geared up.
The Minister did not answer my question, and I am curious about this, as to the basis on which decisions are made that Part 5 tenancies, which are a significant part of the Government's plans to deliver social housing, be given to an AHB rather than taken on by the council. Does the Minister issue guidelines on that?
To clarify, I did not say that this would not add a burden to AHBs. I said that there is a burden in this and that we would make it as minimal as possible. Given the changes in technology the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, is advancing, if it can be it will be a click button process. That is vastly different from having to compile the paperwork for ten different tenants on an annual basis, which is not what we are talking about. This is one of the first issues the Irish Council for Social Housing brought to my attention in one of my very first engagements as we talked about how we would work with the sector into the future. The changes we are making around the financial costs are vast improvements to what they face today in terms of €8.50 per tenancy. It is recognising the issues they have raised with me.
Regarding Part 5 and allocation, I do not intend to get into that here. I will try to stick to the Bill if I can because we have a lot to discuss.
The Minister does not know the answer.
I acknowledge the role the AHBs play and any additional burden we put on them is not welcome. I understand where the Minister is coming from to a certain degree but do we know what percentage of the complaints to the RTB are from the approved housing bodies sector? The same platform could be used with the approved housing bodies but only when the terms and conditions of that tenancy change as opposed to doing it on an annual basis. The same platform could be used but the only time they would have to upload information is if there is any change in the terms of the tenancy.
I do not have the figures in front of me in terms of the percentage of disputes that come to the RTB from the AHB sector or a breakdown between whether it is the landlord or the tenant in that situation. If that information is made publicly available we will get it to the Deputy.
The Minister is saying that there are cases-----
I know there are because-----
-----and I am wondering about the level of that.
The idea is that the mechanism is available in case it is needed and that mechanism needs to be available, which is important. The important point is that we can have an up to date and accurate picture of what is happening in our rental market, including what is happening in AHBs because they go through the RTB, unlike what happens in local authority housing. That is what is required for annual registration of tenancies. We want to make the process of re-registration as simple as possible for everyone where there has not been a significant change to the tenancy in the preceding 12-month period. This is part of the change management programme we have with the RTB. I refer to annual registration of tenancies, a new type of funding mechanism for the RTB as in the fee structure that I outlined for the other sectors of the rental market but which are greatly reduced for AHBs.
I want to clarify that we were not disputing the fact that complaints will arise and the RTB will deal with issues between a tenant and an AHB as they arise but most of us would agree that the approved housing bodies would be the more perfect and compliant of landlords in the main regardless of their tier. They already register with the RTB and they send an annual return to the interim housing regulator as well. Our issue is the annualised nature of it. It is too onerous for them, both in cost and in administration. Allowing them to reregister when a tenancy change happens and giving them a potential five-year period would make much more sense for it, particularly as this sector is growing.
I am not saying they will not be a burden on the tier 3 companies but the tier 3 are the big ones. They have administrative and other paid staff and they are doing all of this. If I worry, I worry about the tier 1 companies. I am thinking off the top of my head of one of the tier 1 companies in my constituency, which is an old folks home with 15 or 16 tenants. I will not say any more in case I identify them. If this is done in the way we would like it to be done based on our conversations with the RTB, they will do their first registration, which is the paperwork, which they have to do anyway. It was previously paperwork but it will now be with the new database. It will then be as simple as going onto the website through a secure portal, if we can get this done in the right way. We have given funding to the RTB to try to build the system. Spending less than an hour verifying that the details are correct as per the previous year for the 15 tenants they have and then giving an authorisation either to debit from an account that has already been registered with the RTB or submit new details for the €100 or so it would cost them in that situation is a burden. It is something that has to be done but I do not believe it is overly burdensome given the information it will allow us to have in real time with the RTB, which will then be the independent regulator as we are building them out over this change management programme.
I have a more technical question. If this legislation is passed, and I hope it will be passed, will the portal be ready? When will the portal that the Minister is saying will create this seamless process that will not cause a burden be ready? How far away are we from that portal being ready?
It is currently being built. We are looking to go to annual registration of tenancies from quarter 1 of 2020.
Without any hiccoughs in computer systems.
There has never been any technological hiccoughs in the building of any system.
I know. That is what I am saying.
History is on my side on that one.
We are very good at hitting targets. The Minister has been exceptional at that.
We will move on. The last amendment in this grouping is No. 181 in the name of the Minister.
Government amendment No. 181 inserts a new section 26 in Part 3 of the Bill to provide for the application of the Residential Tenancies Acts of 2004-16 to the student specific accommodation let under licence to students in a similar manner to which the Act applies to student specific accommodation let under tenancies to students. The necessary technical modifications and definitions are provided. Essentially, it is to make sure that "licence" means what we want it to mean in terms of student accommodation. We have already discussed the actual substance of the matter.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 3A of Act of 2004
3. Section 3A of the Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following subsection:
“(5) This section applies to a dwelling referred to in subsection (1A)* of section 3 as it applies to a dwelling referred to in subsection (4) of section 3 and, accordingly, references in the preceding subsections of this section to the second-mentioned dwelling shall be construed as including references to the first-mentioned dwelling.”.”.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 4 of Act of 2004
4. Section 4 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraph (g) in the definition of “public authority”.”.
Amendment No. 6 is out of order.
Amendment No. 7 in the name of Deputy Catherine Martin has already been discussed with amendment No. 3.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of sections 3 and 4 of Act of 2004 – inclusion of student accommodation
3. (1) Section 3(1) of the Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of “including private purpose built student accommodation” after “dwelling,”.
(2) Section 4(1) of the Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraph (g).”.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
No. I am withdrawing it.
Before we take the next group of amendments I propose we suspend for ten minutes to allow members take a break. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 12 and 183 are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 5 of Act of 2004 – definition of deposit
3. Section 5 of the Act of 2004 is amended in subsection (1) by the insertion of the following definitions—
“ ‘deposit’ means a sum of money held (whether by the landlord or otherwise) as security for the performance of the tenant’s obligations arising under or in connection with a lease or tenancy agreement;
‘key money’ means any sum of money demanded by way of fine, premium, foregift, reimbursement of expenses, administration charges, or otherwise as consideration for the grant, continuance, extension, variation, or renewal of a tenancy agreement, or for consent to the surrender or disposition of the tenant’s interest under a tenancy agreement or to a subletting by the tenant; but does not include any sum payable or paid by way of rent or deposit;”.”.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 have been recommended by Threshold to address the fact that there are no protections for deposits in legislation. Amendment No. 8 seeks to insert a definition of "deposit" in the Residential Tenancies Act. While the Act mentions deposits and imposes some obligations regarding them, it does not contain a definition. This has allowed a lacuna to develop in regulation.
Amendment No. 9 on the regulation of deposits restricts the growing practice of landlords seeking two months in rent as a deposit along with the first month's rent. I am sure the Minister is aware of this. It is a sizable amount for any tenant to produce, and vulnerable, low-income tenants in particular. The Irish Times and many other newspapers have reported that some of the country's largest private landlords are seeking two months' rent in deposit. The common practice regarding deposits is that they be the equivalent of one month's rent. This practice would be placed on a legislative basis by this amendment.
Amendment No. 9 would also prohibit the requirement of "key money", which we have defined in amendment No. 8. Key money is the money that prospective tenants are required to pay before they get the key to the property. It is also known as viewing fees or non-refundable booking fees for the viewing of properties. While those who can afford these extra costs might just find them tedious or an annoyance or inconvenience, key money is a real concern, poses a material obstacle to accessing housing and introduces further discrimination on the basis of wealth into the already stressful process of searching for housing. In effect, it is locking people out of even viewing accommodation that they badly need.
I thank Deputy Martin for tabling these amendments, which we will be happy to support. The Deputy is right, in that landlords are using this mechanism to circumvent the anti-discriminatory legislation. Previously, landlords would have refused rent supplement, HAP, etc. It is a clear ruse to avoid social welfare-dependent tenants for prejudicial or other reasons. There is nothing that people can do about it. Not only does this create significant financial hardship, but it is deliberately designed to get around the legal prohibition on refusing social welfare and social housing support-dependent tenants. For that reason alongside the issue of financial hardship, the Minister should consider accepting these amendments. While I do not expect him to support them, he should. The officials should consider this matter and seek to address it on Report Stage or in a subsequent Bill.
Even for people who are not being subjected to discriminatory practices by some landlords, to ask a working family on a modest or above-median income for two to three months' rent and deposit is huge. Given that young couples are now purchasing much later in life because of the unaffordable cost of accommodation, more and more families are being affected.
I appeal to the Minister to consider this amendment. If cannot support it, I ask him to come back with something that does the same thing. He would have our active support if he did.
My amendment No. 12 is included in this group. It is similar to Deputy Catherine Martin's amendment No. 8. Its purpose is to limit deposits to just one month's rent. We all know of situations where landlords have asked for two or even three month's rent in advance. That excludes people who do not have that amount of ready cash. I included this in a previous Bill and I would the Minister to give serious consideration to limiting deposits to one month's rent.
I also support Deputy Darragh O'Brien's amendment No. 183. There is enabling legislation for the establishment of a rent deposit scheme. As far as I recall, it has been there since 2015. We really should have a scheme like that as well. The most urgent matter now, however, is to limit deposits. I do not mind which of the amendments it is, but I would like to see a limit of one month's rent for deposits.
All of us, including the Minister, agree that there are issues with some landlords regarding deposits and the fact that they use the rate of deposit as a mechanism to preselect potential tenants and deter a cohort of people from their properties. There are many good landlords, as I have stated in all of these discussions, and this is not casting aspersions on all of them. One month's rent as a deposit should be sufficient. That is the norm in Ireland. There were arguments to the effect that it is two or three months in other parts of Europe. When we examine the level of rents here, however, rent pressure zones aside, the average rent now in Dublin is nearing €2,000 a month. Asking someone, therefore, to come up with €2,000 for one month's rent and €2,000 for one month's deposit totals €4,000 of gross income. That is a large amount of money. I am interested to hear the Minister's response to the amendments tabled by Deputies Catherine Martin and Shortall.
It is my amendment to which Deputy Darragh O'Brien is referring.
I am sorry, excuse me, it is Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.
I am often mixed up with Deputy Shortall for some reason. I do not why.
That is the first time I have ever done that. I apologise again.
We have discussed the establishment of a national rent deposit scheme on Second Stage of the Bill and in this committee. I understand that it can be complex from an administrative perspective in respect of where the money goes and how it is held. It is a substantial piece of work. There is, however, enabling legislation, as Deputy Jan O'Sullivan stated. My amendment is not tying the hands of the Minister by stating that it must be done now. I would, of course, rather that he did that and we had a national rent deposit scheme in place now. It is the one thing that is going to safeguard deposits into the future. We should, therefore, be working collectively towards getting that established.
My amendment states that the Minister will report back on the establishment of a national rent deposit scheme within 12 months of the commencement of the legislation. I think that is absolutely reasonable. I would like to have gone further. I would like to see the scheme established now. I understand, however, that there are reasons why that cannot be done. We should not, however, just leave this on the never-never and the long finger. It is something we want to do in future. My amendment would mean that, when the Bill is passed, there would need to be a report back in 12 months on a plan to establish a national rent deposit scheme. That will help and it will underpin a resolution of all of the issues about which my colleagues have spoken during this meeting. I refer in particular to Deputy Catherine Martin's point on the level of rent. One month's rent should be more than sufficient as a deposit.
I support Deputy Darragh O'Brien's amendment. I understand fully the complexities of the creation of this scheme but it would assist the RTB greatly in reducing that bit of its dispute backlog. It would also generate revenue. The interest would be a considerable sum if the RTB were to be the holder of all of these deposits in its account. There would, therefore, also be a financial return for the RTB, as well as a reduction in its administrative burden. I know it is beyond the scope of this legislation. Deputy Darragh O'Brien's amendment is a good one. It is just asking the Minister to go away and then come back to us to outline when it is intended to do something the Oireachtas has already decided should be done.
I cannot accept the amendments but I appreciate the motivation behind them. I have lost my deposit before in circumstances I thought were absolutely incredible. When I saw the dispute options open to me, I felt the burden of pursuing them was not going to be worth the money I was trying to retrieve. I have also been in a situation where I have used a deposit to cover my final monthly rent payment. People like to have the flexibility to do that as well. There is a commitment to bring in a deposit protection scheme. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan is absolutely right that the 2015 Act provides for this to happen. I have been examining this matter since I came into this brief because it is something we committed to and that it is possible to achieve in law.
Some difficulties have arisen, however, that were not there in 2015. There have also been some changes in the landscape. One is that it was originally intended that this would be financed by the interest payable on the deposits in the scheme. The ECB has stated, however, that it is going to continue with a zero rate for the foreseeable future. The interest on even a large amount of money would not, therefore, be enough to cover the management and maintenance of this scheme, its operation and the administration required. We need to consider the numbers of tenants and the amount of money involved. A change in the market means that disputes about deposits are no longer commonly referred to the RTB.
Turning to the issue of the two-month deposit, I do not have a problem with defining a deposit as generally being one month. It is not something significant according to the RTB, however, nor is "key money". There was much reportage on these issues at the time. Threshold stated that it was a disgrace and should not have been happening. It had to withdraw that statement the next day because the evidence brought to Threshold had not been actual evidence of people being charged to view properties. There has been some misreporting on this in the media. That is not to say that it does not happen. When we look at all of the different things we are asking the RTB to do, however, including the new things it will be doing - and we have given it money and resources to do those tasks - we have to be careful about the additional burdens we ask of the RTB. It may not see those issues as being foremost priorities.
Regarding the size of a deposit protection scheme, we are looking at more than €300 million according to a back-of-the-napkin estimate. It is estimated at about €340 million and rising. That is a significant amount of money that needs to be managed and held. Where would it be held? Who would manage it? Under what terms would the moneys be released? What would be the different dispute mechanisms needed for mediation? We would need all of those things. It is not a simple thing to do. It is a great idea but it is complex. That is not to say that it is not something we should proceed with but it is not being presented to me as the priority it once was. Given everything else we are asking the RTB to do, we are not proceeding with that aspect in our Bill. I cannot, therefore, accept the amendments brought forward by the Deputies.
The Minister is not accepting amendment No. 8 despite there being no definition of deposit. That is regrettable. There is a housing crisis so should address anything that is locking anyone out of even the possibility of viewing a home. There is also the issue of a two or three month's rent being requested as a deposit. I am hearing about those issues in my constituency in Dublin-Rathdown. I am being contacted by people who cannot even view a home because of the "key money" fee and by people who cannot afford the deposit because it is two or three month's rent. I appeal to the Minister to examine this again before the Bill goes on to Report Stage rather than give an outright refusal now. "Key money" fees and two or three month's rent being required for a deposit is essentially facilitating discrimination on the grounds of wealth. There should be no discrimination and there should be equality when accessing houses. Allowing a landlord to state it is necessary to have a deposit of two or three month's rent or to have key money to even see a home is locking people out of housing when we are in the midst of a housing crisis. I appeal to the Minister to revisit this before Report Stage.
I agree with Deputy Catherine Martin.
Perhaps the Minister could explain the logic of not having a definition of "deposit". It is something that could affect the other aspects of the Bill. There is obviously a reason. In respect of our own amendment, I understand that there could be a cost implication and I understand about deposit interest rates being zero at the moment. No one is suggesting that within the creation of a national rent deposit scheme there would not be an administrative fee for holding a safe deposit. It should be possible for the Department to come back to that in a report. All we are asking for is that we do not leave this indefinitely just because it is thought to be complex and costly or because it is this, that and the other. The Department should say it is going to come back within 12 months and lay out the options. Maybe one of the findings will be that it is not actually required and we do not need to do it. I encourage the Minister to accept amendment No. 183 on that basis. It does not tie his hands or tell him to do anything, with the exception of coming back here within 12 months to tell us where things stand. There is an issue with security of deposits as rents get higher. We all want to tackle driving down rents or at least seeing the inflationary nature of rents reducing. A deposit is a substantial fee. All we are asking is for a provision to come back in 12 months to report on the options for a national rent deposit scheme. If administrative cost is the issue, if I was lodging €2,000 with a landlord for my deposit, we could look at an administrative fee as part of that, to at least know the deposit is secure. We continue to hear complaints. It is interesting to hear that there has been a reduction in the number of complaints to the RTB about deposits. That is welcome. However, we will all still be very aware of these issues when they arise within our own constituencies. In the main it is the landlord who holds the deposit. The landlord can then withhold the deposit and all those complaints go to the RTB. They take up a lot of time. I agree with Deputy Ó Broin that there is a saving here. There could be a saving to the RTB in respect of time expended dealing with complaints around deposits. I do not wish to be obstructionist but I intend to press amendment No. 183. It makes sense. There is a statement of intent there.
If I may be of assistance to the committee, I said this to Deputy O'Brien when we were talking between ourselves but did not say it to anyone else, we all got the grouping list of amendments a bit late. They were grouped differently from how we thought they might have been. I had told Deputy O'Brien that I would not be able to accept amendments because we had not had enough time to see what might be the consequential impacts. However, I said I would be willing to look at certain amendments between now and Report Stage. Absolutely I will do that in respect of amendment No. 183.
In that case I will be happy to withdraw amendment No. 183 when we get to it.
I will do the same for amendment No. 8 as well. I absolutely respect the principle of one month's rent as a deposit. I do not think there should be anything like key money. It is just that we have not had a chance to see what other impacts there might be. I will absolutely look at those two amendments between now and Report Stage. On a point of clarification, the current idea is that all of this burden would fall on the RTB. Perhaps in the compiling of a report we could look at how we could keep this away from the RTB without restricting anyone's rights to the RTB.
That is a very positive response to the amendments of Deputies Catherine Martin and Darragh O'Brien. While the Minister is right that there was probably some inaccurate reporting around key money, it is important to make a distinction between that and the very common practice of some landlords looking for multiple months' rent in advance. All of us have significant experience of that. Because it is not something about which people can complain to the RTB, the RTB will not have data on it. It is a widespread practice, particularly in Dublin. On that basis, whatever about the issue of key money, on the issue of multiple months' deposits and rent up-front there is a real need to intervene. I would welcome seeing the Minister's Report Stage amendments.
I am happy with the Minister's response as well. In respect of a definition of "deposit", my amendment No. 12 defines the term as "howsoever described, being money payable on entering into an agreement for the tenancy of a dwelling and intended to be held as security for the performance of any obligations, and the discharge of any liabilities, of the tenant under or in connection with the tenancy." My great assistant, Finbarr O'Malley, drafted that. He is very good at these things. I have no problem if the Minister wants to use that definition. Either way, I welcome the fact that the Minister will look at this again. It is important.
I will look at amendment No. 12 as well. That definition is very comprehensive.
In respect of amendment No. 8 in the names of Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan, as the Deputies are not here, the amendment falls. However, as I said to Deputy Catherine Martin, now that she has spoken to it she can bring it to Report Stage and the Minister has said he will look at amendment No. 8. The same applies to amendment No. 9 in the names of Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan.
Amendments Nos. 10, 14, 36, 40, 41, 43 to 52, inclusive, 54 to 67, inclusive, 176, 177, 179, 180 and 187 are related and may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 55 to 61, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 54. Amendments Nos. 63 to 65, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 62.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Copy of notice of termination to be served on board
3. Section 6 of the Act of 2004 is amended by inserting the following after subsection (6):
“(7) Where a notice required to be served on or given to a tenant by a landlord by or under this Act is a notice of termination of the tenancy, the landlord shall at the same time serve on or give to the Board a copy of the notice concerned.”.”.
I will be brief as I know the Minister has amendments that are similar to some of mine, including to amendment No. 10, which provides that the board would have to be informed.
If I may jump in, there are a lot of amendments but perhaps we could go amendment by amendment in this group so that I will be able to respond to people.
Amendment No. 10 is fairly simple. It provides that where notice is served, the Residential Tenancies Board is given a copy of the notice. The intention is to facilitate early intervention to prevent people from becoming homeless. I think the Minister has a similar amendment. He referred to it in his press statement, anyway. The provision is that the board would be informed when somebody gets a notice of termination. I would also like to see that the local authority in the area would be also informed so that it can intervene to assist people in getting an alternative home before they get into a situation of becoming homeless.
Government amendment No. 41 has the exact same effect by inserting a subsection (11) into section 35 of the Act. I ask the Deputy to withdraw her amendment. There is a separate amendment on local authority notification, or a separate section, from memory.
Next for discussion in the group is amendment No. 14 in the name of Deputies Boyd Barrett, Barry, Coppinger, Gino Kenny, Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith.
This abolishes substantial refurbishment or renovation as a ground for eviction, in line with our view that we need to stop all evictions for the foreseeable future, given the crisis we face. More generally, beyond this immediate crisis, we need for those who enter into the rental sector to understand that the people who rent from them have rights and require security of tenancy. We often talk about having a rental sector that is more like the European model. Various people say we have to accept there will be a bigger rental sector in Ireland. It seems to me that we cannot do that unless we change fundamentally the nature of the private rental sector to the effect that those who get involved in the business of renting out property understand that this is not just something they can flit into and flit out of again, treat tenants with contempt, disregard the impact of their actions on tenants or leave them high and dry.
It speaks for itself. I do not see why renovation or substantial refurbishment should be a ground for eviction. I refer to the example I am familiar with, as it is staring me in the face every day across the road from my constituency clinic on Main Street, Dún Laoghaire. This is a loophole speculators and property investors are constantly trying to utilise. We need to close it down. If someone needs to renovate a place, it does not mean the tenants have to leave. They can be housed somewhere else for a while. Indeed, one of the points we made when they were trying to evict tenants from that particular development was that they had a couple of empty places anyway and there was no reason they could not undertake the refurbishments and move tenants around as they did so within the same development. That is what they should do. Landlords need to have a responsibility to tenants and understand tenants have a right to long-term secure tenancies.
The in-and-out problem the Deputy raised, which exists where people are coming in to make some money and then getting out of rental accommodation is exactly why we need more institutional investors making a long-term play for 20 or 25 years who come in to make a gain from rent roll rather than capital appreciation. Getting in for capital appreciation and treating a second property as a pension fund is what leads to someone all of a sudden getting a notice to quit because the landlord has reached a particular time in his or her life. Such volatility has damaged the rental sector in the past. Moving to a more mature rental sector involves doing the kind of things that we are doing in this legislation.
This amendment is not about whether substantial refurbishment can be cited as a grounds for a notice to quit. That is allowed and elsewhere in the Bill there is a good definition of that. This is about when property has to be vacated because refurbishment works are being carried out and the amendment states that they will not have to pay rent in that circumstance. That is an unnecessary provision to insert in section 16 of the Act. That is for the landlord and the tenant to agree. It is often the case that another form of accommodation is provided, if the tenant so wishes. It also might be provided for a rent-free period as well. If the parties cannot agree to a temporary vacation of the premises on such terms, there is a breakdown in the relationship and if the works are substantial according to the definition that we have in the Act, section 34 can be invoked. I cannot accept this amendment. In terms of the definition, there is a wider question around substantial refurbishment that we have not yet come to.
I will comment on the Minister's first point. His intention may have been to prevent people coming in merely to benefit from capital appreciation. That is not what is going on. It was, indeed, the justification that was cited by the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, at the time and I have heard it repeated by the Minister and others. That is not what has gone on. What has gone on is people have swooped in precisely to-----
I ask Deputy Boyd Barrett to stick to the Bill.
I am commenting on what the Minister said.
The Deputy's amendment refers to refurbishment.
Why did the Chairman not pull the Minister up then?
I was replying to what was said. The Chair is trying to avoid back and forth.
We are rehashing the same conversation.
We are not. I am responding to what the Minister said.
We should stick to the Bill and Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendment.
I am responding to what the Minister said.
I am asking the Deputy to stick to the Bill.
I will want to respond to what Deputy Boyd Barrett says though.
I am pointing out to the Minister that is not what has happened. There should be measures to deal with that fact but there are not. The people who have come in are simply looking to buy into the market, wait for property values to increase and sometimes use refurbishment as the way to drive up the value. That is what they are doing. I, again, cite the place across the road from my clinic. That is exactly what they are doing. As we speak, they are making substantial refurbishments to ten of those apartments. That will drive up the value. When the number of existing tenants in the occupied places drops to nine, I guarantee they will move to sell that place and to benefit from the capital appreciation.
On the amendment itself, we need to close off all loopholes that could lead to eviction at present and that is the logic of this. There is no justification for any evictions at this juncture.
It is far too soon to make the kind of conclusions the Deputy is making based on one example in at best between 5% and 8% of the market, but we will keep it under review.
The next amendment to be discussed in this groups No. 36 in the names of Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan. Deputy Catherine Martin had to go to the Chamber. If she returns before we finish this section, I will allow her back in on that.
Does the Minister wish to discuss amendment No. 40 in his name?
Amendment No. 40 amends section 34 of the Act to technically update references in paragraph (a)(ii) to the various statements and declarations required to accompany a notice of termination that specifies a ground listed in paragraphs 2 to 5, inclusive, of the table to that section; insert a new paragraph (a)(iii) to require a termination notice citing ground five, which is substantial refurbishment of the property in a way that requires the dwelling to be vacated, to contain or be accompanied by a certificate in writing from a registered architect or surveyor stating the works pose a health and safety risk to any occupants and should not proceed if the dwelling is occupied and that the risk is likely to exist for at least three weeks; amend paragraph 3 of the table dealing with tenancy termination on the ground that the landlord intends to sell the relevant property, to extend the time period within which it is intended to enter a contract of sale from three to nine months after termination and to require the landlord to offer a re-letting to the former tenant if the latter provided contact details if no contract is entered into by then; amend paragraph 4 of the table dealing with termination of a tenancy on the ground that the accommodation is required for occupation by the landlord or a family member to provide that the dwelling must be offered for re-letting to the tenant - where the latter provided contact details - if that occupation lasts less than a year, rather than less than six months as provided for at present; amend paragraph 5 of the table dealing with termination of a tenancy on the refurbishment ground to apply the requirement to offer a re-letting of the dwelling to the former tenant if it becomes available for re-letting on completion of the works, instead of the current requirement to do so only if it becomes available for re-letting within six months of the expiry of the notice period; and amend paragraph 6 of the table dealing with termination of a tenancy because the landlord intends to change the use of the relevant property to apply the requirement to offer a re-letting of the dwelling to the former tenant if it becomes available within a year of the tenancy termination, rather than within six months as provided at present.
This is about the reasons for notice to quit and some of the strengthened measures that we are putting in place to protect tenants in these areas and to prevent abuse of the section by people.
The increase in the period applicable to the landlord's intention to enter into a contract to sell the property from three to nine months is in recognition of the time it can take to complete a sale. The new requirement to offer the former tenant a re-letting of the dwelling has resulted in consequential amendment No. 52 to section 56 of the Act, that is, the removal of the six-month time limit on the offers of re-letting because I am extending those periods.
We can go back and forth, should members want to make comments, before I get into some additional related amendments, including amendment No. 41.
I refer to the change from three months to nine months. Is that based on evidence that landlords were genuinely engaged in the sale of the property but who, because the property sale was taking more than three months, fell foul of the existing legislation? I am interested to know the origin of it.
Are the two subsequent changes lengthening the period of time from six months to 12 months in both instances?
On the Deputy's first question, we have information showing that it is taking longer to complete a sale, and because we are now making this an offence, if it is to be actionable there has to be a fair timeline for that.
On his second question, let me double check. Where it was six months, it has gone to 12 months in every instance, for the family but also for the completion of works where there has been refurbishment works, and for change of use. In those three instances, the period in which a re-letting must be offered has lengthened from six to 12 months.
Is it a benefit to the tenant in the first instance?
The next amendment is amendment No. 41.
Amendment No. 41 amends section 35(8) of the 2004 Act to require a landlord to offer a re-letting to the former tenant where the landlord has not entered into an enforceable contract to sell the property nine months after the termination notice period has expired and the tenant has provided the landlord with contact details for the purpose of making of such an offer.
Consequential amendments are also made to include a reference to that requirement in section 35(5) and 35(6).
A new subsection (11) is added to the section to require a landlord, when serving a termination notice that cites a ground included in the table to section 34, to give a copy of that notice to the RTB at least three months before the notice period expires or at the time of service where the notice period is less. This is for the purpose of the inclusion by amendment No. 177 as improper conduct by a landlord for the purposes of the new Part 7A of the Act, in section 18, of false or misleading citations of tenancy termination grounds in termination notices and failure to make re-letting offers where required to do so. The RTB will be able to use the termination notices if it wishes to follow up on the events following the tenant's compliance with the notice. It is in the second instance where the RTB has to be notified and has the powers through other amendments to follow up, investigate and pursue, if necessary.
The next amendment is No. 43, in the names of Deputies Barry, Coppinger and Paul Murphy. Does Deputy Boyd Barrett wish to discuss this?
Yes. The amendment removes renovation or sale as grounds for terminating a tenancy. We have made the argument, and the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018, which seeks to do this, has passed Second Stage in the Dáil notwithstanding the Government's opposition to it. We think that it is unconscionable to allow any evictions in the face of a housing and homelessness emergency where evicting people from the private rental sector is a major contributory factor to the shameful level of homelessness. These grounds, therefore, should be removed.
I am not going to get into another debate on whether we should ban all evictions but speaking to amendments Nos. 43, 48 to 51, inclusive, and part of amendment No. 47, which are all linked to this section, I am putting forward my own amendments to the table in the Bill to strengthen protections for tenants and so I cannot accept these amendments.
Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 are in the names of Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan. Deputy Martin is in the Chamber but if she comes back before we finish this section I will allow her to discuss them. The same applies to amendment No. 46. Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 are in the name of Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. She is not here but if she comes back before we finish the section I will allow her to contribute. Amendment No. 49 is in the names of Deputies Boyd Barrett, Barry, Coppinger, Gino Kenny, Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith. Does Deputy Boyd Barrett wish to discuss this?
Amendment No. 49 echoes the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018 that has passed Second Stage in the Dáil and requires that where a tenancy is terminated for reasons of a landlord seeking to accommodate a member of his family, he should be required to pay six months' rent to the tenant as compensation for the termination of the tenancy. It is in line with comments I have made that the rental sector has to change and that only in exceptional circumstances should a landlord have the right to evict people. People going into the business of renting property need to know in advance that it is going to be difficult and costly for them to evict people because of the impact that has on tenants, families and so on.
To clarify, the Dáil passed it to come to committee and that is where we are at now.
Is this amendment No. 48?
This is amendment No. 49.
This is about compensation where the tenancy is terminated and it is not in the case of an eviction. It remains in law the right of a landlord to serve a notice to quit under certain conditions which are outlined in the Bill. A family member moving into the home, if this Bill goes through as per the amendments, remains something that can be done legally in terms of serving a notice to quit and, therefore, the issue of having to pay compensation does not arise.
Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 are in the name of Deputy Ó Broin.
I will speak to both amendments. We have discussed both at length and I am not looking to open up the debate but just to make the case briefly. The issue of vacant possession notice to quit is significant and everybody knows why. Amendment No. 50 seeks to remove sale of property as a ground for issuing a termination notice. At some point we have to move to a rental market where properties are rental properties just like in the commercial rental market. While we should allow landlords to sell their properties, they should sell with the tenancy intact and as a going concern rather than the current situation. The Minister has spoken on several occasions about the need to professionalise the landlord sector and move towards the kind of sector that exists in other European countries. This is the norm in many of those countries in that kind of rental market and, therefore, it makes eminent sense.
Likewise, amendment No. 51 seeks to remove the use of a family member as a ground for termination of tenancy. If a person has a rental property in a rental market, the notion that it is acceptable in the current climate to evict one family to house members of his or her extended family is problematic. I understand where it comes from and I understand the consequences but these are both necessary as we professionalise and improve our rental market into the future.
I shall speak to both amendments and to the wider points as well but I do not want to repeat myself. In terms of the debate we have been having about vacant possession or tenants in situ and removing this part of the Bill, the advice I have received is that it is not constitutional. Further advice I received was that, even if it were constitutional, it would not be retrospective so it would not protect people in existing tenancies. That is the legal picture.
There are also significant risks from a policy point of view. For example, we understand there would be a devaluing of the sale price of the property by between 20% and 30%. If we were working in a pure market where one landlord is selling to the other because one is selling its rent roll to the other, that would all make sense but that is not happening in our market at the moment. Given the recent history of the housing market, it could lower the sale price of that property by 20% or 30%, not the profit on the sale but the actual sale price of the property which, if someone is coming out of negative equity or trying to settle a debt with a lender, is in financial dire straits or needs the money for something very serious, would be an unfair attack on them. Furthermore, also as a policy consideration, if we decided we did not care about that and were going to proceed no matter what harm it might to the do the individual selling the property, a new couple buying the home would have to serve a notice to quit. What if the people do not leave in those circumstances? This young couple is paying a mortgage that is no doubt very expensive and is also paying rent, not living in the property, and going through the stress of having to deal with what would then be an eviction, not a notice to quit. Given those policy considerations, it is not a good idea. I do believe, however, that many of the changes we are making to section 34 as a whole, which we did work on - the Taoiseach and I engaged on several occasions with the leading NGOs - will strengthen protection for tenants and make an impact. Of course once they have had time to settle, we will look at them again to see the impact they have made.
I have not seen the legal opinion so I cannot comment on that. Given that the restriction applies to commercial rentals, it has to be legally possible, whether retrospectively or not, to apply the same rule to new tenancies.
On the issue of the impact, it is not that I do not care about the impact on the property owner but, to use a phrase that the Minister and his predecessor always like to use, we need to strike a balance between the rights of the landlord and those of the tenant.
Vacant possession and notice to quit are the leading forms of family homelessness. They account for 70% according to Focus Ireland, less according to the RTB so there is another side to this equation of what happens to those families. There is also a significant cost to the State because if a family spends between six and 24 months, or more, in emergency accommodation that costs. While I understand the argument about the loss, whether as a percentage of the profits or of the overall value of the house, there is also a loss to the taxpayer from not taking action, whether this or something else.
I know I am not going to convince the Minister to change his mind. There is nothing bar an extension of the notice period, which we will come to later, for those families currently subject to vacant possession or notice to quit and I urge him, as I did during the Second Stage debate on our legislation, to consider that issue. He is engaging with the NGOs to find some way to tackle the issue of reducing the flow of families into homelessness.
I urge the Minister to look at that issue, as I did during the Second Stage debate on our legislation. I know he is engaging with the NGOs to find some way of reducing the flow of families into homelessness. If he rejects this provision, there is an onus on him to bring something else forward. If he does and it is positive, he will certainty receive the support of Sinn Féin. Of itself, extending the notice period will not protect those families who either have a vacant possession notice to quit today or will imminently get one. I accept that it gives them a little more time to find a place, but it does not stem the flow of families into the homeless system or into being at risk of homelessness.
While I understand motives behind the amendment, I agree with the Minister on this. This will have a consequence for the market that could be even more detrimental and cause a further flight of landlords. I have problems with institutional landlords, particularly with some of the funds and banks that have entered the market. A Minister for Justice and Equality in the previous Government, Mr. Alan Shatter, passed the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 and made a commitment to examine the requirement for vacant possession, particularly in instances where investment properties were taken over by banks or lenders. That is a big issue for people.
The Central Bank, in its report for the final quarter of 2018, indicated that approximately 15,000 mortgages were in grave difficulty and could reach the point where banks and institutions would move on them. In some circumstances, these institutions serve notices to quit and then rent out the properties again to newer tenants. They put them back on the market. The suggestion of Deputies Ó Broin and Boyd Barrett, to simply ban any sale of a property unless it is sold with a tenant, would not work. Most people know it would not work, as was proven in the Committee Stage debates on the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018. Having said that, the Deputies have highlighted that this is a real issue, as has my party. Does the Minister envisage an alternative approach being taken, albeit not as part of this Bill? What is his view on that? Most people who fall into homelessness do so via the private rental sector. We moved an amendment to a previous Bill which would oblige a financial institution to take on the roles and responsibilities of a landlord once it takes over a residential investment property. That is a tack that could be taken.
I thank the Deputies. I will start with the last point. In our engagements with this committee, non-governmental organisations and others we try to see if a targeted intervention could make a difference. On refinement, the NGO amendment focused solely on institutional investors. That captures buy-to-let properties and, as we know, the buy-to-let market is not like a traditional institutional investor market in this country, for reasons I will not go into. Constitutionally, that was regarded as an unjust attack on a subset of people to address a wider societal problem, one with far greater complexity than might be captured in just one change or an imposition on just one subgroup.
On institutional investors and vacant possession, in cases where these investors have obtained vacant possession, we are trying to get those properties before they go to the market and bring them into the social housing stock. That is being led by the Housing Agency, working with various lenders. There is a rolling fund that allows for that approach.
Going back to Deputy Ó Broin's point, I note there are much longer-term leases in the commercial sector. Notices to quit cannot break a lease agreement. If a tenant enters into a five-year lease with a landlord, a notice to quit served because a family member wants to live in the property cannot break that lease. We do not have long leases in the residential sector because, in my view, there is no taxation structure that incentivises them. There is such a structure on the commercial side. I would like to have a taxation system that incentivises longer-term leases. That would provide greater security for tenants without risking a flight of providers of rental accommodation from the market. These are other matters that we are considering.
I do not wish to get into a Second Stage debate on these issues. However, there is a correlation between the number of people entering homelessness or emergency accommodation from the private rental sector and the reasons given. We are trying to establish the extent of that correlation because that also has an impact on legal advice and other matters. That work is continuing.
Amendment No. 52 is the next amendment in the group.
Amendment No. 52 to section 56 of the 2004 Act is consequential to amendments Nos. 40 and 41, which amend sections 34 and 35 of the Act. These oblige a landlord to offer the former tenant a reletting of the dwelling where a contract to sell is not entered into within nine months of the end of a tenancy terminated on the ground of intent to sell. There are many technical details here, but this essentially relates to the point I made about the first of these amendments. We are making changes to section 34 which pertain to the landlord's obligations where reletting is concerned and the timelines involved in such cases.
Our original intention was to break at 1 p.m. Is that still the case?
Do members wish to deal with the other amendments in the group or take a break now?
I scheduled a meeting for 1 p.m. on the basis that we agreed to a break at 1 p.m. earlier.
That is no problem.
I do not wish to delay proceedings.
The next grouping is amendments Nos. 54 to 67, inclusive, the first of which is in the name of Deputy Ó Broin.
I am not going to waste the committee's time because we had this discussion previously. These amendments provide for the removal of the proposed remedial notice proposition because it is not necessary. I am not convinced that an argument has been made as to why the change in the original legislation is there and, therefore, I propose to delete that section.
I do not agree but there is a chance to review the operation of this in two years, in year 3 of the operation, to see what the impact has been.
Amendment No. 55 is in the name of the Minister.
This is the first of six Government amendments, Nos. 55 to 60 inclusive, which amend the new section 66(2A) of the Act, inserted by section 7 of the Bill, to make the subsection applicable to termination notices served by tenants as well as by landlords. It is the same issue but applying it to tenants as well.
There are no comments about that. Amendment No. 56 is in the name of the Minister.
This amendment is a technical amendment, consequent upon amendment No. 55. Amendment Nos. 56 to 60 all relate to that provision.
The Minister does need to speak to those amendments individually.
Amendment No. 61 is in the name of the Minister.
That is to provide-----
Is that the same as amendment No. 54?
-----that purpose-built student accommodation be brought within the scope of that Act, in amendment No. 3, inserting the new section 3(1A) and a minimum notice period of 28 days.
Amendment No. 62 is in the name of the Minister.
That amendment relates to amendment No. 55.
Does Deputy Boyd Barrett wish to speak to amendment No. 63?
This amendment provides for longer notice periods than those proposed by the Government. I will not go through the details but we have to give people as much time as possible because it is nigh on impossible, in many circumstances, for people to find alternative accommodation. Even the Government's improved notice periods, in the current climate, are not adequate. We propose substantially longer notice periods.
Amendment No. 62 is our proposal to insert the new table with the new notice periods. We proposed a period in the initial Bill. We have done further work with the committee, NGOs and others since and are inserting longer periods now. We have further strengthened those provisions and amendment No. 62 deletes and replaces the table with the new table as proposed.
Amendment No. 64 is in the name of Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. She is not present but I will allow her to discuss it if she returns before we finish the section. Amendment No. 65 is in the name of Deputy Ó Broin.
I welcome the fact that the Government is extending the notice periods. In fact, while Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendment extends some of the notice periods, some of those extensions are not as advantageous as the Government's.
The real issue is for people who are tenants for less than six months because a 28-day notice period is not enough, particularly given the market we are in. The one change I want to make to the Government's notice periods is to allow 90 days when the duration of tenancy is less than six months. One would not need that in a normal rental market. There have been a small number of cases wherein people have signed up to a rental agreement and something significant has happened, such as a vacant possession or a notice to quit under pressure from a bank and that family has 28 days to vacate. That is why I propose 90 days.
I cannot support that amendment. It goes too far in light of the fact that a tenant who has only been in a residence fewer than six months would then be given a further three months. That is unfair.
Does Deputy Boyd Barrett wish to comment on amendment No. 66?
Sometimes tenants are unable to pay their rent for genuine reasons and those tenants should have protection if they have legitimate reasons for being unable to pay the rent. I will give the example of people who are currently topping up with HAP payments, of whom there are a lot, and it will become increasingly an issue. It seems to be semi-official policy now, because HAP limits are completely inadequate, that people are topping-up over and above what is provided by the HAP payment to meet the excessive rents that are being charged and that is unsustainable in many cases. Many of those people are going to get themselves into difficulty despite their best efforts.
Some of the top-ups are in excess of what would legally be allowed, for example, for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to deduct from somebody's social welfare payment. The top-ups are driving people into extreme poverty. Somebody should not be evicted for being poor as a result of a dysfunctional market and the failures of Government policy. This is a protection for people who genuinely cannot afford to pay, to prevent them being evicted.
Does Deputy Boyd Barrett want to take amendment No. 67 with No. 66 or separately?
They are complementary.
We have had a series of engagements with the RTB and I know that rent arrears is a significant issue and, in fact, a number of cases that come before the RTB for dispute resolution relate to rent arrears. We have measures, through social protection, to help with rent arrears. I have agreement from the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to see if we can do more to target and help people in rent arrears. However, I cannot accept the amendment because, whether its the intention or not, it effectively permits people not to pay rent where rent is owed. That would be very unfair on a person who might be relying on the rent coming from the property for their livelihood. We cannot accept that amendment.
Amendment No. 176 is in the name of the Minister.
I will take amendments Nos. 176 and 177 together because the first is a technical amendment to Schedule 2 to include as improper conduct by a landlord, for the purposes of the new part 7A of the Act, false or misleading citations of termination grounds in termination notices and failure to make re-letting offers where required to do so. It is consequent to amendment No. 41 and it is about the re-letting that has to be made in cases where improper conduct has happened on the part of the landlord because he or she has not invoked section 34 in the right way. A re-letting offer will now be required where a contract to sell the property is not entered into within nine months of the tenancy ending. Under the existing provisions, a re-letting offer is required where occupation by the family member ceased within 12 months of the tenancy ending, on completion of refurbishment works and, if the dwelling was to be put to some other use, it becomes available for letting within a year of the tenancy ending. These time periods were previously changed by amendment No. 40, which we discussed. Re-letting offers are required where the tenant has provided and kept up to date their contact details, which is important for their being contactable by the landlord where the re-letting has to take place.
We have discussed the rest of the issues relating to this amendment because it relates back to amendments Nos. 40 and 41.
There are no comments. Does Deputy Boyd Barrett wish to speak to amendments Nos. 179, 180 and 187? Does he wish to take them separately or together?
They cover the same sort of ground where landlords are falsely justifying the termination of a Part 4 tenancy. Amendment No. 170 proposes to hold them accountable for doing that and, similarly, amendment No. 180 is in the same territory and trying to tighten that up to ensure landlords are held fully accountable for any false declarations.
Does the Minister wish to comment?
That is correct and my amendment No. 177 captures amendments Nos. 179 and 180.
Deputy Catherine Martin was speaking in the Chamber and we agreed to go back to the number of amendments missed if she returned.
I thank the Chairman.
Amendments Nos. 28, 36, 44, 45 and 46 are in the names of Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan.
Does the Deputy wish to speak to them individually or together?
I will speak on amendments Nos. 36 and 44 together, then Nos. 45 and 46 together and then on amendment No. 28 separately.
Amendments Nos. 36 and 44 deal with an anomaly in the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 which allows for what is called the no reason eviction at the end of a four or six-year Part 4 tenancy. Currently, all Part 4 tenancies in Ireland, which are most private tenancies, must be renewed after six years or four years if one is in the property before 2016. Part 4 tenancies generally automatically continue and are considered rolling tenancies in terms of the amount of notice the landlord must give the tenant to vacate the property. However, when a Part 4 period comes to an end there is a window for the landlord to evict a tenant for no reason under section 34(b), a power which amendment No. 44 deletes. Rebuilding Ireland contains a commitment to move towards indefinite tenancies and our amendment simply places that in legislation. The time for doing so is long past.
Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 refer to eviction due to sale of buy-to-let or investment properties. It is simply unnecessary to allow eviction on the grounds of sale. It should not be happening. In European countries with established private rental sectors with strong security of tenure sale is not permitted as a ground to evict. The same is even true in the UK, which has a similar private rented sector legislative structure to ours. However, I am willing to withdraw those amendments and to table something similar on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 28 is not in this group.
Tenancies of indefinite duration is the first issue on which the Deputy spoke. It is the Government's policy to move to tenancies of indefinite duration. As I outlined last year when I was bringing this Bill forward, that is one of the measures we wish to address in the next rent Bill. It is also where we will be addressing the issue of receivership that we discussed with Deputy Boyd Barrett earlier. Unfortunately, even if we felt this amendment captured it adequately and that there might be some room to consider it between now and Report Stage, it is far more complex than the amendment as drafted. We need more time and that is why we have put it forth for the second Bill. I cannot accept the proposal.
Is the Minister willing to give it some consideration before Report Stage?
We have been considering it. The Deputy was speaking in the Chamber earlier. I stated previously that we were going to do a number of things in this Bill and a number of things in the next Bill. We have added many things to this Bill and we did that on the basis of priority and what is needed now, such as in respect of extending rent pressure zones, closing down perceived loopholes and so forth. I also stated that because of the way the amendments are grouped and the late stage at which we received them, I would be unable to accept them today but that I will examine certain amendments before Report Stage to see if we can accept them. I made that commitment to Deputy Darragh O'Brien and with regard to one of the Deputy's earlier amendments in respect of deposits. However, we will not be able to capture the complexity of what we must do in terms of tenancies of indefinite duration with an amendment from our side, which would be required if we were to do it on Report Stage.
I can inform Deputy Catherine Martin that we had an informal briefing as well and many of the comments from members have been reflected in the Bill. We discussed the matter earlier.
Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are in the name of Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. She is not present so the amendments fall.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 5 of Act of 2004
3. Section 5 of the Act of 2004 is amended in subsection (1):
(a) by the substitution of the following definition, for the definition of “landlord”—
“ ‘landlord’ means the person for the time being entitled to receive (otherwise than as agent for another person, excepting where that person is acting as receiver) the rent paid in respect of a dwelling by the tenant thereof and, where the context so admits, includes a person who has ceased to be so entitled by reason of the termination of the tenancy. For the avoidance of doubt, ‘landlord’ also means any lender, financial institution, equity fund or investment fund that taken possession of a dwelling that is the subject of an existing tenancy but where no receiver has been appointed;”,
(b) by the substitution of the following definition, for the definition of “tenancy”—
“ ‘tenancy’ includes a periodic tenancy, a tenancy for a fixed term, a periodic licence to reside in student specific accommodation, or a licence to reside for a fixed term in student specific accommodation, whether oral or in writing or implied, and, where the context so admits, includes a sub-tenancy and a tenancy, sub-tenancy or licence that has been terminated;”,
(c) by the substitution of the following definition, for the definition of “tenant”—
“ ‘tenant’ means the person for the time being entitled to the occupation of a dwelling under a tenancy or licence to reside at student specific accommodation and, where the context so admits, includes a person who has ceased to be entitled to that occupation by reason of the termination of his or her tenancy or licence.”.”.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 16 of Act of 2004 - to abolish substantial refurbishment or renovation as ground for termination of a tenancy
3. Section 16 of the Act of 2004 is amended in paragraph (a), subparagraph (i) by the insertion of the following after “payment,”:
“except in relation to periods when the property has been vacated for the purpose of substantial refurbishment or renovation,”.”.
Amendment No. 15 is out of order.
Amendments Nos. 16 to 35, inclusive, and amendment No. 39 are related. Amendments Nos. 19 to 30, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 18, amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are consequential on amendment No. 20, amendment No. 24 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 23 and amendments Nos. 26 to 29, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 25. Amendments Nos. 16 to 35, inclusive, and amendment No. 39 will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
“(b) in subsection (5) by the deletion of paragraph (a).”.
This amendment is straightforward. It seeks to remove the exemption originally introduced in respect of new dwellings in the RPZ legislation, new properties on the market and so forth. The Minister has a similar amendment and, subject to his explanation of it, if I am satisfied it does broadly what I am seeking to do with this amendment I will be happy to withdraw it. Otherwise, I will press the amendment.
Amendment No. 17 addresses section 19 of the 2004 Act to remove the exemption from the maximum permitted rent increase of 4% per annum for dwellings in rent pressure zones that were not in the rental sector in the two years prior to the commencement of the letting of the dwelling. The expiry of the RPZ by virtue of amendment No. 33 will occur on 31 December 2021 so the application of the rent increase restrictions to these new lettings will be for a short period only and affect a maximum of two rent reviews. Amendment No. 17 would achieve substantially the same outcome as amendment No. 16, but my amendment only applies to rent reviews because application to the initial rent setting for tenancy of the dwelling would require the letting be preceded by another tenancy which, by definition, is not the case.
I think I understand it, but the Minister read the note very quickly. In terms of the implication of the Minister's amendment for the rent review, obviously there is no rent review in the first setting of the rent so the mechanism for setting the rent is the market rent as per the RTB index for that type of property in that area. The rent reviews, as per the rent pressure zones, would apply 12 months after the first rent is set.
Yes. What we had previously has been called a loophole, but it is not a loophole but how the law was designed in the first instance. If somebody had a property that did not come under the RPZ because it was a new property, and this was put in place to encourage more investment and more building in the rental sector, not only would it not be captured by the RPZ in the first letting, as it was a first letting it would never be captured. After seeing what is happening in the rental sector, I am of the view that we should be capturing these properties. It is fair enough to come into the sector and set a rent at the market rate from the RTB indices, but after that in any future letting or a rent review it has to be in line with the RPZ provisions. That was described as a loophole, but it was not. It is how the law was written and we are closing that down. It is a further strengthening of the RPZs.
On that basis, I am happy to withdraw amendment No. 16.
It protects the people Deputy Boyd Barrett wishes to protect. It is another radical move by the Minister.
Let us take a concrete example, with which the Minister is familiar.
Is it in Dún Laoghaire?
It is in Sandyford which is not in my constituency, although the Minister will remember that I was involved in the issue. I-RES REIT tried to increase the rent by 40%-----
Be careful using names Deputy.
It was in the public domain.
I know that, but I must protect you as a member of the committee and anybody outside the committee who is named.
I appreciate the protection. The landlord there tried to jack up the rent by an enormous amount. It would have meant the rent increasing from €2,200 to €2,800, which is shocking. The fact that the rent was €2,200 in the first instance is just shocking, and the landlord was going to increase it to €2,800. It was affecting dozens of young people, many of them students and some of them young workers working in Sandyford. They were absolutely distraught.
Because of the publicity the protest received, the company decided to back off but the loophole was clearly there and it was acting within its legal rights. Is the Minister's proposal going to prevent this kind of thing?
By my reckoning, the rent could only have increased from €2,200 to €2,288 if this was in place.
Is that even if a place was not rented for two years previously?
I am assuming that this is a new property that is not captured by the RPZ provisions.
It was not captured by the RPZ provisions.
They created a new letting and tried to increase it by 40% but they could only do so by 4%, which is €88 based on the numbers the Deputy gave me, rather than the €1,000 that would have constituted 40%.
It was not quite €1,000 so maybe it was 30% - I cannot remember exactly.
As the Deputy said, this should not have been allowed at the time but it was legal. It will no longer be legal.
I will thoroughly examine that to make sure that is the case.
The Deputy will then welcome and accept the provision.
If it does the job, I will accept it.
It is a really important change that we are making to the law and it is a really good change.
Many of us argued for this in amendments when the legislation was originally introduced in 2016. I am delighted that, three years on, the Minister is catching up with the Opposition.
I will take that.
Amendment No. 18 is in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
I do not think substantial refurbishments justify higher rents because rents are completely out of control at the moment and we should not allow any other mechanisms for rents to be raised over and above where they are. I do not think that doing things to an apartment or other property that need to be done should justify massive rent increases. Rents are not set at affordable levels and the Government is doing nothing to set them at affordable levels. Other amendments of mine will deal with other aspects of the problem but we should not provide any mechanism for landlords to put up rents that are already excessive, extortionate and unaffordable.
A number of amendments are linked but we are opposing them because we have our own amendments to bring forward. If a landlord did a substantial refurbishment to their property they were able to cite that as grounds for getting outside the RPZ provisions. People were concerned that this was being used for renovations and as an excuse to get people out so that they could jack up the rent and the RTB issued guidance to landlords so that landlords would know how not to break the law or breach rights. This Bill brings forward a definition of substantial refurbishment and we are bringing forward an amendment to further improve the definition and make sure it is watertight. We do not want to allow our rental stock to fall into disrepair over a number of years by giving no incentive for a landlord to invest in a property. We do not want to stop people from improving their properties, such as by providing extra bedrooms to accommodate more people, by ensuring they will not get their money back for the investment they have made. If a landlord spends €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000 to convert a garage into an additional room, maybe a play room, a TV room or a bedroom, but the tenancy agreement states they can only increase rent by 4% in an RPZ, they should be able to step outside the RPZ provisions because they should certainly be able to charge extra rent for another person in the property. We want to avoid unintended consequences that prevent or dissuade landlords from investing in their properties so that we keep stock up as time goes by.
I get the thinking behind extensions from two to three bedrooms with a genuine and significant expansion of the space but, as I understand the Minister's proposal, modifications to more than 50% of the floor space would be covered.
Substantial change is defined as works that consist of a permanent extension that increases the floor area by 25% or where three of four things happen, which are raising the BER by two points; adding an extra room; making a change in the internal layout of the home; or an adaptation to allow for disability access. If landlords do that they can put in an application to the RTB, signed off by a registered professional such as an architect or surveyor as to the extent of the work, and they can then increase the rent by more than 4%. The work would necessitate a person vacating a property so it is something significant.
I thank the Minister for the clarification and it does improve matters so I will consider it again between now and Report Stage. If a property is at the lower end of the BER ratings, a jump by two points would not be very difficult and the box could be ticked relatively easily. It is different at the top levels.
B1 or A2.
We have an amendment later which will propose that, to be deemed significant, there should be two criteria for BER improvements. One should be that it goes to the top two categories and the other is that it should jump three points. That is a tighter way of doing it and will ensure it will genuinely make a difference, rather than simply ticking a box.
I can see potential for messing in regard to the internal layout. I believe they are doing this across the road from me at the moment. I do not think there will be any substantial change to the size of the apartments in question but I am certain they are going to ask to go beyond the RPZ limits. I would be highly surprised, however, if anything dramatic has changed but they might manage to get through these tests.
We are talking about a permanent change internally. In addition, they would not be able to get around building control standards for the minimum size of a room, for example, by putting a wall between two bunk beds or something like that.
I accept that.
In respect of the Minister's amendments I am, in principle, in favour of a statutory definition of substantial refurbishments. That was always our position and, while I liked the version in the original Bill on account of it being so restrictive, we have to deal with the amendments in front of us.
I have a couple of technical questions. The criteria for an extension are straightforward and they seem sensible. The creation of an extra room has to be within existing building regulations but one could imagine a person subdividing one room into two and, so long as the two rooms met the regulations for adequate room size, the work constituting substantial refurbishment, even though the financial cost of subdividing a room into two would not be very significant. How can the Minister satisfy the committee that the provision cannot be abused?
I share Deputy Boyd Barrett's concern about the building energy rating, BER. Anything that incentivises and pushes landlords to raise BERs is important. It is a minimal cost to improve from the lowest grades. If something is already at a high grade, going up a point or two might not necessarily cost a significant sum. I like the principle of finding a mechanism but I am not sure what the Minister has is adequate. I do not have a better option for him but it is something that he could look at between now and Report Stage.
This gets tricky when it relates to changes in internal layout. What kind of guidance will be given to the RTB or to the local authority to make it clear what kinds of changes would fall within this proposal? Likewise with adaptation works, it is a very general proposition. If there are substantial renovation works to assist disability adaptability, that is really good but it could include a relatively minimal level of change, such as ramps and rails, which would raise a question.
All of these works we are talking about already enable landlords to write off the capital costs against their tax liabilities, albeit at 12.5% over a year. I am not proposing this but I know that Deputy Casey had a good discussion with the Minister at a previous meeting about a financial threshold. Working a financial threshold into legislation is very clumsy and I am not proposing that but I think for any of us to justify a threshold to excuse somebody from the rent pressure zones, it has to be over and above the ordinary renovations one would expect landlords to be doing, which they can write off against their tax liability anyway.
I am not opposed in principle to what the Minister is proposing but there is a lot of convincing to be done that what is currently in front of us is tight enough not to open up another area of abuse. This will be more tricky to abuse than the current scheme but the questions I am asking are genuine in intent.
I also have concerns about the BER because of the lack of a high minimum grade. That allows scope for abuse. It is very easy to fluctuate by two grades. What measures has the Minister developed to ensure changing grades are monitored correctly and certified? Will certification be overseen by the RTB alongside the SEAI? I will discuss it later since amendment No. 28 addresses it but I ask the Minister to give further consideration to that.
Where a landlord seeks to invoke this exemption, the rent will not be treated as a small thing. A number of different documents will have to be lodged to prove the landlord has done it. I understand the concerns about whether a landlord might address just the BER or the layout. A combination of three of the four factors I laid out would have to be accomplished, or a 25% extension to the floor space. I understand the point about the BER jumping by two points. What if a landlord was doing something significant that was not disability adaptation, but changed the layout, added an extra room and went up by a BER grade, but could not go up by three points because it might take the property beyond A1 or maybe to A1, which might not be seen as necessary and the landlord might not want to incur the costs? If it were just two points on the BER scale, if it is coming from a low BER, simple insulation in the attic might address that and I would be concerned about it.
The RTB issued guidance about what it would consider to be a change of layout, renovation and such. I will refer to that briefly. When we talk about a change of layout or structural alteration, those include attic conversion, garage conversion, the change of a ground floor bedroom to improve the layout of a property and so on. We are not talking about changing tiles on the floors but about the movement of walls to create rooms. An example I gave earlier is turning a garage into living space, whether a bedroom, a playroom, a living room or even a kitchen. That is significant work. We talked about some of the investments that might be made to improve the BER. Attic insulation is not very expensive but cavity wall or dry lining can be, as can external wall insulation. Maybe the boiler, the pipework, the radiators or the cylinder are being replaced or maybe one is doing the windows and doors. Those types of investment are expensive but we are not asking for them to be done on their own. They have to meet three of the four criteria or a 25% extension. They then have to have surveyors and architects sign off and give documentation to the RTB which will then adjudicate and state that the clause has been invoked in the right way.
We think it is a vast improvement on not having a definition. We came with a definition because the committee looked for a definition. In the conversations we have had at the committee about the previous definition, some of the problems we and others saw in the definition were highlighted, and we have now come with what we think is a more robust definition.
I take the point that it is an improvement and the Minister is genuinely trying to put in safeguards. It may merit a little more thought and consideration of the detail on all sides. We have to look at certain test cases. One could go into that apartment block across the road from me to see what that company has put in for. It would be interesting to see. I am certain that what it is doing is to try to have a higher than 4% rent increase. Judging from what I can see from the outside, there definitely will not be an increase in space. We shall see whether that passes muster. What we propose is a little tighter.
Amendment No. 19 is in the name of the Minister. I think the majority of this has been discussed.
Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 23 to 25, inclusive, all relate to the same issue.
Does Deputy Boyd Barrett want to discuss amendment No. 24?
It is on the same lines. I will consider what the Minister has said and we will possibly come back to it.
Does Deputy Boyd Barrett wish to discuss No. 26?
They are all related.
Amendment No. 27 is in the name of Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, who is not present, and it falls. Amendment No. 28 is in the name of Deputy Catherine Martin.
Amendment No. 28 seeks to improve how the Bill addresses BER by requiring it to be improved by at least three grades, bringing the dwelling to a minimum of a C1 rating. I am aware of what the Minister is proposing in amendment No. 25. Requiring a minimum of two grades would not involve extensive change and a landlord could fluke an increase like that with very little change. BER can even improve on its own since grading was different 12 years ago due to the intensity of fossil fuels in our energy system. I ask the Minister to give it further consideration and strengthen it. I think it is open to abuse. I know amendment No. 25 is tied in with others. I hope to get this right and am looking for this to be increased by at least three grades, to bring the dwelling to a minimum of a C1 rating.
On the issue of a minimum of a C1 rating, some buildings will never reach it because of their age. I am informed that the Custom House is such a building and that one could never get it up to a C1 rating. I am reluctant to tie it to a specific grade but we can look at whether we can have a requirement of three points if it is at a certain grade, or of two points if it is at another grade, and to have a gradient to it rather than a jump of two points each time. I will look at that between now and Report Stage.
Amendment No. 29 is in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
It is exactly the same.
Amendment No. 30 is in the name of Deputy Darragh O'Brien.
Amendment No. 30 is on the same matter that we were trying to introduce and which we spoke about in private session, namely, capping it on the basis of a financial contribution. That option is still there, and while I know the Minister said it could not work, the home incentive scheme has worked quite well, where a list of permitted enabling works is given and a financial minimum that can be spent is put on it. Some of these works can be carried out without affecting the tenant, especially when it comes to the building energy rating, BER. Many of us have lived in our homes when we have had major renovation works carried out and there was no issue. By adding the financial limit to it, along with listing the works that are permitted, it simplifies it a bit. We seem to get very technical in everything we are doing instead of saying that we can increase the energy efficiency, improve disability access, improve wiring and so on, but it must have a certain minimum value. That was the general opinion I felt at the time, and while the Minister said it was not operational, the home incentive scheme has worked very well in the sense that every contractor who is doing it has to be tax compliant and they have to go through the processing, log it online, and away they go. It is an option that we have put on the table and it could and should still be considered, although the Minister has other evidence from what I have.
It was a very good idea and we did consider it when it was raised in the previous session. The home incentive scheme is a bit different because it is a person's home, so perhaps there is a different incentive base working there.
I am just talking about the principle, I am not talking about-----
I know, and we had a lengthy discussion about a rules-based or principles-based approach to these matters. Here we are very much falling down on the rules because a principles-based approach was too open to interpretation. Where we came down with regard to the money issue was that it was more of a problem around verification, the potential to defraud, and that type of approach to it rather than the way we are going with it. We did not progress it any further, therefore. We looked at it but we came down in favour of our amendment.
Amendment No. 31 is in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
Amendment No. 31 provides that if the landlord fails to comply with the regulations of the Act, he or she will be guilty of an offence and liable to a class A fine or a maximum of two years' imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, a fine not exceeding €50,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of five years. That is basically getting tough with the landlords if they-----
Hang them by the neck until they are dead.
-----break the law or mess around. They will know it is a serious business.
Stocks outside Leinster House?
Maybe we should add that in.
Our approach with this is that we have the stronger class A penalty applying under the new section 148S if someone obstructs the work of a Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, authorised officer in carrying out an investigation, but for the new section 19 offences, a class B offence is the approach that has been taken. That gives the potential for imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine up to €4,000 or both. If, after the summary conviction, the offence continues, a further offence is committed under the Residential Tenancies Acts on each day that such action or inaction continues. The class E fine applies then for each of the further offences. We believed that was proportional in using class A in the new section on obstruction of an RTB authorised officer's investigation and class B where an offence was committed under the new section 19 offences.
Let me just clarify this. Does this mean imprisonment in certain circumstances or not?
Yes, and potentially a fine as well if it is a class B offence, so they will do time.
Leaving joking about stocks aside, some of the cases we have had have been of horrific abuses by landlords and we do need severe penalties for the real rogues.
Amendment No. 32 is in the name of the Minister.
Amendment No. 32 is to change section 20 of the principal Act to extend for a further period, from 4 December 2019 to 31 December 2021, the restriction of rent reviews to occurring at most once every two years before reverting back to a yearly restriction. Essentially, because we are lengthening out rent pressure zones, RPZs, to 2021, outside of an RPZ the rent can only be reviewed every two years, and that continues to 2021 in line with the extension of RPZs.
Amendment No. 33 is in the name of the Minister.
Amendment No. 33 brings the 4% rent increase ceiling to an end on the same date as the end of the RPZs, namely, 2021.
Amendment No. 34 is in the name of the Minister.
Did we discuss amendment No. 15?
It is out of order.
Amendment No. 34 amends section 24B of the 2004 Act to provide that deeming Cork city, Dublin city, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin as RPZs expires on 31 December 2021.
Amendment No. 35 is in the name of the Minister.
Amendment No. 35 inserts a new section 24BA into the 2004 Act to provide that the administrative area of Cork City Council, which was deemed a rent pressure zone on 24 December 2016, includes the area transferring from Cork County Council to the city council on 31 May 2019. The Chairman will know that we increased the boundary for Cork, and it is just to make sure that Cork city, as it will be deemed from the end of May 2019, will all be covered under one RPZ.
Amendment No. 39 is in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
Amendment No. 39 extends notice periods from 90 days to 180 days. I have pretty much made the case for this earlier so I will not repeat the argument, but particularly in the current circumstances and generally as well, we need to give people more time because being forced to leave one's home is a big deal, it often puts people in great difficulty, and they should be given the maximum amount of time possible to find alternative accommodation.
I cannot accept this amendment because it would essentially give six months' advance notice before a rent review, which is not necessary.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 6, to delete line 7 and substitute the following:
“(b) in subsection (5), by—
(i) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (a):
“(a) to the rent first set under the tenancy of a dwelling, provided that no tenancy in respect of that dwelling subsisted during the period of 2 years immediately preceding the date on which the tenancy concerned commenced”,
(ii) the substitution, in subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (b), of “greater than” for “different to”,”.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 6, to delete lines 8 to 37, and in page 7, to delete lines 1 to 6 and substitute the following:
“(c) by deleting subsection 5(b).”.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 6, to delete lines 12 to 15 and substitute the following:
“(a) the works carried out to the dwelling concerned—
(i) consist of a permanent extension to the dwelling that increases the floor area (within the meaning of Article 6 of the Building Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 497 of 1997)) of the dwelling by an amount equal to not less than 25 per cent of the floor area (within such meaning) of the dwelling as it stood immediately before the commencement of those works, or”.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 6, to delete line 16 and substitute “(ii) result in any 3 or more of the following:”.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 6, line 17, to delete “is” and substitute “being”.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 6, line 18, to delete “is” and substitute “being”.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 6, to delete line 21 and substitute the following:
“(III) a permanent increase in the number of rooms in the dwelling, or”.
Amendment No. 24 cannot be moved.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 6, to delete lines 22 to 26 and substitute the following:
“(IV) in the case of a dwelling to which the European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 243 of 2012) apply, the BER (within the meaning of those Regulations) being improved by not less than 2 building energy ratings,”.
As amendment No. 25 has been agreed to, amendments Nos. 26 to 29, inclusive, cannot be moved.
Amendment No. 30 has been discussed with amendment No. 16. Does Deputy O'Brien wish to move the amendment?
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 7, line 19, after “offence” to insert the following:
(i) on summary conviction, to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both, or (ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both".
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 7, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 20 of Act of 2004
4. Section 20 of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) in subsection (5), by the substitution of “1 January 2022 and from that day” for “the day immediately before the fourth anniversary of the day on which section 25 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 came into operation and, on and from the first-mentioned day”, and
(b) in subsection (6), by the substitution of “31 December 2021” for “the day immediately before the fourth anniversary of the day on which that section came into operation".".
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 7, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 24A of Act of 2004
5. (1) Section 24A of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) in subsection (4), by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph(b):
“(b) the average rent (determined by reference to the information specified in paragraph (a)) in the area in respect of the 3 months to which the most recent Rent Index quarterly report applies is—
(i) in the case of the county of Kildare, the county of Meath, the county of Wicklow or a local electoral area in any one of those counties, above the average rent in the State (other than the Dublin Area) specified in that report, or
(ii) in the case of any—
(I) other county or local electoral area, or
(II) any city, city and county or local electoral area situated in such city or city and county,
above the average rent in the State (other than the Greater Dublin Area) specified in that report.”,
(b) in subsection (10), by the insertion of the following definitions:
“ ‘Dublin Area’ means—
(a) the city of Dublin, and
(b) the counties of South Dublin, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown;
‘Greater Dublin Area’ means—
(a) the Dublin Area, and
(b) the counties of Kildare, Wicklow and Meath;”.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (5) of section 24A of the Act of 2004 or any order made thereunder, the period specified in any such order to be the period during which an area shall stand prescribed as a rent pressure zone shall expire on 31 December 2021.”.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 7, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 24B of Act of 2004
6. Section 24B of the Act of 2004 is amended by the substitution of “during the period commencing on the relevant date and ending on 31 December 2021” for “from the relevant date for a period of 3 years".".
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 7, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 24 of Act of 2004
7. The Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following section:
"Relevant area within meaning of Local Government Act 2019 deemed to be rent pressure zone
24BA. (1) For the purposes of section 24B, the administrative area of Cork City Council shall include the relevant area and, accordingly, the reference in that section to relevant date shall, in so far as that section applies to the relevant area, be construed as a reference to the transfer day.
(2) In this section—
'Act of 2019’ means the Local Government Act 2019;
‘relevant area’ has the meaning assigned to it by the Act of 2019; and
‘transfer day’ has the meaning assigned to it by the Act of 2019.".".
Did we discuss amendment No. 33, which deals with the new qualifying criteria for rent pressure zones?
It was discussed with amendment No. 16.
As I said, it deals with the new qualifying criteria. We are taking Dublin out of the picture. There will be two new qualifying criteria. The first is the greater Dublin area, excluding Dublin, plus the rest of the country to qualify in the greater Dublin area, and the second is the rest of the country, excluding the greater Dublin area, to qualify outside of the greater Dublin area.
Based on the analysis of the new qualifying criteria for everywhere outside of Dublin, which I presume the Minister or the RTB has done, what would be their impact or is it too early to say?
It is too early to say. I have seen data from the RTB and we also ran the numbers. For a while now, the committee has been calling for a review of the qualifying criteria. I have been engaged with the RTB on various pieces of work in that regard. Each scenario threw up different results. I wanted to come up with a change that was simple and would not confuse people such that both the landlord and tenant would know their rights. This is the one we chose. I do not have information with me on the likelihood of new areas qualifying but once Dublin is taken out of the equation, given how far ahead rent in the capital is, other areas start to come into RPZ designation quite quickly. I do not have information on the numbers or the areas to hand. I would not like to speculate on them.
I presume that once the legislation is enacted, the RTB would relatively quickly make recommendations and publish the new areas to be included.
The RTB has completed its quarter 4 rents index for 2018, on the back of which there were two new designations. If we get this legislation into law at the beginning of May, at some point in June the RTB will do the quarter 1 index for 2019 using the new criteria.
The existing rent pressure zones are based on local electoral areas. We have had some boundary changes, Cork being the most obvious. Where a boundary has changed but the RPZ designation was made under the earlier LEA boundary, does that have an impact? I accept the Minister might not be able to answer that question now. It is an issue that came up recently in conversation with my Cork colleagues. If he is not aware of the issue, perhaps he would have his officials examine it.
In regard to Cork and the city boundary change, two areas in the county were already covered by an RPZ but they have come into the city. It is a moot point because they were covered before and they are covered now.
There is another-----
Is there another recent change?
Yes. I do not have the detail with me but I will forward it to the Minister. Apparently, part of one LEA is currently in a rent pressure zone but it will no longer be in that LEA.
I bet it will be soon.
That could be the solution.
I know there are two areas in Cork that were covered and will still be covered. If there is a third area, perhaps the Deputy will forward me the details and I will have a look at them. Ballincollig and Carrigaline are the two areas that were already designated RPZs and will continue to be, even though they move in terms of the boundary for the city.
I will do that.
Amendment No. 33 has been agreed.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 7, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 22 of Act of 2004 - to extend the notice period for new rents to 180 days
4. Section 22 of the Act of 2004 is amended in subsection (2) by substituting "180 days" for "90 days".".
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
“Amendment of Table to section 34 of Act of 2004
5. (1) Section 34 of the Act of 2004 is amended, in paragraph (a), by—
(a) the deletion in subparagraph (i), of "and",
(b) the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (ii):
"(ii) the notice of termination cites as the reason for the termination the ground or grounds concerned and contains or is accompanied—
(I) in the case of paragraph 2, 5 or 6 of that Table, by the statement referred to in that paragraph, and
(II) in the case of paragraph 3 or 4 of that Table, by the statutory declaration referred to in that paragraph, and",
(c) the insertion of the following subparagraph:
"(iii) in the case of a notice of termination that cites as the reason for the termination the ground specified in paragraph 5, the notice of termination contains or is accompanied by a certificate in writing of a registered professional (within the meaning of the Building Control Act 2007) stating that—
(I) the proposed refurbishment or renovation works would pose a risk to the health or safety of the occupants of the dwelling concerned and should not proceed while the dwelling is occupied, and
(II) such a risk is likely to exist for such period as is specified in the certificate which shall not be less than 3 weeks,”.
(2) The Table to section 34 of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) in paragraph 3, by the substitution of "9 months" for "3 months",
(b) in clause (i) of subparagraph (b) of paragraph 4, by the substitution of "12 months" for "6 months",
(c) in subparagraph (b) of paragraph 5, by the substitution of the following clause for clause (i):
"(i) the dwelling becomes available for reletting by reason of the completion of the works of refurbishment or renovation, and",
(d) in clause (i) of subparagraph (b) of paragraph 6, by the substitution of "12 months” for "6 months".".
I move amendment No. 41:
41. In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 35 of Act of 2004
6. Section 35 of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) in subsection (5), by—
(i) the substitution of “paragraph (aa) of subsection (8) and paragraph 4(b), 5(b) and 6(b) of the Table” for “paragraph 4(b), 5(b) and 6(b) of the Table”, and
(ii) the insertion of “statutory declaration or” before “statement concerned”,
(b) in subsection (6), by the substitution of “paragraph (aa) of subsection (8), or paragraph 4(b), 5(b) or 6(b) of the Table,” for “paragraph 4(b), 5(b) or 6(b) of the Table",
(c) in subsection (8), by—
(i) the deletion, in paragraph (a), of “and”, and
(ii) the insertion of the following paragraph:
“(aa) a declaration that the landlord, by virtue of the notice, is required to offer to the tenant a tenancy of the dwelling if the following conditions are satisfied:
(i) the contact details requirement is complied with;
(ii) the landlord does not enter into an enforceable agreement of the type referred to in paragraph 3 of the Table within the period specified in that paragraph commencing—
(I) on the expiration of the period of notice required to be given under subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of section 34, or
(II) in circumstances where a dispute in relation to the validity of the notice is referred to the Board under Part 6 for resolution, on the final determination of that dispute;
(iii) the tenancy to which the notice relates has not otherwise been validly terminated by virtue of the citation in the notice of the ground specified in paragraph 1, 2 or 6 of the Table.",
(d) the insertion of the following subsection:
“(11) Where, in respect of a tenancy, a landlord serves on a tenant a notice of termination that cites, as a reason for the termination, a ground specified in the Table, the landlord shall—
(a) subject to paragraph (b), give a copy of the notice of termination to the Board not later than 3 months before the expiration of the period of notice given by the notice of termination, or
(b) in the case of a period of notice specified in the notice of termination of less than 3 months, give a copy of the notice of termination to the Board at the same time as he or she serves the notice on the tenant.".".
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 34 of Act of 2004
5. The Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraphs 3 and 5 of the Table to section 34.".
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 34 of Act of 2004 - to require landlords terminating a tenancy on the ground of needing the dwelling for occupation by the landlord or by a member of the landlord’s family to pay compensation to the tenant
5. (1) The Act of 2004 is amended in paragraph 4 of the Table to section 34 by the insertion after “his or her family” of “and has paid the tenant an amount equivalent to six months’ rent in respect of the tenancy as compensation for the termination of the tenancy”.
(2) The Act of 2004 is amended in paragraph 4 of the Table to section 34 by the insertion of the following subparagraph after subparagraph (b):
“(c) and that the landlord is obliged to pay the tenant an amount equivalent to six months’ rent in respect of the tenancy as compensation for the termination of the tenancy.".
(3) The Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraph 5 of the Table to section 34.".
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 34 of Act 2004
5. Section 34 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraph 3 of the Table to that section.".
- Boyd Barrett, Richard.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Bailey, Maria.
- Casey, Pat.
- Murphy, Eoghan.
- Neville, Tom.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 34 of Act 2004
5. Section 34 of the Act of 2004 is amended in paragraph 4 of the Table to that section by the deletion of "or for occupation by a member of his or her family and the notice of termination (the "notice") contains or is accompanied by a statutory declaration" and the substitution of "and the notice of termination (the "notice") contains or is accompanied, in writing, by a statement".".
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 8, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 56 of Act of 2004
7. Section 56 of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) in paragraph (c) of subsection (1), by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (i):
"(i) in case the ground cited is that specified in paragraph 3 of that
(I) an enforceable agreement of the type referred to in that paragraph is not entered into within the period specified therein,
(II) the notice of termination is not accompanied by the statutory declaration referred to in section 35, or
(III) the offer referred to in paragraph (aa) of subsection (8) of section 35 is not made in circumstances where the conditions specified in the said paragraph (aa) are satisfied,",
(b) in subparagraph (c) of the Table to subsection (6), by the substitution of the following clause for clause (i):
"(i) in case the ground cited is that specified in paragraph 3 of that Table—
(I) an enforceable agreement of the type referred to in that paragraph is not entered into within the period of 9 months after the tenant ceases to occupy the dwelling following the final determination of the dispute in relation to the validity of the notice of termination, or
(II) an enforceable agreement of the type referred to in that paragraph is not entered into within that period and the conditions specified in paragraph (aa) of subsection (8) of section 35 are not satisfied,".".
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 8, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:
"Amendment of Chapter 3 of Part 5 of Act of 2004
8. Chapter 3 of Part 5 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following section:
"Duration of tenancy for purposes of this Chapter
64B. (1) For the purposes of this Chapter, a Part 4 tenancy and any further Part 4 tenancy entered into following the expiration of—
(a) the said Part 4 tenancy, or
(b) a further Part 4 tenancy,
shall be treated as one tenancy, and references in this Chapter to duration of tenancy shall be construed accordingly.
(2) This section is without prejudice to subsection (2) of section 61.".".
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 8, to delete lines 27 to 37, and in page 9, to delete lines 1 to 32.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 8, line 31, to delete "on a tenant" and substitute "or a tenant".
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 9, line 4, after "landlord" to insert "or tenant, as may be appropriate,".
I move amendment No. 57:
In page 9, line 8, after "landlord" to insert "or tenant, as may be appropriate,".
I move amendment No. 58:
In page 9, line 10, to delete "on the tenant".
I move amendment No. 59:
In page 9, line 28, after "landlord" to insert "or tenant, as the case may be,".
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 9, line 30, after "landlord" to insert "or tenant, as the case may be,".
I move amendment No. 61:
In page 9, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:
"(c) by the insertion of the following subsection:
"(2B) Where this section applies, the period of notice to be given in respect of a tenancy referred to in subsection (1A) of section 3 by the landlord or tenant and specified in the notice of termination shall be not less than 28 days.",".
I move amendment No. 62:
In page 9, to delete lines 35 to 43 and in page 10, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:
Duration of Tenancy
Less than 6 months
Not less than 6 months but less than one year
Not less than one year but less than 3 years
Not less than 3 years but less than 7 years
Not less than 7 years but less than 8 years
Not less than 8 years
As amendment No. 62 has been agreed, amendments Nos. 63 to 65, inclusive, cannot be moved.
I move amendment No. 66:
In page 10, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 67 of the Act of 2004
8. Subsection 67(2)(b) of the Act of 2004 is amended in subsection (2) by after "tenancy", deleting "." and substituting "and," and inserting a new subsection (3) as follows:
"(3) the failure to pay mentioned in subsection (2)(b)(ii) was not due to an inability to pay.".".
I move amendment No. 67:
In page 10, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 67 of the Act of 2004
8. Section 67(2)(b)(ii) of the Act of 2004 is amended by deleting “an amount of rent due" and substituting "rent for at least three consecutive months".
I move amendment No. 68:
In page 10, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 78 of Act of 2004
9. Section 78 of the Act of 2004 is amended, in subsection (1), by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (f):
“(f) an allegation that the landlord has sought to—
(i) terminate a tenancy (other than a tenancy referred to in subsection (1A) of section 3) other than in accordance with Part 4, or
(ii) terminate a tenancy referred to in subsection (1A) of section 3 other than in accordance with Part 5,”.
I move amendment No. 73:
In page 11, to delete lines 2 to 5 and substitute the following:
“(b) in subsection (2), by—
(i) the substitution of “paragraph (a) of subsection (1)” for “this section”,
(ii) the insertion, in paragraph (a), of “(other than a tenancy to which paragraph (aa) applies)” after “in the case of a tenancy”,
(iii) the insertion of the following paragraph:
“(aa) in the case of a tenancy to which subsection (1A) of section 3 applies that commences during the period of 3 months from the commencement of section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, not later than 4 months from the commencement of the tenancy, and”,
(c) in subsection (2A), by the substitution of “paragraph (a) of subsection (1)” for “this section” in each place that it occurs,”.
I move amendment No. 75:
In page 11, line 19, to delete “paragraph (a)” and substitute “paragraph (a), (aa)”.
I move amendment No. 76:
In page 11, line 30, to delete “paragraph (a)” and substitute “paragraph (a), (aa)”.
Amendment No. 77 is out of order.
I will look at amendment No. 77 again for Report Stage. I will enter into discussions with the Ceann Comhairle's office.
Amendments Nos. 77, 86 to 135, inclusive, and Nos. 137 to 144, inclusive, are just including tenants.
The Deputies cannot mention anything on that but they can raise it on Report Stage.
The amendments are out of order. I can rework them and retable them on Report Stage. I will do that with some of them.
The subject matter of this-----
Only if the Deputy discusses the subject matter. He just says what the title is and then he has discussed it.
Amendment No. 77.
If we have discussed it, he can bring it back on Report Stage. If we have not, he cannot.
It is out of order. He is not allowed to discuss it. Once it is out of order, if he just mentions it-----
We need to find another way to discuss it.
Basically the overall point of the section is the rent transparency register. The Ceann Comhairle's office has made a decision that this would in some way add a charge to the Exchequer. I reject that. Rent transparency important. We want a rent register. In private session we discussed at length how we might be able to do this. Most members were in agreement that it would be a help. Certain GDPR issues were raised and the Attorney General raised some concerns. I was surprised it was ruled out of order on the basis that it would involve a potential charge on the Exchequer.
We cannot get into this.
I do not accept that aspect of it and that is fair enough. On Report Stage, I will return to the issue of a rent transparency register. We have discussed the issue of deposit protection, which is different. We will get on to that because it is important. The Minister was broadly supportive of it. The issue was getting down to specific houses. If it was 14 Main Street in Rush, people would know how much that is. We were talking about a transparency register based on area. I remain to be convinced on that. I will retable amendments on that. Even if it was a question of getting a report 12 months following the passage of the Bill, we cannot just give up on rent transparency. It is important to ensure fairness within it. It is good for tenants and landlords. Much of these data are recorded by the RTB. I will work on an amendment to table on Report Stage.
I wish to update the committee on the matter. We have discussed it on a number of occasions. I was hoping to get down to the individual property level. We have gone back and forth to the Attorney General on this. The advice is that we cannot go to the individual property level. While we were investigating what amendment we could introduce to do it at a local area level, we think we have identified a separate Act where we might be able to get at this for a local electoral district area level. We are working to see if we can do that. It might not require an amendment on Report Stage at all. We will get a chance to discuss it then in more detail.
I will table an amendment which I hope will not be seen to have a potential charge on the Exchequer.
If the Deputy tables an amendment on the lines of his amendment on the deposit protection scheme, it would give us an opportunity to discuss it and perhaps even amend that depending on what work we get done in the meantime.
Great. We will do that.
I move amendment No. 78:
In page 12, to delete lines 7 to 10 and substitute the following:
“(b) in subparagraph (i) of paragraph (e) of subsection (4), by—
(i) the insertion of the following clause—
“(IA) the obligation on the landlord to pay fees to the Board on an application to register a tenancy at its commencement and annually during the tenancy,”,
(ii) the substitution of the following clause for clause (II):
“(II) security of tenure under Part 4 (other than in the case of a tenancy referred to in subsection (1A) of section 3),”, and
(iii) the substitution of the following clauses for clause (III):
“(III) the termination of tenancies (other than tenancies referred to in subsection (1A) of section 3) under Part 4, and
(IV) the termination of tenancies under Part 5,”.”.
I move amendment No. 79:
In page 12, to delete lines 22 to 35, and in page 13, to delete lines 1 to 26 and substitute the following:
“ 15. (1) Section 137 of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):
“(1) (a) Subject to subsections (2) and (6) and section 137A, the fee to accompany an application under section 134 shall—
(i) in the case of an application (other than an application referred to in paragraph (b)) made during the period of 12 months after the commencement of section 15 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, be €40, and
(ii) in the case of an application (other than an application referred to in paragraph (b)) made after that period—
(I) be €40, or
(II) where an amount stands declared for the time being under subsection (1) of section 138 for the purposes of this paragraph, be a fee of that amount.
(b) Subject to subsections (2) and (6) and section 137A, the fee to accompany an application under section 134 shall—
(i) in the case of an application in respect of a tenancy to which subsection (1A) of section 3 applies made during the period of 12 months after the commencement of section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, be €40, or
(ii) in the case of an application in respect of a tenancy to which subsection (1A) of section 3 applies made after that period –
(I) be €40, or
(II) where an amount stands declared for the time being under subsection (1) of section 138 for the purposes of this paragraph, be a fee of that amount.”,
(b) in subsection (2), by the substitution of “that a fee referred to in subsection (1)” for “for a fee specified in this section to”,
(c) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (4):
“(4) (a) The amount of the single fee referred to in subsection (2) shall—
(i) if the applications (other than an application referred to in paragraph (b)) concerned are made during the period of 12 months after the commencement of section 15 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, be €170, or
(ii) if the applications (other than an application referred to in paragraph (b)) concerned are made after that period—
(I) be €170, or
(II) where an amount stands declared for the time being under subsection (1) of section 138 for the purposes of this paragraph, be a fee of that amount.
(b) The amount of the single fee referred to in subsection (2) shall—
(i) if the applications concerned are in respect of a tenancy to which subsection (1A) of section 3 applies made during the period of 12 months after the commencement of section 3 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, be €170, or
(ii) if the applications concerned are in respect of a tenancy to which subsection (1A) of section 3 applies made after that period—
(I) be €170, or
(II) where an amount stands declared for the time being under subsection (1) of section 138 for the purposes of this paragraph, be a fee of that amount.”,”.
I move amendment No. 80:
In page 13, to delete lines 29 to 40, and in page 14, to delete lines 1 to 5 and substitute the following:
“(e) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (6):
(6) If an application under subsection (1) of section 134 is made after the expiration of the period specified in subsection (2) or subsection (2B), as may be appropriate, the fee required to accompany that application shall be of such amount as is equal to the aggregate of—
(a) the fee that would have been payable had the application been made before the expiration of that period, and
(b) €10 in respect of each month or part of a month falling after such expiration.”.”.
I move amendment No. 81:
In page 14, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:
“(2) The amendment of section 137 of the Act of 2004 effected by this section shall not apply in relation to an application under subsection (1) of section 134 made after the commencement of this section that was required to be made at any time before such commencement.".
I move amendment No. 82:
In page 14, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 137A of Act of 2004
16. (1) Section 137A of the Act of 2004 is amended—
(a) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):
“(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (6), the fee that is required to accompany an application referred to in subsection (2A) of section 134 shall—
(a) in the case of an application made during the period of 12 months after the commencement of section 16 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, be €20, or
(b) in the case of an application made after that period—
(i) be €20, or
(ii) where an amount stands declared for the time being under subsection (1) of section 138 for the purposes of this paragraph, be a fee of that amount.”,
(b) in subsection (2), by the substitution of “that a fee referred to in subsection (1)” for “for a fee specified in this section to”,
(c) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (4):
“(4) The amount of the single fee referred to in subsection (2) shall—
(a) if the applications concerned are made during the period of 12 months after the commencement of section 16 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, be €85, or
(b) if the applications concerned are made after that period—
(i) be €85, or
(ii) where an amount stands declared for the time being under subsection (1) of section 138 for the purposes of this paragraph, be a fee of that amount.”,
(d) in subsection (5), by the substitution of “subsection (2A) or (2B), as may be appropriate, of section 134” for “paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of section 134(2A)”, and
(e) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (6):
“(6) If an application referred to in subsection (2A) of section 134 is made after the expiration of the period specified in that subsection, the fee required to accompany that application shall be of such amount as is equal to the aggregate of —
(a) the fee that would have been payable had the application been made before the expiration of that period, and
(b) €5 in respect of each month or part of a month falling after such expiration.”.
(2) The amendment of section 137A of the Act of 2004 effected by this section shall not apply in relation to an application to which subsection (2A) of section 134 applies made after the commencement of this section that was required to be made at any time before such commencement.”.
- Bailey, Maria.
- Murphy, Eoghan.
- Neville, Tom.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Casey, Pat.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
Amendment No. 83 has been ruled out of order.
Amendments Nos. 84, 85, 136, 145, 146, 150 and 175 are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 85 is consequential to amendment No. 84.
I move amendment No. 84:
In page 19, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:
"(17) An application under subsection (7) shall be made to a judge of the District Court for the time being assigned to the District Court District within which the person in respect of whom the application is made resides or carries on any profession, trade or business.
(18) An application for a warrant under subsection (13) shall be made to a judge of the District Court for the time being assigned to the District Court District within which the premises in respect of which the application is made is situated.".
I will try to cover them all in one intervention at the beginning and then we can get into the detail. Government amendment No. 84 technically amends the new section 148S of the Act, which is being inserted by section 18 of the Bill. This is a technical amendment to legally provide territorial jurisdiction to the District Court for the purposes of making court orders to generally enforce compliance with the requirements of an authorised officer under the new RTB sanctioning regime. Government Amendment No. 85 is a consequential technical amendment.
The Government cannot support amendment No. 136, which proposes to delete the new section 148Z, which provides for a right to appeal a RTB sanction decision in the Circuit Court and that a RTB sanction decision must be confirmed by the Circuit Court, either on appeal under section 148AA or on foot of direct application, on notice to the landlord, for confirmation by the RTB under section 148AB. The new section 148Z is a central legal requirement to enable the empowerment of the RTB to operate its new administrative sanction regime. I accept that where court involvement is necessary, the courts process will add to the length of the overall sanctioning process but I am following the advices of the Attorney General on this important legal point. It is important to point out that a decision to impose a sanction is not a given. A decision maker can decide not to sanction and court involvement is not then required. I do wish to stress that on the ground, court involvement need not delay redress for the tenant. The decision on the nature of a sanction to be handed down takes into account the actions of a landlord after the RTB issues an investigation notice.
For example, under section 148AD in determining the nature of the sanction, the Circuit Court or decision-maker may have regard to, for example, whether the landlord acknowledges the improper conduct, the extent of any failure by the landlord to co-operate with the investigation, any steps taken by the landlord to remediate any loss suffered or costs incurred, the duration of the improper conduct, the recurrence, if any, of the improper conduct, the continuation of the improper conduct after the landlord has been notified of the investigation, the extent and timeliness of any steps to end the improper conduct, any steps taken to remedy the consequences of such conduct, and whether similar improper conduct occurred previously. There is good scope at the earliest juncture for a landlord to acknowledge and stop the improper conduct and remedy the matter to hand. The incentive is there to limit the sanction to be imposed.
I also wish to highlight that proceedings need not go all the way to confirmation by the court. Landlords have a number of opportunities during the process. For example, section 148W(3) provides that, where a landlord acknowledges improper conduct, the decision-maker shall on receipt of such acknowledgement determine what sanction, if any, is to be imposed. This provision applies to both tenant complaint initiated and RTB own volition investigations. Section 148X(4)(a) provides that the decision-maker may, if he or she is satisfied that improper conduct has occurred, impose a sanction on a landlord. This is an enabling provision. It does not follow that the decision-maker must impose a sanction, even if improper conduct has occurred. The decision-maker must continue the sanctioning process only if he or she wants to impose a sanction. Separately, 148X(4)(c) provides for complaints to be dismissed or for no further action to be taken if the decision-maker is satisfied that no improper conduct has taken place. Section 148X(5) provides that where an acknowledgement by a landlord is received under 148W(3) as referenced above, the decision-maker may decide to impose a sanction on the landlord as he or she thinks fit in the circumstances of the case. This implies that the decision-maker is not obliged to impose a sanction. Under 148Z(2), the decision to impose a sanction requires a Circuit Court confirmation. The Bill does not provide for court confirmation, however, if the decision is to impose no sanction. Circuit Court confirmation is legally required to publish the detail of any sanction and to give effect to any sanction.
I will also be moving amendment No. 145 to provide technically territorial jurisdiction to the Circuit Court for the purposes of an appeal by a landlord under section 148AA(1) of a sanction imposed.
The Government cannot support amendment No. 146, which proposes the deletion of the new section 148AB requiring the RTB to apply to the Circuit Court to confirm its sanctioning decision.
I will also be moving amendment No. 150, which concerns the granting of territorial jurisdiction to the Circuit Court to deal with applications made by the RTB under section 148AB(1) and related matters. Again, this is a legal necessity for the operation of the new RTB administrative sanctioning regime.
Section 168 of Act of 2004 will be amended by amendment No. 175, which inserts a new paragraph (da) into subsection (2) of that section 168. Subsection (2) of section 168 lists the categories of person to whom a section 168 indemnification can be applied by the RTB. Amendment No. 175 includes authorised officers and a decision-maker appointed for the purposes of the new RTB sanctioning regime in the list of indemnified persons.
All of the amendments speak to the new sanctioning regime, how it is to be applied, the role of the Circuit Court in that regime, and the different points in time at which the process can come to an end. The decision-maker may decide that there is nothing to put forward because there was no breach or because the reason the sanction was imposed either has been remediated or compensation has been made to the aggrieved party or both.
At the informal briefing two issues arose. There were concerns that the timeline of the new process, at its very longest, could be excessively long. The Minister said he would look at it to see if there was some way of shortening it. In terms of the amendments tabled here, is it the view of the Minister that those amendments assist us in any way or provide for those concerns? There was also a concern around the new role of the decision-maker and whether it would lengthen the time required to make a decision. A suggestion made by a number of members was that decisions on sanctions below a certain amount could be made by the chief executive rather than the decision-maker, or that the decision-maker could make sanctions of a higher order.
Amendment No. 136, which I tabled, contains a drafting error. I must have had some help from Deputy Darragh O'Brien on that one. I did not intend to remove the right to appeal to the court, rather I wanted to remove the court confirmation. I will withdraw the amendment, but I will return the amendment at a later stage on the matter of the court confirmation. I still hold the view I held at our previous discussion, which is that court confirmation adds a cost and unnecessary delay. The right to appeal to the court is sufficient, and we will return to that matter on Report Stage.
We discussed this at length previously. The confirmation of the court cannot be removed if the ultimate outcome is going to be a sanction and the publication of the sanction. Where there is no compliance or acceptance by the landlord, for example, where he or she has acted offside in some way and does not accept that he or she has acted poorly and wants to take it all the way, it has to go to court. We looked at this matter with the Attorney General, and it has to stand. It has to be there at the end of the process if we want to impose the sanction and publish the details. However, there is an official sanction, which involves going all the way through the process before sanctioning, but the voluntary acceptance of a type of sanction is also possible and can happen at a much earlier date. When we discussed this previously, it was not clear if, once this investigation had begun, the only way to come to a conclusion that satisfied all parties was to go through the entire process and end up in court. There are three or four instances in which the process will end based on different outcomes from the investigation. Mediation is now available in the first 60 days as a possible outcome as part of this regime. Both parties can be brought together and a solution can be reached which both are happy with. Another potential ending is if the complaint is not valid, meaning that one would not have to go to the court. Landlords were worried that they would have to go all the way to court to confirm that a complaint was not valid, but that is not the case. The landlord, under section 148 and the different subsections I set out, can acknowledge that he or she is in the wrong. In that case there is no official sanction but there will be some sort of remedy if it is done within the first 40 to 66 or 70 days.
If the aggrieved party, for example, the landlord, decides that he or she wants to go further, there is then the possibility of an oral hearing with the investigation report having been given by the authorised officer to the aggrieved party. A decision might be made then that there has been no improper conduct and that there will be no sanction. Alternatively, there could still be a settlement if the parties wanted to take that route and such a solution was acceptable to all parties. Once we go beyond that point, resolution could potentially take some time. That is a long way of answering the Deputy's question. We have found ways in which participants can step out of this process at an early stage. However, if someone refuses to accept that he or she has a liability and one wants to pursue a formal sanction and publication, we will have to go through the Circuit Court confirmation process.
The shorter processes might involve something like a landlord who is in breach of the rent pressure zones legislation. If he or she owns up to that and accepts the sanction, he or she can do that. It is within his or her gift. The RTB pointed out to us that the real value for it of the new investigative and sanction powers is that if someone is breaching the rent pressure zone legislation, it will be able to move on it very quickly, take the case and win it. If the landlord drags the process out to the end, its concern is that, given the timelines provided in the original Bill, that process would be significantly longer than the standard process for a comparable adjudication and fine. The RTB expressed concern about that. Is it fair to say that, in a case where a landlord is unwilling to accept fault, there is a likelihood that the RTB's concern is a valid one and that some of those cases may take longer than would ordinarily be the case under the current regime?
I am still not completely clear about the court confirmation aspect. The RTB, in its determinations today, can make sanctions and publish those determinations, including the details of landlords.
The sanctions can be very high. For example, in the case of third-party antisocial behaviour complaints, they are in the tens of thousands of euro. When we last spoke, the Minister said what is different about this process is that the RTB is doing the investigation, and that is the reason for the sanction. If we look at the determination process of third-party complaints for antisocial behaviour, the adjudicator is doing an investigation and then making a recommendation to the board. I accept the two parties get to present and dispute the facts, and all of that. Obviously, I do not have the benefit of the Attorney General's advice but, essentially, I do not see how the process of this investigation and sanction regime is substantively different from existing adjudications, fines and publications in a way that would warrant this to have a court confirmation where those other determinations and very significant financial fines and publication of details do not warrant court confirmation. I am not trying to be awkward. I am genuinely not clear on this.
To be clear, I met the RTB specifically on this issue and we went through it. If we were to take a worst-case scenario on timelines, where it would be necessary to go through the full court confirmation process to level a sanction on someone who was not accepting a liability, then some of those fears of the RTB may be realised in terms of the length of time. Following that meeting, I went back to the Attorney General and the legal advices to see how we could come at this in a better way so there is not that fear of those lengthy time periods. What is an improvement in terms of the understanding is there are points at which a person can step out for things like mediation or where a person accepts improper conduct, but it has to be accepted.
As it was explained to me, the reason the threshold seems to be high, in terms of having to get Circuit Court confirmation, is because of a combination of the powers that have been granted, whereby the RTB can investigate and can initiate an investigation itself and the sanctioning, which can potentially total €30,000, is higher than what is awarded in other examples under the existing process. That combination of factors warrants the involvement of the Circuit Court and we have not been able to get around that. What we would hope is that given the clarity we have provided in law in this Bill, the excuses a landlord might be able to give such as "I did not know" and so on, fall away because so many things are being tightened or better defined in this legislation. We also think that, given the power the RTB will have to deal with this and the amount of money that can be levelled, this will be a deterrent and that landlords will be, if not coerced, then induced to admit liability because it can be so clearly proven by an investigating officer because of the legislation but also because we have these officers coming in on foot of the legislation. It remains the case that where a landlord is in breach and the RTB has chosen to pursue, the Circuit Court has to be there.
This is only for landlords stepping out of line.
It is related to section 19 offences, which deal with rent increases that are not compliant with the rent restrictions, knowingly furnishing information to the RTB which is false or misleading or failure to notify the RTB when one is availing of an exemption to the rent pressure zone. Also coming under this are the section 34 notice-to-quit terminations, which we said would also be a sanction because it is improper conduct. I cannot think of an instance in which this could apply to a tenant.
I wanted to clarify that point in respect of section 34. Will potential breaches of all the section 34 notice-to-quit criteria fall under this new investigative power?
I will double check. We have made section 34 relate to improper conduct and that improper conduct then gets captured by this new administrative process.
As the Minister has already spoken on amendment No. 145, we will now discuss amendment No. 146 in the name of Deputy Boyd Barrett.
Have we discussed this already?
No, it is in this grouping.
I have already dealt with this, as it is directly related to what we have been discussing in regard to the RTB having the right of appeal.
We need to deal with Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendment No. 146.
I apologise. The amendment proposes the deletion of the Circuit Court provision which we just talked about. I said the legal advice is that the Circuit Court has to be there as the final part of the process in levelling a sanction where a landlord does not accept improper conduct and where that is found to be the case by the courts. In order to sanction and to publish, the court confirmation has to be there.
My amendment seeks to delete that Circuit Court provision.
I will be pressing that amendment.
We move to amendment No. 150 in the name of the Minister.
Will amendment No. 146 be pressed?
We are only discussing it now.
I wish to move Government amendment No. 150, which relates to what I was just discussing.
The next is amendment No. 175.
I will move amendment No. 175.
We are just discussing the amendments. Does the Minister want to discuss this amendment?
No, it relates to what we have just been discussing so there is nothing to add. It is about authorised officers and decision makers appointed for the purposes of the sanctioning regime being included in the list of indemnified persons.
I move amendment No. 85:
In page 19, line 39, to delete “(17) In” and substitute “(19) In”.
Amendments Nos. 86 to 135, inclusive, in the name of Deputy Darragh O'Brien have been ruled out of order.
We move to amendment No. 136 in the name of Deputy Ó Broin.
I move amendment No. 136:
In page 25, to delete lines 38 to 41, and in page 26, to delete lines 1 to 3.
I will be withdrawing that amendment, due to the drafting error, but reserve the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 137 to 144, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.
I move amendment No. 145:
In page 26, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:
“(5) An appeal under subsection (1) shall be brought before a judge of the Circuit Court for the time being assigned to the Circuit in which the appellant resides or carries on any profession, trade or business.”.
I move amendment No. 146:
In page 26, to delete lines 28 to 39.
I wish to press this amendment.
- Boyd Barrett, Richard.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Bailey, Maria.
- Murphy, Eoghan.
- Neville, Tom.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
Amendments Nos. 147 to 149, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.
I move amendment No. 150:
In page 26, after line 39, to insert the following:
"(3) An application under subsection (1) shall be made to a judge of the Circuit Court for the time being assigned to the Circuit in which the landlord to whom the decision concerned applies resides or carries on any profession, trade or business.".
Amendments Nos. 151 to 173, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.
Amendment No. 174 has been ruled out of order.
I move amendment No. 175:
In page 30, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 168 of Act of 2004
21. Section 168 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion, in subsection (2), of the following paragraph:
"(da) an authorised officer or decision maker appointed under section 164A,".".
I move amendment No. 176:
In page 30, line 24, to delete "or" where it secondly occurs.
I move amendment No. 177:
In page 30, line 27, to delete "subsection."."” and substitute the following:
(c) the citing by a landlord in a notice of termination of a reason for the termination of the tenancy concerned that is, and that he or she knows to be, false or misleading in a material
(d) the failure by a landlord, who has served a notice of termination that cites the ground specified in paragraph 3 of the Table to section 34 as a reason for the termination of the tenancy concerned, to make an offer referred to in paragraph (aa) of subsection (8) of section 35 in circumstances where the conditions referred to in the said paragraph (aa) are satisfied,
(e) the failure by a landlord, who has served a notice of termination that cites the ground specified in paragraph 4 of the Table to section 34 as a reason for the termination of the tenancy concerned, to make an offer referred to in subparagraph (b) of that paragraph in circumstances where the conditions referred to in that subparagraph are satisfied,
(f) the failure by a landlord, who has served a notice of termination that cites the ground specified in paragraph 5 of the Table to section 34 as a reason for the termination of the tenancy concerned, to make an offer referred to in subparagraph (b) of that paragraph in circumstances where the conditions referred to in that subparagraph are satisfied,
(g) the failure by a landlord, who has served a notice of termination that cites the ground specified in paragraph 6 of the Table to section 34 as a reason for the termination of the tenancy concerned, to make an offer referred to in subparagraph (b) of that paragraph in circumstances where the conditions referred to in that subparagraph are satisfied.".".
Amendment No. 178 is out of order.
I move amendment No. 179:
In page 30, line 27, to delete “subsection.”.” and substitute the following:
“(c) the seeking by the landlord to falsely rely on paragraph 3 of the Table to section 34 as grounds for termination of a Part 4 tenancy.
(d) the seeking by the landlord to falsely rely on paragraph 4 of the Table to section 34 as grounds for termination of a Part 4 tenancy.”.”.
I move amendment No. 180:
In page 30, line 27, to delete “subsection.”.” and substitute the following:
“(c) the seeking by the landlord to rely on paragraph 5 of the Table to section 34 in respect of a dwelling that does not comply with the requirements of that subsection.”.”.
I move amendment No. 181:
In page 33, after line 4, to insert the following:
“Application of Act of 2004 to certain licences
26. (1) The Act of 2004 shall apply to licences and licence agreements as it applies to tenancies of dwellings referred to in subsection (1A) of section 3 of that Act and tenancy agreements relating to such tenancies, subject to the following, and any other necessary, modifications:
(a) references to tenancy shall be construed as references to licence;
(b) references to tenancy agreement shall be construed as references to licensing agreement;
(c) references to landlord shall be construed as references to licensor;
(d) references to tenant (other than a tenant to whom the definition of “multiple tenants” in subsection (1) of section 48 applies) shall be construed as references to licensee;
(e) references to dwelling shall be construed as references to a residential unit (whether or not self-contained) situated in student accommodation;
(f) references to rent shall be construed as references to payments or charges (howsoever described) payable under a licence agreement by the licensee to the licensor; and
(g) the deletion, in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 12, of the words “and exclusive”.
(2) In this section—
“licence” means a licence—
(a) given by the owner of student accommodation to a student, and
(b) created not earlier than one month after the commencement of this section, permitting the student to enter and reside in a residential unit (whether or not self-contained) within that student accommodation, and “licensor” and “licensee” shall be construed accordingly;
“licence agreement” means an agreement (whether or not in writing) between the owner of student accommodation and a student giving a licence to the student;
“owner” has the meaning assigned to it by section 96 of the Planning and Development Act 2000;
“student” means a person registered as a student with a relevant provider (within the meaning of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012);
“student accommodation” means a building, or part of a building, used for the sole purpose (subject to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c)) of providing residential accommodation to students during academic term times under a licence—
(a) whether or not the building or part of the building concerned is used for any other purpose outside of those times,
(b) whether or not any such students are permitted to reside there outside of those times, and
(c) whether or not any person other than a student resides there, provided that the purpose of the person’s residing there serves the first-mentioned purpose,
but does not include a building or part of a building used for the first-mentioned purpose where the licensor (other than a licensor who is not an individual) also resides in the building or part of the building concerned.”.
I move amendment No. 182:
In page 33, after line 4, to insert the following:
“Amendment of Planning and Development Act 2000
27. The Planning and Development Act 2000 is amended by the insertion of the following section:
“Short term lettings
3A. (1) The use of a house or part of a house situated in a rent pressure zone for short term letting purposes is a material change in use of the house or part thereof, as the case may be.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the Minister may make regulations requiring such persons as are specified in the regulations to provide a planning authority with such information as may be so specified and at such intervals as may be so specified in relation to short term lettings in the administrative area of the planning authority.
(3) A person who contravenes a provision of regulations under this section that is described in the regulations as a penal provision shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a class A fine.
(4) This section shall not operate to abrogate or amend the law with regard to—
(a) lettings (including short term lettings) outside a rent pressure zone,
(b) lettings (other than short term lettings) in a rent pressure zone.
(5) In this section—
‘rent pressure zone’ means—
(a) any area standing prescribed for the time being under section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, or
(b) an administrative area deemed to be a rent pressure zone under section 24B of that Act;
‘short term letting’ means the letting of a house or part of a house for any period not exceeding 14 days, and includes a licence that permits a licensee under the licence to enter and reside in the house or part thereof for any such period.”.”.
Amendment No. 183 has been discussed already.
I move amendment No. 183:
In page 33, after line 4, to insert the following:
“26. The Minister has within 12 months of the commencement of this Act to issue a report on the establishment of a National Rent Deposit Scheme.”.
We discussed this earlier. I will withdraw it and re-table it on Report Stage.
Can I clarify what it was on?
Amendment No. 183 is on the national rent deposit scheme and we did also discuss the rent level, in respect of the rent transparency piece that we will table as a Report Stage amendment, similar to amendment No. 183, so that at least we can discuss it.
Amendment No. 184 is out of order.
I move amendment No. 185:
In page 33, after line 4, to insert the following:
Amendment of sections 27, 28(1), 28(3) and 50(3) of Act of 2004 - to extend Part 4 protections to all tenancies over two months in duration
26. (a) Section 27 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the substitution of “continuous period of 2 months” for “continuous period of 6 months”.
(b) Section 28(1) of the Act of 2004 is amended by the substitution of “continuous period of 2 months” for “continuous period of 6 months”.
(c) Section 28(3) of the Act of 2004 is amended by the substitution of “expiry of the period of 2 months” for “expiry of the period of 6 months”.
(d) Section 50(3) of the Act of 2004 is amended by the substitution of—
(i) “continuous period of 2 months” for “continuous period of 6 months”, and
(ii) “expiry of that period of 2 months” for “expiry of that period of 6 months”.”.
This amendment provides that Part 4 tenancies should begin after a continuous period of two months, rather than one of six months.
The Government cannot accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 186:
In page 33, after line 4, to insert the following:
Amendment of sections 28, 34, 55, 56, 57, Chapters 4 and 5 of Act of 2004 - to make Part 4 tenancies indefinite
26. (a) Section 28(2)(a) of the Act of 2004 is amended by the substitution of “for an indefinite period from” for “for the period of 6 years from”.
(b) Section 34(b) of the Act of 2004 is hereby repealed.
(c) Chapter 4 of the Act of 2004 is hereby repealed.
(d) Chapter 5 of the Act of 2004 is hereby repealed.
(e) Section 55(1) is amended by the deletion of “or a further Part 4 tenancy”.
(f) Section 55 is amended by the substitution of the following for subsection (2):
“(2) A termination under section 34 on one or more of the grounds specified in paragraphs 2 to 6 of the Table to that section of a Part 4 tenancy or a further Part 4 tenancy shall not be regarded as a termination of that tenancy for the purposes of section 17(1)(a) of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980.”.
(g) Section 56(1)(a) is amended by the deletion of “, or under a further Part 4 tenancy,”.
(h) Section 57(b) is amended by the deletion of “or further Part 4 tenancy”.”.
This amendment aims to make Part 4 tenancies indefinite, something we discussed earlier in respect of other amendments. The Government has said it wants to go on this road but cannot do it now. We do not accept that; we think Part 4 tenancies should be indefinite to give security to tenants.
I support the intent but not the amendment, unfortunately.
I move amendment No. 187:
In page 33, after line 4, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 34 and 56 of Act of 2004 - to abolish sale of a property as a ground for terminating a tenancy
26. (a) The Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of paragraph 3 of the Table to section 34.
(b) Paragraph 4(b)(ii) of the Table to section 34 is amended by the substitution of “the ground specified in paragraph 1, 2 or 6 of this Table” for “the ground specified in paragraph 1, 2, 3 or 6 of this Table”.
(c) Section 56(c)(i) is hereby repealed.
(d) The Act of 2004 is amended by the deletion of subparagraph (c)(i) of the Table to section 56.”.
This amendment is to abolish sale of property as a ground for terminating a tenancy. It is a critical issue, which we will be marching to vindicate on 18 May. We hope there will be tens of thousands of people out marching for this demand. This is a critical measure to give security to tenants which is sadly lacking.
- Boyd Barrett, Richard.
- Ó Broin, Eoin.
- Bailey, Maria.
- Murphy, Eoghan.
- Neville, Tom.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
I move amendment No. 188:
In page 5, line 11, after “Board;" to insert the following:
“to provide that the letting of a house or part thereof for any period not exceeding 14 days in a rent pressure zone is a material change in the use of the house or part and for that purpose to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000;”.
One of my amendments was ruled out of order. It would affect the Title because it would be a substantial provision in the Bill. There is a big problem with new tenancies and the setting of their rents which neither current nor proposed legislation deals with. For a brand new tenancy the rent can be set at any level at all. We can see that rents are being set at extortionate levels. There was a place in the docks where they were talking about charging €3,300 a month. Something has to be done about that.
I am not sure why my amendment was ruled out of order but I will check with the Bills Office. I am not challenging that decision but the proposal was that the RTB should set rents for new tenancies, that affordability should be a factor in setting them, and that the Minister should provide guidelines as to how that might be done in consultation with this committee. One of the reasons RPZs are not limiting rents to the extent that the Minister or we might want is that new tenancies are being created all the time. The more building there is, the more will be created and landlords are totally free to set rents at whatever level they like. Something has to be done about that but nothing is being done about it.
The amendment being ruled out of order has nothing to do with me or the Department. It is not true to say that landlords are free to set the rent at any level they like. They have to set them at market rates and have to be able to provide evidence of that. We can perhaps come back to this on Report Stage.
I thank the Minister and the officials, for attending today's meeting. I thank the members of the committee for sticking with us throughout the day. I thank the secretariat who put in enormous work prior to today's meeting which sometimes goes unnoticed.
Yes, well done.
I thank the Chairman and the officials from the Department.